A few more (nerdy) thoughts on circuit bending and whether rewriting software for old games, toys, appliances, etc. should be included in it. Paul Slocum got lumped into the discussion because he participated in the recent Bent festival in New York and his modified Epson printer--as opposed to say, the vintage computers he works with--seems more in the bending spirit of altering consumer devices we don't normally think of as music-producing. That piece I would call bent, perhaps software-wise as opposed to hardware-wise (Slocum proposes "circuit folding" but that's not as blunt or catchy as "circuit bending"). As for whether bending produces boring work, Slocum notes in the comments that "lot of those ['80s] toys and keyboards sound crazy and awesome whether they're modified or not." Good point; j, on the other hand, says:
Circuit bending makes useful audio material if you have a well 'bent' machine which when in the hands of an experienced bender is mostly calculated as well.

That said, circuit bent machines' random nature are also an asset. They can provide phrases of sounds that just could not be made up in one's head.

I do think the distinction made between circuit bending and folding is interesting but one is not necessarily better than the other.
I'm for extending "circuit bending" to include hacking, with educating our ears to hear the distinctions good but still optional. ("For additional credit, is this [insert sound here] mechanically bent, virtually bent [i.e., within the program], or hacker bent [i.e., made by rewriting the program]?") I have a slight stake in this, having made some visual work that could be called circuit bent, even though it involved neither programming nor working within a program nor even getting out the soldering gun. Any citations to The Wire or Electronic Musician or other places where this issue might have been discussed would be appreciated. Also, it'd be great to hear more from Paul about the "bends for the Fisher Price Pixelvision video camera" he mentions--haven't seen any work done with that machine in quite a while but what I saw was inspiring.

UPDATE: Slocum continues to object in the comments to being called a circuit bender. I guess my thought would be, if someone asks you to be in a bending festival again don't do it. You'll have to trust me that the scene in NY is interesting. I don't know how you can judge it surfing around the internet, or living in Dallas (sorry to my friends that stay, but you need to get out of that Baptist hellhole). The definition of bending is as expansive as you want to make it.

- tom moody 12-02-2004 5:07 pm

The idea of using an ancient Epson to produce music reminded me of this 10-cylinder instrument.
- mark 12-03-2004 10:23 am

I'm guessing that's an engine playing music? hehe.

Well I spent an hour surfing the web for circuit bent stuff last night and didn't find much that was worth mentioning. As far as music, mostly just found sample mp3s of Ghazala-ish circuit bent instruments, none of which sounded very interesting. I found one promising bending music hit on Google that turned out to be a link to a story about me. Face. But seriously, can someone (j?) post links to someone who's got mp3s of some compelling circuit bent music?

This was my favorite of the pages I came across:

And, this is probably worth posting (although lots of people have done this sort of thing):

And here's a little info about bent PXL2000's:

Anyways, back to the discussion... I want to point out that almost all of the devices that are bent ARE designed to produce music or noise of some sort. Toy keyboards and stuff, and even the Speak & Spell plays melodies. The printer is actually the only example I can think of off hand that's designed to not make sound, but does anyway as a byproduct. And most of my other work is on the Atari 2600, which is definitely not designed to create video art or make music (not any more than a Speak & Spell). Currently I'm in the process of hacking a coin-op Gypsy electronic fortune teller which will be a more of a conceptual piece (no sound.)

It's interesting to note that on a technical level, there's basically no difference between what I do and bending since burning an EPROM is in fact shorting out connections. I'm just shorting out a million instead of 10.

Simply differentiating between software and hardware bending is probably fine. I guess I'm just not crazy about being lumped into a scene that I don't find terribly interesting. I'd rather someone come up with a name for whatever it is the Cory does and lump me in there, hehe. :o)

geez, that was a long comment! back to hacking...

- paul (guest) 12-03-2004 10:58 pm

Yes, an engine, an uninspired musical choice, and some Formula 1 engineers with too much time on their hands.
- mark 12-04-2004 2:19 am

Classification of my work is the least of my worries, but I was really enjoying debating some of this stuff that I'd been thinking about for a while. My main point is not that there's no interesting work going on at all, but the the vast majority of it is not IMO. I don't think people realize how enormous, old, derivative, and homogonized the circuit bending scene is. And I think I'm perfectly qualified to talk about this in spite of living here, having explored the scene for a few years, knowing some major players in the scene (including ones that performed and exhibitied at BENT in NYC), and having friends all over the place, many who agree with me.

And do you really think that I don't think about moving to New York all the time?!

I certainly understand why my work often gets classified as bending and appreciate you posting my comments elaborating on that.
- paul (guest) 12-07-2004 12:33 am

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