Circuit bending as popular music

Last night I decided to contact several circuit benders around the world. Not only musicians, but also festivals, shops, video artists etc. I must say there were plenty of them that replied to me, and I would like to thank them. Your help is more than important at this moment.

I’ve been checking YouTube videos on circuit bending. Great work, so many possibilities, I think I can draw the lines of CB as a creative process, a new way of musical composition that is based upon the experimental exploration of sound and of course, noise, where an ‘alien’ instrument becomes the embodiment of the musician’s customised sonic identity. CB is the way to trespass musical borders and also, extend them to different musical genres. The point is to understand the capacities of a circuit.

I was quite intrigued by several users’ comments on the videos, characterising CB as “noise” made by corrupted hippies/geeks. Of course, such an opinion is respectful. Diversity shouldn’t be neglected and in CB’s case, as in any form of art, there will always be contradictions and arguments against its “artsy fartsy” character. Not everyone believed Duchamp was making art, but today his works are seen as art. Of course, there will always be philosophical questions about “what is art?” and “what is music?” and I think CB stands somewhere in between those two arguments. Of course, there’s not a single answer to this and I believe that if I try to reply to such a question I’ll go nuts.

CB is a sort of sonic art from one point. First, I will have to defend my argument that it is music, using specific literature. Then, as a music genre and/or composition method it is a way of expressing and communicating. Hence, there’s a meaning – here I can make a comparison with Attali’s “Noise” – and this meaning has to be decoded in order to understand it. What is the meaning of CB music? I believe it’s the expression, the freedom of creativity and all the above I’ve mentioned before. Some scholars believe that there cannot be a musical meaning without text, lyrics, or something similar, and that music itself as an immaterial, aural form of culture doesn’t mean anything. I say, nonsense. CB is important for circuit benders (for a start). They develop a specific code of communication: I bend this circuit, you understand that I’m doing it as you’ve experienced this before. You can’t neglect the materiality of CB, its objectivity is modified to fit the circuit bender’s needs. Thus, these coded metaphoric meanings may be deciphered by the CB community.

Okay, is it then something so avant-garde that only the ones that make it understand it? I’d say no.

CB has many things in common with noise, idm, industrial music. Similarly, there’s an audience that likes this kind of music. Actually, CB doesn’t construct a new music genre, rather a new composition method of existing genres: electronica, noise, punk, rock, any genre you’d like. Some people feel strange about the non-canonised sounds of CB, but there are others that become true supporters and follow the CB scene. As time goes by, and this scene is growing, CB festivals become more popular (take for instance Bent festival). In a way, CB becomes the mainstream of the underground, if you know what I mean. It is a part of popular culture, and still, can be consumed as popular music. People go to festivals, buy/download CB music, comment on videos, maybe try themselves to bent a toy. A whole CB industry comes to life (shops that sell bent musical instruments are a great example of this, as well as record labels that produce CB music).

I think this is enough for now, I need to organise my thoughts better about this, but I think I’ll first write the literature review.

Okay, rock on!


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