Term coined by q.r. ghazala to describe modifications made to electronic toys and cheap electronic instruments by connecting various points of their circuits in ways that were not meant to be in order to modify the existing sounds and to create unexpected effects or unpredictable noises.
This kind of modifications have been made by various people since the early 70’s (and before on less ‘popular’ devices) but have only recently gained popularity, because of articles in papers like ‘experimental musical instruments‘ or on various websites.
Circuit bending is in fact just one recent instance of a century-old tradition of messing up technology to create artistic devices. One of the first known electronic instruments, the musical telegraph, was “accidentally” invented by Elishah Grey in 1876 while he was working on telegraph transmissions, and artists such as the italian futurist Luigi Russolo in the 1910’s (with his intonarumori, acoustic noise machines), John Cage in the 1950’s (Imaginary Landscape #4, music for radios) or Nam June Paik in the 1960’s (Electronic Television, etc.) showed that as soon as a technology is readily available (radio, television, you name it), it can be and indeed is used by artists…
And circuit bending is also a way to (more or less) easily make new (more or less) original electronic musical instruments that don’t cost lots of money, which is always a good thing for most musicians :).
Circuit bending does not require advanced electronic knowledge, still some basic understanding of electronics (i.e. how a capacitor works or how to calculate the value of two resistors in parallel for example) becomes necessary if one intends to do more than just random tests connected in random ways…
This site contains the following circuit bending-related material :
- f.a.q. : frequently asked questions about circuit bending
- schematics (speak and spell circuit bending for dummies)
- links to other circuit bending resources