From Reed's internet post, end of 1999:

What's a guitar?

Over the years, as long-time readers of EMI might recall, I've rarely touched upon this old standard in my articles.

And I've had scores of people ask "How come you don't bend thoseriff-sample guitars poppin' up everywhere now?"

Of course, these things aren't guitars at all. They're sample players that look like guitars. But they DO have inside, at times, nice guitarsamples

I play bass guitar. I've adapted acoustic guitars in various ways too. Radical re-stringing, electronics/pick-up mods, fret adjustments, body changes, such. I build guitar-type things from bits & pieces too, electronic & acoustic. I also collect rare guitars; vintage guitars. I like guitars.

But guitars are... expected. So expected, in fact, that I've always leaned toward other less-usual-looking targets to proto-bend when I get the spare moment. However, I've been collecting these sample guitars over the recent years, feeling I'd know when the time was right to get into 'em.

The time is right. A number of events coincided and I gladly find myself swept up in the synchronicity. Here's what happened.

I've always been keen on the idea of a group of musicians bringing onto stage what the audience recognizes as guitars. Three or four people facing the audience, holding guitars, or at least what seem to be guitars... 'til the performance begins.

Then the lights black out the moment these musicians strike old fashioned kitchen matches, now the only illumination in the house. The musicians bid the audience farewell and, lighting large green candles, begin. This ensemble then, using only these guitar-things, creates a fantastic soundwork, delicate & precise to intense engulfing passages, well composed, and leaving the guitar expectations in the dust. I'd like that.

Recently, as a gift to Cindy Striley (see her sidebar to my SK-1 article, EMI Vol 12 #2, Dec. '96), good friend and my chief web designer, I've finally created such a "guitar", and it's fascinating! So much so that I've decided to introduce a new circuit-bent instrument -- the Gaiatar. Like Incantors, Trigons, Morpheums, Vox Insectas and Photon Clarinets, this will become one of my series instruments.

Why the Gaia name? While I sat with the instrument, unnamed and in the proto stages, the new bent sounds, slowed down and texture-modified through bending, inspired images of a cosmic firmament. A thunderous boiling of catalytic chemistry, assembling and disassembling like ocean waves tumbling into endless sands. Like tangled voices of the cosmos, weaving together, layering, hinting at secret musical fabric. But still, organic/chaotic, even contemplative, as though a cabinet of creation-secrets were being shaken.

Of course, I'm just a dreamer. With tinnitus.

The Y2K hype surfaces on many fronts. But it is a calendar event and signifies, if nothing else, a recognized, even if arbitrary, threshold. An opening door. And to we romanticists, an opportunity to place special things on the special stage created by that year of our history, and somehow address the reminiscing it will create. Like all new days throwing morning light into my tent, I want to crawl out into this mist and take in its offerings. And leave something in return. And celebrate it all.

I'd like to place on the special stage a special instrument meant to provoke questions about the voice of art, its expectedness and surprise, its meaning and value, its history and future. At this moment I'd like to produce an instrument-artwork that coaxes a looking backward and a looking forward at once.

The Gaiatar encapsulates this for me. The "Gaiatar 2000", in celebration of us still being here and still having the opportunity for the care and appreciation of this wonderful planet and each other, will be my special instrument for the up-coming year. I'm sure these instruments will vary in style as I find target units, but they will all be deep-end instruments, with as many on-theme additions as I can design-in.

As benders know, it's not hard at all to find bending points within circuitry. Personal Gaiatars are moments away from anyone with a warm soldering iron and the malady of curiosity. I'll bet that most of the below features from the first Gaiatar can be found on the majority of such circuits.

Following are the features of the first Gaiatar. The original guitar has 34 samples built-in, ranging from guitar and jazz organ riffs to drum sequences to a few demos combining these bits. The original guitar also has volume & speed/pitch controls.

My additions:

1- Gold-plated RCA line out to feed effects, EQ & amp.

2- Speaker shut-off switch.

3- Reset switch (push-button, to remedy crashes).

4- Cadmium cell (CdS) switch (toggle on-off).

5- Laser switch (toggle on-off).

6- Laser. This projects a beam along the fretboard into a CdS cell within the headstock. The beam is broken with fret (sample button) playing (or otherwise by the fingers) causing the instrument's pitch to vary wildly. At intense direct laser exposure the instrument at times is thrown into hyper aleatorics. With the CdS cell turned off, the laser flashes upon the player's moving fingers creating a strange, jumpy display. A nice light show.

7- Headstock. Housing the CdS cell, this is an old doorbell switch from the 1950's, complete with the low-beta-emitting classic BLUE glow-in-the-dark plastic push-button. Remember?

8- "Resolve" dial. This is a master clock control giving range way beyond the unit's built-in pitch dial. The knob is old, a rare green plastic material with a basic black arrow across its face.

9- Three body-contacts. These, in differing combinations, will cause electricity to flow through the player's body while affecting pitch, tone and possible aleatoric response. Here is a real-time modulation control, like the pitch-bend wheel on synths or the "whammy" bar on guitars, except non-moving.

10- "Trance" push-button switch. Hitting this tiny white switch sends a precise voltage burst into the central nervous system of the Gaiatar, sending it into bizarre and varying aleatoric ramblings. These might be on-going mixtures of on-board samples, "ring" modulated bits of these, mixtures of these, perhaps time & tone adjusted, unrecognizable passages, etc., etc.

12- Pilot light eye. This is a medical-quality, prosthetic human eye made for ocular replacement, and is hand-blown by a master maker in Europe. Very real-looking. Unnerving. The eye is organically inset into the case, the plastic now bulging out as though the eye were a real growth. Two lights, from inside the instrument's housing, shine into the eye illuminating it wonderfully. I half-fill this eye with alcohol and seal it back up. Anytime the instrument is playing, a high-output blue LED comes on behind the eye causing it to glow that eerie M. Parrish shadow-blue that the subconscious sees along with the retina. And at speaker volume peaks a bright red "threshold" LED flashes into the eye, combining with the blue into vibrating plays of color -- violet, purple, after-image trick colors. As the instrument is played, the alcohol sloshes around inside the eye, catching the red & blue light sources and reflecting them out through the eye in fascinating miniature waves.

13- Antique mother-of-pearl buttons have been added to the central sample keys.

14- Black buttons with inset "diamonds" have been added to other of the sample keys.

15- Housing has been re-finished in-theme with cosmos purple crackling-lightning and new planet green, night-sky black reinforced by the starry effect of the diamonds set into the jet-black keys.

16- Controls are re-labeled -- Instigate, Pulse, Resolve, Flora, Fauna, Mineral, Treeline, Mycelia, Amanita, Boletus, Psilocybe, Morchella, Trance, Tsunami, Cyclone, Avalanche, Rebirth, East, West, etc., as the sounds inspired me.

While the instrument is the most interesting to me while tuned way down into an abstract sound-form machine, tuning up to near-recognizable samples allows the composing of some truly lugubrious, highly-detailed never-never music of odd beats, stretched notes/moans/cries, human speech-things and momentary emerging of recognizable instrument sounds, allowing the musician to create and follow form.

As a lead instrument, for the forefront creation of expressive, alien musical sound-forms, the Gaiatar will excel. The ensemble of Gaiatars mentioned above, since individual instruments will likely contain percussion and other accompaniment samples in addition to lead work, is, I think, an intriguing possibility.


Depending upon complexity, prices will generally range from $1,200-$3,500 plus shipping.
Example shown would be $3,000 plus shipping.


POB 20181
Cincinnati, OH 45220