Music Tech Interview, Andy Divers,
De-Montfort University, UK


Divers: Hi,my name is Andy Divers and i'm a 3rd year student studying Music tech at De-monfort University in the UK. I first became interested in the art of circuit bending about a year ago now and have been hooked ever since. I am currently writing a paper which discusses if we can relate art to life entitled "what is the role of hardware hacking in contemporary electronic music ?" and I was hoping you could spare some time to answer a few questions for me.

Ghazala: Hi Andy,The role of hardware hacking in EM is - evolution. It is the force of speculation upon constants, a survival tactic as well as a special poetry.

Divers: You talk in your book about your first performances with a circuit bent device, where an irate audience attempted to destroy your instrument. How have attitudes towards your work changed from the perspective of other musicians and the general public ?

Ghazala: Times, of course, are better, but hostility toward radical art remains. It's just a little harder now to find the wrong audience, though as with all things, practice makes perfect. We got pretty good at it back in the 1960's, being the planet's first bent band, yet playing in an Elvis Universe.

People still take pot shots at me, at the art. But the radical leaps in design and music that bending brings about have been recognized as valuable, both instructionally and compositionally, by a society increasingly frustrated with the limitations of corporate music and the copy-cat mentality of academia (seen by many artists as a selling and a rehashing of other's ideas). More and more people desire "fresh produce," a breaking from the system, and in electronics, bending is just that.

Bending is better understood now. People are beginning to see the differences between chance design and more traditional hacking. This opens bending as a distinct tool to shape a different form. That's very important in the arts, or in any constructive act, and if viable, will fall into greater use. And that is what has happened.

Divers: How well do you think the public accept the niche community of the circuit benders, or rather do you think the general public is even aware of the community and if not why not?

Ghazala: Nebulagirl and Spunky Toofers (bent artists/designers) did an "open mic" night at a local Starbucks here, where it's expected you'll sing a ballad accompanied with your acoustic guitar. The audience was spellbound listening to the extremely bent electronics (Neb and Toof produce delicate, involved abstractions as opposed to the high-volume pure distortion some benders like to work with).




Spunky Toofers at the Purple Leaf Retreat, Photo by Reed Ghazala



Listeners were being exposed to sculpture as much as music, and they felt this even if the sensation was unidentified.

Bending is instilled with cross-over sensibilities: music/sculpture, theory/non-theory, old/new. Bending is a social catalyst, changing the landscape as art always does.

I'm not so sure the "man on the street" can define circuit-bending yet. But with all the workshops, books, performances and news coverage, word spreads. Wiki and all the music resources online cover it. MIT teaches it. People of all ages are into it. But at its heart, it continues to thrive because it gives things impossible to get otherwise.




Nebulagirl at the Purple Leaf Retreat, Photo by Reed Ghazala


Do you think you can relate the art circuit bending to life ?

Ghazala: Sure - bending the norm equals progress, and that is life.

Divers: How has Circuit bending broken down traditional boundaries of music, and what artistic opportunities has it opened up ?

Ghazala: Circuit-bending creates "naturalistic" music. It views sound as fluid sculpture, and persuades listeners to rise above the rudiments of the organized sounds we've become familiar with as "music." It exists more as an emotional construct rather than a danceable solution. Many people are realizing that beat music can be boring, and that more abstract sonic sculpture can be mesmerizing. This is an intense forward leap in consciousness. Bent circuits are too musical to be ignored, and have forced themselves upon a music-sensitive species. Boundaries will be bent.

Bending is behind thousands of people getting into electronics/art who wouldn't have otherwise, the usual process of electronics being too daunting, too time-consuming. Bending, of course, is instantaneous.

Incredible art is being done by bent artists, every day, all over the world. Performances are non-stop. NYC BENT festival is expanding into three events, country-wide in '07. Festivals and workshops are held all over the planet, more every year. Other books are following mine. Artists are funding their workshops by selling their bent designs. Bending is considered a "movement" or "school" because its mindset and techniques are specific to the music/instrument/art produced. So it is now reproducing itself, like a genetic entity of particular DNA.

Bending seems to be establishing and nurturing good energy, good forward inertia in musical minds, and fine critical speculation in circles of theory. I'm told the movement is the most potent in experimental music history in that there's never been this influx of artists actively toying with such a radically-artistic process at street level, explosively breaking rank with academic and corporate standards (the usual nexus of design). And it is when these standards are broken that things settle into the hands of the common person, clearly bending's powder keg. In other words, opportunity here is nearly boundless, as bending has destroyed nearly all the bounds.