Circuit BendingRichard Devine E-waste Nervous Squirrel
Page 1 Page 2 Page 3-9What am I reading History Richard Devine Page 10 Custom Toys Page 21-29 Nervous Squirrel Page 12 Page 13-20 Devine Studio E-waste China
W H AT A M I R E A D I N G ?The circuit bending process has been developed largely by individualsexperimenting with second-hand electronics in a DIY fashion, either withinexpensive keyboards or drum machines, or with electronic childrens toysnot associated with musical production. Aesthetic value, immediate usabilityand highly randomized results are often factors in the process of successfullybending electronics and when purposfully creating Glitchs. A glitch is a short-livedfault in a system. The term is particularly common in the computing and electronicsindustries, and in circuit bending, as well as among players of video games, althoughit is applied to all types of systems including human organizations and nature. Althoughthe history of electronic music is often associated with unconventional sonic results, such innovators as Robert Moog, Lev Sergeivitch Theremin, etc. wereelectrical engineers and concerned with the consistency and sound design of theirinstruments. Circuit bendingis typified by inconsistencies in the instruments builtin an unscientific manner. While many pre-fitted circuit bent machines are onoffer for sale at auction sites such as eBay, this somewhat contravenes theintention of most practitioners. Machines bent to a repeated configurationare more analogous to the well known practice of "mods", such as theDevilfish mod for the Roland TB-303, or various Analogmanor Pedaldoc guitar pedal circuit modifications.Glitch gives an insight, into the lives ofpeople working with elecronics, ininovative and experimental waysand gives a rare glimps into theworld of the sounds designer, circuit benders and also alook int our own wasteand what happensto it. 1
Q How did you first start creating your own electronic instruments?A Well, it started way back in 1995, when I started to collect early analogue synthesizers. My first synth was a old beat up Oberhiem Expander. It wasnt working when I first got it. So I contacted a local tech in Atlanta, named Tim Adams who was an ex-Oberhiem/Sequential synth technician, and was very knowledgeable in this field. I met up with him, and discovered that he was building his own synthesizers. It had never dawned on me to make my own instruments. He was the first person to hint the idea, of making something totally new and custom. We became great friends from that point, and started to build several instruments that I still use today. From that point I started to modify and get into circuit bending, and building a collection of odd instruments ranging from all different areas.Q What inspires you to compose?A I am inspired by so many things. I love looking to the visual arts world. Modern architecture from Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava and zaha-hadid. They seemed to always push the boundaries of texture, form, and space. Manipulating the very same design elements that I am trying to do with sound. I also love listening to other musical artists, like Francious Dohmont, Natasha Barrett, and Trevor Whishart. I have also been getting into Curtis Roads lately, researching the techniques of granular synthesis.
Q What are your opinions on solid objects or imagines, and their relationship to sound? A I have been studying how certain objects resonate into each other. For example we recorded my old 1920 Kurtzman grand Piano, that we prepared much in the same way John Cage did with his early recordings. The idea is basically altering the piano by placing objects (preparations) between or on the strings or on the hammers or dampers. I used hematite magnates, nails, slinkys, waterphone, and a strange assortment of different objects to create entirely new timbres and sounds. You can get completely different sounds by colliding two solid objects together, like taking two pieces of glass and lightly tapping them into each other, gives you this beautiful granular elastic effect. I the possibilities are endless.You start to understand that sound is a very physical thing, that vibrates in all living things.5
Q What do you think the future holds for musical or sonic advancements?A Well, a lot of advancements in my opinion, have been made within the digital realm. I am amazed at what you can do now with just one computer. I primarily work doing mostly DSP processing and sound manipulation with sound processing environments like MAX/MSP, Composers Desktop Project, and Kyma.You discover that their is an entire world of sound that can be created within these applications.Q Do you regard the progress of technology and sound in some kind of parallel?A I think to some degree that is true. In giving people better tools will make it easier for people to get into making music. It doesnt necessarily mean that everyone will make great music though. It can also help create accidental new music, in giving tools to people who arent really musicians and will approach things completely differently thus creating new music, that can be really exciting. Using technology in ways it wasnt meant to be used.
Q When producing folly or sound design - do you have some kind of process or formula? A Well, I record with a large collection of microphones, when recording foley object stuff, and sound effects. I use contact microphones like the "barcus berry" and sometimes I might use a Sony Ecm-55 Laviler Microphone and purposely use them in a wrong way to get new sounds. Like swinging the Laviler microphone in front of a TV that is playing just white static to get whoosh and fire like effects. I also use the Nuemann KMR-81, DPA-4017 and Sanken CSS5 stereo Shot gun microphones when I go out and record foley object stuff, like ambience, and breaking glass, tree branches etc.. I usually go out and record anything interesting, in out side locations, or mechanical machinery, fireworks, firearms, and have been looking into buying some Hydrophones to do more underwater recordings.7
C U S TO M TOY S On the right is a photo of some custom built circuit bent instruments. The orange and black keyboard with the Joystick controllers is the custom instrument made by Ivo Ivanovs (http://www.myspace.com/glitchmachines) Its called the Logic Bomb Devine Custom originally a Casio SK-5 rhythm.The Joystick controllers glitch the sounds into crazy insanity, and can all be manipulated in realtime all together. The banana jack wired panel boxes to the top left is the another custom set made by my friend John at Highlyliquid.com (http://highlyliquid.com/). Its called the GltichDesk. (http://glitchdesk.com/glitchdesk/bw/). Its a 70-point patch surface. with Bend I/O via two DB-25 ports. You can use MIDI clock, program change, controller, and note commands to control 8 patch circuits and digital rheostat.You can also Extract audio using patchable 1/4 jacks. Its really interesting because you can circuit bend two instruments at the same time. I have my TR-707, and Casio CZ-101 keyboard.The combinations are ridiculous. You can patch at each stage which bend point you want to sequence. Its genius, in creating chaotic glitched patterns. The box to the top right and side, in cream vanilla cover is the "Chaos Box" designed by my close friend Tim Adams. Its a touch sensor 2 voice chaotic noise generator. Its got CV-outputs, and has been known to blow a few sounds systems in the past with its violent bass, and super intense modulation.9
DEVINE STUDIO This collection is my new addiction, Euro rack analogue modular.You see pictured the Cwejman S1-mkII, and a wide assortment of Doepfer, Plan-b, Livewire, Banalogue, Analogue Systems, and Make Noise modules. Its completely customized and designed to create other worldly alien sound scapes and textures. You also see the Eventide H-3000 DS/E and Sony Viao running Sound Forge 9.11
This article looks at the phenomina of e-waste. “It has become appallingly obvious that ourtechnology has exceeded our humanity.” ALBERT EINSTEIN.
CHINA’S E-WASTE PROBLEMIn recent years, environmentalists in China and elsewhere have expressed risingconcern about the large quantities of electronic waste (“e-waste”) that wealthycountries continue to dump in the developing world, particularly in Asia. At aforum on e-waste recycling in Beijing last week, participants explored ways toaddress this daunting problem in a more realistic and pragmatic way.While it is difficult to estimate how many discarded computers, mobile phones,and other electronics flood into mainland China each year, a 2002 report fromthe Basel Action Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition estimated that 80percent of the world’s high-tech trash is exported to Asia, and 90 percent ofthis flows into China. Most of it ends up at family recycling workshops, wherelaborers disassemble the electronics manually for reclaimable materials. Wearinglittle protective gear, they are exposed to heavy metals like lead, cadmium,and mercury, and to toxic compounds such as acids, polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs, common flame retardants).To stem the negative effects of this activity, China banned the import of e-wastein 2000. However, the labor-intensive nature of electronics recycling hasperpetuated a black market in the trade, taking advantage of China’s abundant,cheap, and skilled labor force. Much of the discarded equipment is shipped toHong Kong in containers labeled “for recycling,” then smuggled overland toseveral “recycling towns” in adjacent Guangdong Province, and to areas furtherinland. E-waste recycling can generate huge profits for local governments, soauthorities often turn a blind eye to the practice, which serves as passiveencouragement to its spread. 14
At the Beijing workshop, experts predicted that the e-waste problem will beexacerbated by new external factors, including recent laws regulatingelectronics manufacture in Europe and elsewhere. “With the implementationof the European Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment(WEEE), quantities of obsolete e-waste will increase, and the costs for recyclingwill rise as well. This will probably fan e-waste smuggling to China,” said ZhaiYong, an official with the Environmental Protection & Resources ConservationCommittee of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament. The EUDirective, which entered into force in August 2005, holds producersresponsible for financing the collection, treatment, recovery, and environmentallysound disposal of waste electronics.The domestic picture is bleak as well, as Chinese demand for electronicsand electrical equipment surges. According to Xinhua News Agency, Chinahas generated roughly 1.1 million tons of e-waste annually since 2003, including5 million TV sets, 4 million refrigerators, 5 million washing machines, 5 millioncomputers, and tens of millions of mobile phones. And it will continue to pile up:Greenpeace estimates that by 2010, there will be 178 million new computerusers in China alone.Despite the potential environmental damage caused by electronic trash,experts believe it can also be a significant source of recycled material to alleviatethe country’s tight natural resource constraints. “Discarded home appliancescontain large quantities of reclaimable metals, glasses, and other materials. Ifproperly treated, its recycling value could not be underestimated,” said Ma Dejun,Vice President of China Home Electronics Appliances Research Institute (CHEARI). 16
According to statistics from CHEARI, steel comprises 49 percent of a refrigerator, 52 percent of a washing machine, and 12 percent of a television set, while copper comprises 4 percent, 2 percent, and 3 percent of these items, respectively. Computers are highly recyclable as well, with 90 percent of the average machine made of reclaimable copper, aluminum, iron, steel, and plastics. A closer look at some of China’s e-waste disasters reveals that commonly used recycling practices can harm the environment more than the waste itself. Investigations by Greenpeace found that workers often use acid baths to dissolve the lead, silver, and other metals contained in the electronics, washing the residues directly into nearby rivers and other water bodies. Components that cannot be recycled are sent to landfills or burned in the open, releasing additional toxins into the environment. But “China’s problem cannot be solved by only purchasing a few sets of fancy recycling machines from developed countries,” says Li Jinhui, Professor with Department of Environmental Science & Engineering at Tsinghua University. Lacking in advanced technology yet rich in labor, China should develop a path for e-waste recycling that is suitable to its current situation, Li believes. “The most important thing at present is to guarantee the safety of the disassembly and treatment process, while taking full consideration of the environment and workers’ health.” Such reform, however, would require an overhaul of the country’s labor rights structure, as well as greater enforcement of environmental regulations.17
Chinese electronics producers may soon be forced to share some of the burden as well. According to CHEARI’s Ma Dejun, the most urgent challenge domestic manufacturers face is to use “greener” design. In February, seven government departments and administrations jointly issued the Administration on the Control of Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products, slated to take effect on March 1, 2007. Similar to the EU regulation restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (the so-called RoHS Directive), the Chinese ruling will gradually phase out the use of several hazardous materials, including lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium, in electronic products. Though China does not yet have comprehensive legislation on electronics manufacture and disposal, the National People’s Congress is considering measures to prevent pollution from discarded e-waste. “The legislative process embodies two considerations: one is to encourage the recycling and reuse of resources, and the other is environmental protection,” said official Zhai Yong. “A clear principle is that sending e-waste to landfills or incinerators will be strictly prohibited.” Such leadership at the highest levels of government points to a growing effort to address this problem in a pragmatic and effective way.19
THE FURBY “My name is Dave Cranmer, I live in East London and like to pass the time soldering, making strange noises and gradually spreading little bits of aluminium around the house. Ive always enjoyed listening to unusual music and making things, and so after a while it seemed like a good idea to combine the two different pastimes. My day job usually involves working in a workshop, which is fun because of the range of projects that come along (from stage props for AC/DC to sculptures for Antony Gormley), and its useful to have access to the different machinery.”21
G U R DYThe second version of the Furby Gurdy has four Furbies that can be playedin a sequence by winding a handle. Different rhythm patterns can be programmedby arranging the screws that press down on four microswitches. There is also atrigger out socket to link it to a sequencer. The first Furby Gurdy had eight Furbies,but Id really like to make a motorised version with ten or twelve Furbies in a nicemahogany case! 22
How did you first start making custom instruments? Id always been interested in electronic sounds and music, but the thing that really started the home made stuff was a demonstration by DJ Paul B. Davis where he showed me how to modify a battery powered doorbell. Which of your custom creations are you most proud of? Hmm, at the moment probably the musical ships wheel that was made for Mucky Sailor, just because it has been made to survive going on tour and it should hopefully last about 100 years. Its also a lot of fun to play!23
In regards to circuit bending, what are you working on at the moment?The main project at the moment is a homemade modular synth, which although isntstrictly all circuit bending will definitely havesome Early Learning Centre circuits in thereat some point. Its always good to be able tochoose between dog and cat as a modulationsource...Do you have any idols / people thathave inspired you to take up interestin Circuit Bending?I suppose my Dads Brian Eno and Tomita LPswhen I was a bit younger, then musicians onWarp/Rephlex/Planet Mu, rather than anyspecific circuit benders. I think that the peoplewho have maybe inspired me most for the thingsI make are Tim Hunkin and Arthur Ganson, whomake really brilliant mechanical sculptures. 24
Modified Stepladders, each containing four samplers, trigered by spring loaded steps. The dial allows control over the samples rate and frequency.25
D. I . Y W I L L N E V E R B E T H E S A M E AG A I N . 26
Musical ship’s wheel - A commision for Mucky Sailor. Eight turnable oscillators are played in a sequence when the wheel is spun. Mounted on a robust steel stand with an expression pedal for changing the overall pitch. It also has L.E.D’s to make it look cool. Mucky Sailor Filthy under-evolved trilobites from the primeval undersea sludge of the Leeds Liverpool Canal featuring Gus (vocals & piano) and Steve (drums).28