Circuit Bending

The term "circuit bending" was coined by Qubais Reed Ghazala, the "Father of
Circuit Bending". We don't know who the mother is. Circuit bending is the art of
opening up electronic sound generating devices and intentionally short-circuiting
points on their circuit boards in search of interesting and perhaps
never-before-heard sounds. Such devices can range from cheap kid's toys to
somewhat more sophisticated keyboard instruments. (Bending more expensive or
treasured devices is not recommended because this process often results in the
early death of the device being explored). Once these discoveries are
documented, the circuit bender can drill holes into the shell of the device, then
mount switches and other controls which will activate these "bends" at will. An
audio jack can be mounted so that the device can be plugged into an amplifier for
live performance or recording. Electronics expertise is not necessary, perhaps
not even desired!

I began circuit bending in February 2004 after reading a small article about Mr.
Ghazala. My fascination was immediate and dare I say, life-changing. I find it
satisfying on several levels. When I'm poking around on my workbench, I feel like a
19th-Century inventor like Edison or Bell, and I know there's a good chance of
having an "AHA!" moment of discovery at any time. This is the true joy of tinkering.
Then, there's the sonic/musical element. Releasing a hidden sound for the first
time from a circuit instantly brings on musical or just plain noisemaking inspiration.
Then, there's the satisfaction of transforming the device into a piece of visual art. I
enjoy how designing functionality into the piece often results in something very
satisfying visually. I like to design interfaces that are overly complicated, absurd,
or even ridiculous (see The Ridiculatron 2000 on this page), like machines you
might see in a 50s sci-fi flick. There are many ways to approach painting as well.
Making music with circuit bent instruments is of course the final stage of the
process. The instruments can be recorded, and the samples arranged into
compositions. Performing live with circuit bent instruments truly is experimental
music. They are not easy to control, and some are completely unpredictable. The
paradox in my experience with circuit bending is
that on one hand, there is the desire to create chaos and random musical
sound/noise, because this often generates sounds and phrases that you could
never have conceived of yourself. On the other hand, there is the desire to
control and shape the chaos that's been generated into something that expresses
my own musical sensibilities. This is very tricky in live performance. Then again,
performances I do with
Zef Renirhs are usually chaotic, unpredictable, totally
improvised, and FUN! We also perform with trumpet, sax, 'cello and other "analog"
instruments. Circuit bent instruments and various horns play well together.

In 2004, I founded
"The Highland Park Thursday Evening Gentlemen's Society
Circuit Bending Marching Band and Ladies Auxilliary". We march in parades with
our bent instruments and portable amps.
Our first march was November 21, 2004 in
the DooDah Parade in Pasadena, CA. It was an incredibly fun day that ended
horribly with a devastating fire at my home. After the parade, we all ended up at
the home which my new wife,
Mona Jean Cedar, shares with me. We all walked
down to the local theater to watch a movie, and upon our return there were about
6 fire engines on our street. All of our instruments were in the same room where
the fire started, and we lost pretty much everything. I've included pictures of the
now deceased instruments under the R.I.P. section below, and I will add more
post-fire photos of the ones that didn't disappear altogether. We anticipate moving
back in to our rebuilt home by November 2005. I will be creating a space in the attic
as a dedicated studio/circuit bending/workshop/ performance space. I am very
excited about this, and we plan to have meetings of The Highland Park Thursday
Evening Gentlemen's Society Circuit Bending Marching Band and Ladies Auxilliary
on Thursday evenings, which will be primarily circuit bending workshops. The third
Thursday of each month will be a general open house for our artistically inclined
friends to manifest their inspirations.
Casio MT-240
                 Yamaha PSS-460
Vtech Talking Whiz Kid
Texas Instruments
Touch & Tell
Vtech Alphabet Apple
Vtech Little Smart
DJ Jazz 'n' Jam
R.I.P. November 21, 2004 :
The Ridiculatron 2000
The Squawking
Gentlemen Never
Touch and Tell
Jazz und Jam I
Screaming Blue Zonker
The Rotten Apple
Casio MT-240

R.I.P. November 21, 2004 :
Texas Instruments
Language Translator
The Keytard
Kawasaki DSI Keyboard