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May 11, 2005

{     Born Again: The Rebirth of a Childhood Icon     }    

Sara_Front.jpg As a fan of circuit-bending technology, I almost creamed myself this weekend when I saw a beautifully hand-painted, fully circuit-bent Speak & Spell while perusing Seattle boutique OKOK. The Speak & Spell on display was one of twelve in a series entitled "Born Again: The Rebirth of a Childhood Icon", a collaboration between self-taught electrician Justin Gerardy and local visual artists. For the unfamiliar, circuit bending is used to modify electronic devices and alter their sounds into beautiful bleeps. Depending on which knob you turn it's as if your favorite childhood toy is on Hydrocodone, then seconds later, trucker speed. Just about any cheap electronic toy can be used to circuit bend, but over the years Speak & Spells, Speak & Maths and the rarely seen, almost Sasquatch-like, Speak & Reads have emerged as the Stradivarius of circuit bending. With this project Gerardy gave new voices to twelve Speak & Spells and left the remaining part of their extreme makeovers to some of Seattle's most talented artists. He said the idea "was a response to what I was seeing from most other circuit bent pieces out there...the vast majority of them look horrendous." His solution was to "make the toys look like they sound" by giving the artists the chance to design a piece based on the sounds they heard coming from their canvas. After these rejects from the Island of Misfit Toys returned with their new looks, it was time for them to hit the stage. Their recital performance took place at Seattle's OlivoDoce gallery and seems to have been an amazing thing to behold. Imagine a chorus of ten monsters, doppelgangers of former friends, as they blip, bloop, and bleep songs in unison to a crowd of spellbound onlookers. "Born Again" has finely matched the voice of circuit bending with the aesthetic face it has always deserved.

     » For pictures and audio samples of all 11 pieces!
     » History of circuit bending.


Wow. Were we circuit bending when we would let the batteries drain in the Speak & Math? Then, the strangely authoritative male voice would garble up NUMBER CRUNCHERS so so bad. Oh, how I pine for one.

Posted by: greg at May 12, 2005 5:11 AM

Yes, E.A.R. did Number Crunchers on 45 with Walking With Jesus as the B Side.

Posted by: Lindsey Allen Baker at May 12, 2005 9:39 AM

This is one of the best pieces I've seen on C12 in a while.
You've nailed a whole niche in 4 paragraphs and clued me in to some wicked shit I otherwise would have missed.

Representing like my man Alan LaCock....

Posted by: Adam at May 13, 2005 11:31 PM

wow. if anyone can imagine the awe that's washing over me now, it's you...thanks for sharing with us! too bad it was lacking sonic boom's skinny ass and elbows facing you the whole time.

Posted by: sarah at May 17, 2005 1:52 PM

Yeah, god bless Reed Ghazala but it's REALLY nice to see a variation on his 80's looking "V the Miniseries" themed Speak & Spells.

Posted by: Lindsey Baker at May 17, 2005 6:15 PM

What EAR are you talking about???? Oh God, I'm missing out on eeeeveryyything....
And yes, love to RG and his raccoons and his crazy idea of what the future will be, and love to the artists who can go with it and then some.
You're so lucky to get to see that! Damn.

Posted by: sarah at May 17, 2005 9:46 PM

You believed me about the Number Crunchers 45? Then let me tell about the sold out Sonic Boom show I saw at the Hammerstein Ballroom where he played a circuit bent Teddy Ruxpin and Grubby Talking Caterpillar for 4 hours! For an encore he did cover of "She Took a Long Cold Look" on a gutted My Buddy and Kid Sister that he had rigged for audio synthesis. It blew my mind!

Posted by: Lindsey Baker at May 17, 2005 11:03 PM

you're funny.

Posted by: sarah at May 18, 2005 1:24 AM

its not number crunchers, folks, its number STUMPERS.


Posted by: jonah at May 30, 2005 12:22 AM

whenever i envision circuit-bent speak&spells i remember some comedians joke about how evil those toys sound... "A B C D E F G, I WILL KILL YOUR FAM-I-LY!" im working on a circuit bent teddy ruxpin to first run off of mix tapes, then to run with realtime control via linux and a computer keyboard, or maybe a synth. narf!

Posted by: sonicolonic at February 4, 2006 10:11 AM

Sonicolnic - let me know how that goes... I am dying for someone to figure this out:

Posted by: jjtomsic at March 22, 2006 11:19 AM

Keep up the great work on your blog. Best wishes WaltDe

Posted by: WaltDe at August 31, 2006 7:32 PM
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