For the third episode of The Future of Music, I’m in Margate, England, standing in front of 44 Furbies that have been hacked and wired together to create a giant, playable organ. You might have seen this absurd instrument when it went viral on YouTube earlier this year. It’s the creation of Sam Battle, aka Look Mum No Computer, a mad scientist of sorts who’s made a name for himself by modifying toys like these rows of slack-mouthed Furbies via a process called circuit bending. And, as he shows me around his studio pointing out other far-out circuit bent creations with a laissez-faire attitude — like his flamethrower synth — it quickly becomes clear he’s not driven by anything except sheer curiosity. It’s just how his brain is wired (pun intended). “When you get the first thing to work, it’s amazing,” Battle says about circuit bending as his face lights up. “It’s magical!” Circuit bending is the creative (and often experimental) process of taking apart old, battery-powered toys and synthesizers and fiddling around with the inner components to have them make unintended and new sounds. It was pioneered as a method of making music by musician and technologist Reed Ghazala in the 1960s. Ghazala himself was not the first to practice it, but he did conceive the term circuit bending later on, in 1992. It’s not as popular as it once was, and Battle is one of the few people currently circuit bending things on a scale as grand as… [Read full story]
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