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tom moody


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Paul Slocum emailed to say he appreciated the post on his work but perhaps isn't so happy to be slapped into the "circuit bending" category:
Is my work really circuit bending? key differences: (1) that traditional circuit bending has more of a chaotic element to it (placing wires without knowing exactly what's going to happen) where my stuff is mostly deliberate and calculated. And (2) while traditional circuit bending doesn't require much technical expertise, my work requires a ridiculous amount of geeky programming knowledge. (3) That my work really falls into the realm of software modification much more than hardware modification. All of my devices can easily be returned to their original state either by removing a cartridge or EPROM. Not so of circuit bend items. My stuff's like "Circuit Folding" or something.

In your blog, you are usually pretty unforgiving of redundant art. Does circuit bending deserve a bit of a thrashing here? Reed Ghazala thoroughly explored the idea what, like 25 years ago? And wasn't Nam Jun Paik kind of a bender as well (long before that)? I love that bending is accessible to so many people, but in many cases the audio results are totally unlistenable. The process and concept is the interesting part, and that's been so explored. It seems like it's time for something beyond a confused Speak & Spell and croaking SK-1. I'm kinda torn about the whole thing.
I described the genre as "emerging" but Ghazala says in the interview linked above that he started using found consumer electronics to make sound in the '60s. But the "instruments as sculpture" aspect of the trend perhaps isn't so interesting. The Nautical Almanac machines posted earlier intrigue because they look like form following function, whether that's actually true or not. (Genuine bricolage as opposed to self-consciously arty bricolage--though the guitar body is pushing it.) Similarly, just because one rewired a consumer device doesn't make the sound interesting. Again, I liked NA the times I heard them as much for the mic-swallowing, pushing-the-limit intensity of their live act--and complex, hybrid analog/digital sounds I didn't think I'd heard before--as the tweaking of instruments. The question here is whether circuit-bending is a big or well defined enough field to incorporate Slocum's light, software-based interventions into existing equipment and Cory Arcangel's hacked Nintendo cartridges. Maybe that is the evolution of the genre, rather than something completely different. Which is not to say I'm not guilty of indulging in a facile journalistic hook.

- tom moody 11-30-2004 5:01 am [link]