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Circuit bending

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Probing for "bends" using a jeweler's screwdriver and alligator clips
Probing for "bends" using a jeweler's screwdriver and alligator clips

Circuit bending is the creative, chance-based customization of the circuits within electronic devices such as low-voltage, battery-powered guitar effects, children's toys and digital synthesizers to create new musical or visual instruments and sound generators.

Emphasizing spontaneity and randomness, the techniques of circuit bending have been commonly associated with noise music, though many more conventional contemporary musicians and musical groups have been known to experiment with "bent" instruments. Circuit bending usually involves dismantling the machine and adding components such as switches and potentiometers that alter the circuit.

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  • ✪ ::vtol:: Circuit bending. Часть 1
  • ✪ MacDonalds Toy Circuit Bending

Transcription

My name is Dmitry Morozov and my project is called ::vtol::. I make hand-made synthesizers and also I'm doing circuit bending. Circuit bending - it's a kind of a hacker approach to creating audio - and not only audio - devices. And also it related to hacking devices - well, it's like hardware hacking. It has became a massive movement in the USA at the end of 70's. Many consider that the official creator of this movement is a painter and musician called Reed Ghazala. In the end of 60's he didn't have a possibility of buying one of the expensive (at that time) electronic musical instruments - synthesizers, Mimimoogs and so on ... EMS, or some other machines that only very big labels and studios could afford - very famous music groups of the first and second echelon, like, for example, Pink Floyd and others. He really wanted to create electronic music, but he couldn't afford it, and he thought that he could find a way to try to make it himself and he didn't had any idea of how to do it. So he just simply rewired some contacts in guitar amplifiers and household appliances. Quickly he learnt how to retrieve some very interesting sounds while not burning these devices, so he began to promote some sort of philosophical teaching, a concept for hacking devices that originally wasn't created for music business, or were meant to be for music purposes of other sorts at the beginning, before the dissection. Well, it's kind of a deliberate disruption, when you approach the process as a child that is interested of what's inside some kind of device, then he opens it and sees many colored wires, small and not-so-small parts. Well, he reconnects some contacts and creates very interesting sounds - and the goal is not to destroy such a device, but to make such a destruction controllable, some kind of breakage, so you can play with it, perform or record some sounds. And the scale of circuit bending as a movement began to grow rapidly with the arrival of digital technology in the toy industry, when in the beginning of 80's educational computers began to appear on the market. They had very simple digital modules inside. Everything inside was discrete: they had separate memory, separate processor, audio and video signal generators - everything was separate from each other, not like now, when we have everything in one single case, a single solution. Because of that bending was growing on a very fast pace. Devices were very responsive to circuit bending, and produced some interesting sounds. Well, with such a fast growth and blossom of the electronic music in the 80's, circuit bending has reached a wide audience - firstly in the USA. Despite that circuit bending remained to be a prerogative of some kind of elite - you could say that, because only experimental groups had this instruments, like avant-garde bands and artists that were testing some new things. It became a part of the pop culture only with the appearance of glitch, as the independent style of electronic music. Also the appearance of Internet has contributed to that - everyone now could try to do something. Many companies that produce modular synthesizers, that right now became very popular again, were founded by people that in 90's were doing bending, creating hand-made devices. Eventually they moved to the next level using the same methods, but making them more controllable, more suitable for using in in almost a laboratory kind of equipment. There are many examples of such devices that pop up in many serious music studies, well... For example, let's take Depeche Mode's last album. They had many devices that were created based on the same principles. Also, such musicians as Ryoji Ikeda or Aphex Twin, they often use some hand-made devices. It's not always has to be bending, that is created from scratch, but also DIY, hand-made, so the boundaries are rather blured. There is such movement as soft-bending too, when some program code is used for dissection - and some chaos is added to the code. I'll bring a very popular example - in the days when Windows 95 came out, people used to open some JPEG pictures in Notepad, made some changes there, deleted some numbers and added their own, then saved it as JPEG again and opened in some program for viewing images. And they saw some unknown glitch there - details messed up, colors changed, some kind of absurd stuff. This is a basic example of soft-hacking and soft-bending, when you don't understand what you are doing, but still get this result, that is valuable from some artistic point of view, if you consider this an art. Software and hardware hacking are quite closely tighted right now. There are many artists, musicians and engineers that work so closely on the edge of software and hardware, making both things and using hacking too. This is how one of the many devices that I make looks. The basic idea is that it's a modular device and I kind of suggest the user to take part in the process of bending, instead of just stupidly connecting everything with switches and wires inside, I make a bunch of slots which can then be connected with wires later on, thereby creating some strange patches and structures. And the more of these devices you have, the more you can make combinations, creating huge amount and a variety of sounds. Of course, you can repeat some sounds, but you can find not unique combinations, and it's nearly an unlimited source of them. I have an experience, for example, when I made a device from a pressure gauge by simply taking out data bus that was transferring pulse white modulation signals and used them as an audio source. As the result, I had a square wave generator that was controlled by a blood pressure. So, just about everything that can produce sounds - I am not even talking about radios - by combining you can connect an electric iron with something else. To do circuit bending you only need a desire and some instruments. Actually, you don't need any serious engineering skills and you don't need to know how to solder. But right now I think... The things that I will show you don't need extra knowledge; you just would need to find some set of tools, you will need some safety regulations, first of all not for yourself, but for the device so you wouldn't break it and ruin your first project. I should tell about one thing that strongly affected me. A few years ago I saw a video of a very popular American musician, he played on banjo. Actually, he's a star of country music or, maybe, folk music in America. He had a brain tumor, a very serious disease, I don't know, such as Parkinson's disease or an Alzheimer syndrom. And he wasn't such a virtuoso anymore; he had a disrupted hand movements coordination. And then experimental doctors came to help him. They have implanted an electrode in his brain, which gave a signal of a certain frequency in a certain area on certain neurons. And well, sort of... They tried to help him, but human brain is incredibly complex and they couldn't simply understand there to put the electrode from the first try. So, this video that I saw was about... Basically, this famous musician was lying at the surgical table with his skull opened. They made a trepanation and he was awake. As you know, brain surgery doesn't require general anesthesia, because brain doesn't feel anything. He had a banjo in his hands. He laid behind a curtain, so part of his head was covered with it and the other part was looking into the camera and smiling. And behind him was standing a squad of, say, 25 surgeons with monitors, bunch of soldering irons, electronics and a screwdriver. And they literally calibrated his head. It was a real brain bending: he played banjo and was instructing them: "You know, my left arm isn't working as it should, tighten it up a bit before it was better. Rotate it again just a little bit... yes-yes-yes, that's good. You know it's good, but still slow." Well, they were just tuning his head for a few hours by simply turning kind of variable resistors somewhere in his head. Finally, they just glued him an iron plate inside, so he could happily perform his music again. And you know... I can't say that I'm dreaming about something like that, this story makes you think about future horizons and generally, what is in hold for us in the future.

Contents

Experimental process

A 1989 Kawasaki toy guitar used in a circuit bending project
A 1989 Kawasaki toy guitar used in a circuit bending project

Circuit bending is experimenting with second-hand electronics in a DIY fashion. Inexpensive keyboards, drum machines, and electronic children's toys (not necessarily designed for music production) are commonly used. Typically, this is done with battery-powered devices. Random modifications to devices plugged into the wall can result in fire or electrocution.

Aesthetic value, immediate usability and highly randomized results are often factors in the process of successfully "bending" electronics. Although the history of electronic music is often associated with unconventional sonic results, innovators like Robert Moog[1] and Léon Theremin[2] were electrical engineers, and were typically more concerned with the consistency of their instruments. In contrast, circuit bending is typified by inconsistencies in instruments built in an unscientific manner. While many pre-fitted circuit bent machines are sold on auction sites such as eBay, this somewhat contravenes the intention of most practitioners. Machines bent to a repeated configuration are more analogous to the well known practice of "mods", such as the Devilfish mod for the Roland TB-303, the famous Speak & Spell toys or various Analogman or Pedaldoc guitar pedal circuit modifications.

Circuit bending an audio device typically involves removing the rear panel of the device and connecting any two circuit locations with a "jumper" wire, sending current from one part of the circuit into another. Results are monitored through either the device's internal speaker or by connecting an amplifier to the speaker output. If an interesting effect is achieved, this connection would be marked for future reference or kept active by either soldering a new connection or bridging it with crocodile clips. Often other components are inserted at these points such as pushbuttons or switches, to turn the effect on or off; or components such as resistors or capacitors, to change the quality of the audio output. This is repeated on a trial and error basis. Other components added into the circuit can give the performer more expressiveness, such as potentiometers, photoresistors (for reaction to light) and pressure sensors.

A Yamaha PSR-6 used in a circuit bending project.
A Yamaha PSR-6 used in a circuit bending project.

The simplest input, and the one most identified with circuit bending, is the body contact,[3] where the performer's touch causes the circuit to change the sound. Often metal knobs, plates, screws or studs are wired to these circuit points to give easier access to these points from the outside the case of the device.

Since creative experimentation[4] is a key element to the practice of circuit bending, there is always a possibility that short circuiting may yield undesirable results, including component failure. In particular, connecting the power supply or a capacitor directly to a computer chip lead can destroy the chip and make the device inoperable. Before beginning to do circuit bending, a person should learn the basic risk factors about working with electrical and electronic products, including how to identify capacitors (which can give a person a serious shock due to the electrical charge that they store), and how to avoid risks with AC power. For safety reasons, a circuit bender should have a few basic electronics tools, such as a multimeter (an electronic testing device which measures voltage, resistance and other factors). It is advised that beginner circuit benders should never "bend" any device that gets its power from mains electricity (household AC power), as this would carry a serious risk of electrocution. Circuit bending can also be carried out in interactive electronic audio games. People modify their electronic games to enhance the quality of recordings used for fan-made projects or to change the speed of the game which results in a pitch change. This makes the gameplay easier, especially if the game gets impossibly fast. Adding a knob or a switch to change the pitch of the game can lead to some disadvantages which include the game can change its pitch slightly when its lights are turned on, and it can cause the batteries to drain out quickly on high speeds.

Innovators

Although similar methods were previously used by other musicians and engineers, this method of music creation is believed to have been pioneered by Reed Ghazala in the 1960s. Ghazala's experience with circuit-bending began in 1966 when a toy transistor amplifier, by chance, shorted-out against a metal object in his desk drawer, resulting in a stream of unusual sounds.[5] While Ghazala says that he was not the first circuit bender, he coined the term Circuit Bending [6] and whole-heartedly promoted the proliferation of the concept and practice through his writings and internet site, earning him the title "Father of Circuit Bending".

Serge Tcherepnin, designer of the Serge modular synthesizers, discussed[7] his early experiments in the 1950s with the transistor radio, in which he found sensitive circuit points in those simple electronic devices and brought them out to "body contacts" on the plastic chassis. Prior to Mark's and Reed's experiments other pioneers also explored the body-contact idea, one of the earliest being Thaddeus Cahill (1897) whose telharmonium, it is reported, was also touch-sensitive.

Since 1984, Swiss duo Voice Crack created music by manipulating common electronic devices in a practice they termed "cracked everyday electronics".[8]

The city of Chicago is host to a longtime community of circuit bending innovation, including the performance/teaching duo Roth Mobot[9] who introduced such techniques as the voltage starving Waldeck Interruptor[10] and were nominated for Prix Ars Electronica's Digital Communities award in 2008.[11] Roth Mobot's Patrick McCarthy hosted a long-running circuit bending class at the Old Town School of Folk Music,[12] and currently runs the Museum of Science and Industry's Fab Lab, incorporating digital fabrication techniques alongside creative circuitry experimentation.[13] Other prominent local innovators include Chicago Art Institute professor Nicolas Collins, author of the influential text Handmade Electronic Music,[14] as well as Alex Inglizian, chief engineer at Experimental Sound Studio.[15]

See also

References

Alexandre Marino Fernandez, Fernando Iazzetta, Circuit-Bending and DIY Culture

  1. ^ "Robert Moog: Music Pioneer". NPR.org. 23 August 2005. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  2. ^ "No. 1818: Leon Theremin". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  3. ^ Reed Ghazala: http://www.anti-theory.com/soundart/circuitbend/cb14.html
  4. ^ "circuit-bending". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  5. ^ Reed Ghazala: Circuit-Bending, Build Your Own Alien Instruments, Extreme Tech, 2006
  6. ^ Reed Ghazala: "Circuit-Bending and Living Instruments," EMI Volume VIII #1, 1992
  7. ^ Vail, Mark: Vintage Synthesizers: Pioneering Designers, Groundbreaking Instruments, Collecting Tips, Mutants of Technology, Backbeat Books; 2.00 edition (15 March 2000)
  8. ^ "YULE 2008". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  9. ^ Roth Mobot http://www.rothmobot.com/. Retrieved 19 September 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ GetLofi http://getlofi.com/waldeck-interrupter-circuit-bending-without-opening-the-toy/. Retrieved 19 September 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Flamm, Terrence. "Roth Mobot: Circuit Bending for". Built in Chicago. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  12. ^ Roach, Michael. "Trick out your toys". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  13. ^ "WEAVING CONNECTIONS: PATRICK MCCARTHY AND EXPERIMENTAL ELECTRONICS". TAD Studio Journal. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  14. ^ Handmade Electronic Music https://www.nicolascollins.com/handmade.htm. Retrieved 19 September 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Margasak, Peter. "How will ESS replace Lou Mallozzi?". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 19 September 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 4 October 2018, at 04:57
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