Circuit Bending. There is a Secret Garden

Picture yourself… it’s a sunny afternoon, you are at a local flea market perusing an odd selection of stuff which you might find at such an event. There are books, a few trashy airport novels as well as nice old hardbacks. A typewriter, maybe from the fifties. Old records, even 78s. Some vintage kitchen utensils that still work. Your eye is caught by a small keyboard. You pick it up to take a closer look. It’s a Casio, probably from the 1970s. Seems to be in pretty good condition. It’s considered outdated and so doesn’t cost much. You buy it and take it home.

When you get it home you put batteries in it and discover that it’s working more or less fine. There are pre-set sounds…’flute’, ‘organ’, ‘violin’ (we all know it sounds nothing like a violin of course). You play a couple of melodies. But now, you are going to do something a bit different. You flip it upside down and unscrew the outer casing. This exposes the guts of the instrument including a large green circuit board which is defining all the sounds and how they operate. You start to dig around with a couple of screw drivers, connecting different points of the circuit at random. Not all of your actions seem to have an effect, but some very definitely do. You discover by touching one screwdriver to point B and another to random point X, that the cheap little drum machine is now sounding very strange indeed, distorted, slowing down or speeding up, breaking up , but all in a way which is somehow quite pleasing. And those pre-set voices…’flute’ sounds like a mosquito crossed with a theremin, ‘cello’ sounds like a second world war German bomber, ‘tuba’ like an underground train crash. You poke around a bit more, varying and changing the sound. You’re not an expert at this, more or less a novice, but by connecting some cable to your circuit board points and soldering in a little switch control you can manipulate just how much German bomber is in there. You will go on to discover fascinating effects, funny loops, bleeps and blips. In short you have made yourself a new and unique instrument. You have now become a ‘circuit bender’.


About makmedthemiller

multidiscipline artist
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