Again With The Circuit-Bending
Next Monday, May 21the Southern Humboldt Amateur Radio Club will host a circuit-bending workshop with the band CMKT4. I’m really looking forward to this event. I hope I meet all of the local musical odd-balls out there who find the proliferation of pointless electronica (used here to denote a genre of gadget, not music) fascinating, disturbing, or compelling enough integrate these devices into their art.
After this event, I will get back to producing the kind of vapid pointless pap that you’ve come to expect from me here. Maybe I’ll even get back to Zombie Rodoni’s write-in campaign for the Second District Supes race. I don’t know, I’ll find something to bitch about. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you pitiful drones desperately seeking sanctuary from your dreary lives in my words. I’m here for you.
I know you are out there. I know you count on me. This blog has averaged over one-thousand hits a day for the last two-and-a-half months. Almost a hundred people an hour, and over thirty thousand people a month come here, for what, I don’t know, but I appreciate every one of you, even if you just look at the pictures. I won’t let you down.
But right now, I just want to keep writing long enough to use up this disposable pen. I need the spring from it for this electro-acoustic cigar-box drum-machine I’m building. I know these cheap disposable promotional pens really don’t have much ink in them, so if I just keep writing, I know I can use it up. Then I can take the pen apart to get the little spring I need, with a clear conscience.
I feel inspired, for the first time in years, to make music. This time with an odd collection of hand-made, circuit-bent, highly idiosyncratic instruments. I don’t have any idea how to get people to listen to my music, and I know that even if I could get people to listen to my music, most people won’t like it. I won’t let that stop me from making it though.
Like all the world needs is more fucking music,… played on jerry-rigged children’s toys, no less. Some of you might wonder what I find so appealing about these annoying, noisy, electronic toys. Not only do they sound profoundly unmusical, they’re ugly, they’re plastic, and they’re full of unrecoverable toxins and heavy metals. They offend everything natural and wholesome in this world. Even children don’t really like them much, and parents hate them, which is why you find so many of them in our thrift stores.
By all accounts, these things should never exist. No one should ever buy for a child, a toy that makes electronic noise whenever the child pushes a button. Kids should have to work harder than that to make noise. Banging pots and pans, screaming at the top of their lungs or jumping up and down all take some energy, and will eventually tire the child out. Noisy electronic toys make it too easy for kids to be loud and annoying, the way cell-phones make it too easy for adults to be loud and annoying.
Though I consider myself a musician, I don’t care much for music, at least not the music of our culture. I don’t like classical music much, because I can smell the tuxedos. I don’t like country and western or bluegrass, because I can taste the alcohol, incest and bigotry. I don’t like rock, because its too loud and stupid, and I don’t like techno, because it has no soul. I don’t care for gospel, because it reminds me too much of church, and I don’t like reggae because it reminds me of the blood-sucking dope-yuppies who ruined this place. No, I prefer something else. Something I find in little black blobs on circuit boards embedded in brightly colored plastic toys from China, or in the spring in this pen.
To me, these little machines sound more brutal than death-metal, more comical than Spike Jones’ Jazz and more transcendent than trip-hop. They are more sophisticated than the Space Shuttle, and yet they produce the most crass and banal sounds ever heard on planet Earth. In many ways, these circuit-bent toys reflect what we have become as a society: a cheap imitation of an infantile fantasy, hopelessly short-circuited, and malfunctioning spectacularly. At least that’s how they sound to me.
Or maybe I just love the sound of electricity and the smell of solder. Either way, I killed off that pen about two paragraphs ago. Now I can get to work on my drum machine. Adios!
P.S. I just recorded an interview with Terri Clemmentson of KMUD news in which I demonstrated a circuit-bent teddy-bear’s innards, and a baby rattle miked with a CMKT4 contact microphone. Here’s a short etude for these two instruments.