Jason Soares, JFRE ‘robot’ Coad, J Lesser, P Hix and Rob Crow
In the mid ’90s we learned of an idea called “curcuit bending”, the term of which was created by Qubais Reed Ghazala. Its the idea to take a sound making electronic devices and try to short circuit the device to make it produ
ce different sounds then what it was intended for. It turned out that the easy to find and cheap Texas Instruments speak ‘n spell, speak ‘n read and speak ‘n math worked great for this project. We quickly learned that the speak ‘n math gave the best results mainly due to the different blips and bleaps sounds it makes that the other 2 didn’t have. There are a few different types of effects that can be made. The first is the garble function. This takes the normal speech output and turns it into garbled speech. The second is the loop function. When you hit the switch while sound is being played it traps the sounds and loops it. The third function is slow down. By using yourself as a resistance surface you can slow down the speed of the playback by holding a wire hooked to the insides. Two other mods were to wire up a reset switch because sometimes you can lockup the device by pushing the wrong combo of switches and buttons. And lastly a 1/4″ output jack to send the signal to a amplifier.
At this time we also ran across a device called the Micronta Biofeedback Monitor. The biofeedbacker as we refer to it, acts as a pocket theremin. In the original configuration there is a port on the top where you could plug in a 3′ wire. At the opposite end there were two velcro straps which you would wrap around your finger tips. By pushing harder on the metal contacts inside the velcro straps the resistance would change raising the pitch. We modified it by hot glueing a piece of metal to each side of the biofeedbacker and then soldering wires directly to the pieces of metal so you can hold the device in one hand.
There are plenty of resources available on the net about curcuit bending.
Around the spring of 1994 I found a bizarre old combo-projector at a secondhand store called thrift village in Linda vista, ca. It was called a “Labelle duo 16″ and was about the shape and dimensions of medium-sized suitcase. Having a thing for strange old multimedia devices, and since it had a weird mixed-media cassette still in its feedport, I picked it up for perhaps 6 dollars.
The player was in perfect operating condition, with the ability to either project an image on a screen/wall or serve as a television-style viewer by re-angling the image towards a rear-projection screen built into the side. It had a handle, a built-in lengthy powercord, a built-in speaker, and a 1/4” audio output for an auxiliary speaker (not included).
Its feedport was a wide mouth that could accommodate a strange media cartridge of perhaps twice the thickness of a videocassette and about as long. The media cartridge consisted of two media…one was a 16-mm filmstrip that was intricately looped in the case, the second was an 8-track cassette attached to bottom of the first. Once inserted, as the audio (music, narration) from the 8-track played, it also sent cues to advance the sequence of the filmstrip loop for a multimedia show. As such it could be projected on a screen while also using an external speaker (presumably for larger audiences) or viewed as a “TV.” (for more intimate settings). The cartridge that was intact when I got it was some sort of traveling salesman setup, (I forget selling what). Needless to say I had a gem on my hands…but I wanted to make it play more thematically appropriate to what I was doing at the time.
During those years I was busy as the touring/performing visual component of the band “three mile pilot”. While primarily using dissolved 35mm sliders, 16mm, and 8mm film in projected collages to accompany the live set, I would also add subtle devices/lights/textures/shadows to the mix to keep it interesting. I set out to construct some audio-visual deviation by hijacking the “duo 16″‘s found media and replacing it with more thematically appropriate material.
For the 16mm slideshow– I took apart the case and replaced the images. To do this I shot a slew of color slide 35mm pictures in groups that were arranged like 4-square collages (thus roughly replicating the 16mm format when cut into 4 pieces, as a 35mm slide is approx. 4 times the area of a single 16mm frame) I then cut out all the images and adhered them individually to a length of clear 16mm leader to form an image-sequence. (The pictures were largely abstract aerospace, science fiction, or natural scenes arranged in no particular order, ambient visuals tied to some of the musical/thematic undercurrents of our performance array). I then spliced the length of leader to itself and sealed the loop back into the cartridge.
For the 8-track soundscape–I took apart the lower part of the cartridge and realized that an 8-track is a crazily looped coil that is a hell to put back together. In order to do away with the irritating found-audio track, fellow experimenter Jason and I decided to make our own custom audio-scape. Using a (cassette) four-track we composed a mixed-sound sequence that featured a collage of short-wave radio tones, synthesized frequencies, and assorted other bleeps and clicks, periodically adding the left-channel tone required to advance the slide show. With this final tape in hand I returned to “thrift village” with a blank 8-track (I needed to use an old 70’s era stereo to record the sounds from our cassette to the proxy blank 8-track). Once the 8-track had been filled I replaced the old 8-track loop in the duo cartridge with the new one and let it rip…. in the end the result was worth all the finagling.
With an added external speaker hidden somewhere nearby, in “TV.” mode, it would get many a second and third take, often engrossing people for minutes on end. It was a pleasure to incorporate such a bizarre yet subtle appendage to a live audio-visual performance.
The “hacked labelle duo 16” went on a number of tours with three mile pilot throughout the united states over the course of about a year between 1994 and 1995. It was quite robust, taking a few tumbles and spills, though always providing a stable, strange addition to the host of images and tones encountered on any given evening.
In January of 1998 I received a cease and desist letter from the law offices of Wienberg Sullivan about offending slide photographs I had posted on The Experiment. The photos were found in a slide projector that fellow experimenter Matt Lorenz had purchased at the local Am Vets thrift store. The slides are of a girl being attacked by a killer whale at a world renouned theme water/sea park We thought that the pictures were pretty amazing and the fact they came randomly in a slide projector added to the find. We decided to scan them in and post them to The Experiment. Nine months later we got the lovely letter in the mail.
The Experiment PO Box 90711
San Diego, CA 92169-2711
Our firm represents The ****** Companies which is the owner of the world famous **** and ***** marks. Our client has recently learned of the website hosted on The Experiment entitled “Girl Being Eaten By ******” It goes without saying that the ***** finds this use of its world famous mark to be offensive. It also violates its rights under the federal Trademark Act and the federal Dilution Act. Accordingly, ****** is demanding through this letter that you end this violation of its rights and the tarnishment of its valuable **** mark immediately by taking down the site (or alternatively, deleting all references to the ****** name) and agreeing that you will not use in the future the **** mark in this or any similar manner which would violate any of ****** rights in that mark.Please confirm to me it writing within (10) days from the date of this letter that you will comply with this request to permanently cease and use of the **** mark which would violate ****** rights in that mark, including the “Girl Being Eaten By ******” use. If we do not receive your written confirmation within the identified time, we will assume you are not interested in amicably resolving this matter at which time **** will take appropriate action.
Steven M. Weinberg
February 2, 1998
Dear Weinberg Sullivan, P.C.:
We recently received a letter from you informing us about the use of your clients world famous trade marks hosted on TheExperiment. I would like to inform you that we at The Experiment are sorry for the inconvience and have removed any reference to your ***** mark namely “Girl Being Eaten By ******“. At this time I would like to tell you the source of the photographs. The pages were showing pictures of slides that were found in a slide projector bought at a near by thrift store. Each page shows a slide exactly seen, complete with the original writing on each slide. As you might have seen they were date ’72 and were photographed off the television. I’m glad to see after 9 months that the slides have been up, your the first person to send me any message with any sort of response about them.Thanks for your time