Improvisation with Circuit Bent Toys and Selected Digital Processes

Framework for a workshop on audiovisual improvisation with circuit-bent toys.

A hands-on music making workshop, jam and discussion informed by accessible technology. Looking into specific hardware modification strategies and procedures, what can be done and how. Reflections on instrument behavior, as well as into the artistic use of these instruments in the context of improvisation. Structured and free improvisation approaches. Form factor and improvisation pathways. Choice of digital processes as an important area of experimentation.


Some instruments

I have been developing an instrumentarium of circuit bent musical toys, modified to produce a wide range of sounds – from pulse trains to granular sequences to noise. Control is mostly by switches, buttons, body contacts, potentiometers and photo-resistors. The controls allow for smooth transitions between extremes, for dynamic gestures, as well as for tunable steady states. Each of these instruments looks and handles in a unique and playful way and depending on the mood, the skill and the musical outlook of the performer they can produce an incredible variety of results.

Instant hardware tweaking of dedicated instruments will be possible, so as to be able to see and hear the implications on sound and playability. New circuit bending projects also possible – some electronic workshop equipment being available. The focus is on using and evaluating instruments and approaches. Building them from scratch to finish requires time… Of course, participants could bring in their own modified/experimental/lo-fi/whatever toy-instrument as an addition to the jam and the discussion.

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To be played

The chaotic nature of the instruments combined with the experimental procedures of hardware modification is reflected on the sound produced but also on the ways the instruments can be used to create medium and large scale musical form. I have been investigating the implications of specific hardware implementation choices while making these instruments and I am convinced that this is a perfect setup for group improvisation experiments and exercise. It will be very interesting for everyone to see and hear how such an idiosyncratic, yet rich and accessible, set of instruments behaves in free as well as structured group improvisation sets.


To be seen

The instruments of this kind look (as well as sound) interesting. So, we will be using their image and their audio in order to create video for synchronized projection. Light is an important element here anyway, as light dependent resistors coupled with dedicated light sources are a common control feature.

glitch video tr bapowertoys pianola.mp4_snapshot_01.14_[2014.05.28_17.00.46]a

To be processed

The sounds and the images coming from the instruments can of course be processed with software and this way be enhanced, critically manipulated or even radically altered and maybe rendered obsolete as valuable sources. Where does digital processing take over and what approaches should one follow if the source instrumentarium is to remain a central feature? How does the form factor of the toy-instrument inform the processing applied? And last but not least, how does the character of the instrumentarium together with that of digital manipulation procedures translate into higher level notions such as musical efficiency, musical genre reference, enjoyment of performance, involvement of audience, and so on. Questions like these will be addressed in an experiential way during the workshop and a number of approaches will be tested.

For Music, Research and Fun.

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About stelios giannoulakis

composition, sound design, engineering, improvisation
This entry was posted in circuit bending, improvisation, live performance, projects and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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