circuit bending

This Weekend: Circuit Benders’ Ball

What do you get when you cross a floor lamp, a snow machine motor, and a piano? Read on to find out! 

This weekend, Nashvillians will have a special treat with the Circuit Benders’ Ball that kicks off Friday, April 11th at 5:00pm at Fort Houston. The very best places to find information about the Ball are here and here, where curator and maker Tony Youngblood has the details. 

The best way to describe circuit bending to someone who’s never heard of it is this: people recycle electronics and found objects–the older and weirder, the better–to produce a bonafide sound machine with crazy-wavy high pitches, strumming alto pitches, beeps, boops, and bangs. To me, girlfriend and housemate of Tony Youngblood, it mostly translates to a lot of noise when I’m trying to watch Star Trek ToS, but when I get downstairs to his workshop and see some of the things he’s made and others have bequeathed to him, I’m pretty amazed.  


Above, behold Tim Kaiser’s creation. This vintage rotary telephone was “bent” with a sound effect keychain, like the ones you had as a kid that made grenade noises. Kaiser wired and soldered these together. It’s controlled by switches and the rotary dialer itself.

Toys range in complexity to pretty simple (ah, I can see how he did it!) to extremely complex (WTF?!). See more of his bent instruments here.  Kaiser is not only a gifted transformer, he’s also a musician and performer, and he uses these in his ambient compositions. 

Curious? Check out the Ball this weekend, and try one of the workshops!  They’re beginner-friendly and kept to about 15 people and have names like “Playdoh vs. Lego” and “Hacking the Gameboy.” There will also be panelists, visual artists, performers, live visuals, and special presentations. And best of all, what I’m coming to love about Nashville, there will be people knocking about, exploring ideas and sharing in the creative spirit that moves them.