Documentary Treatment

Circuit bending is the creative customization of electronic toys and musical instruments by way of short-circuiting to create new and totally unique sounds. It started as an obscure technique used in experimental electronic music, but now appeals to a wider audience because of its accessibility, relatively inexpensive cost, and the lack of experience needed.

The film opens with our group logo, with After Effects “Audio to Animation” effect in the background. Circuit bent sounds, which affect the movement of the background visual effect, are heard. Karen Stackpole, Dimitri, Erin and Mark Pauley, and other interviewees all describe in a few words what circuit bending is and what it is generally used for. B-roll footage of thrift stores, circuit bending studios, and electronics parts is shown over some of the audio.

Shots of our group circuit bending at a workbench are seen with voiceover of an interview with Reed Ghazala introducing himself talking about how he invented circuit bending in 1967. A still picture of Reed Ghazala is shown. Several interviewees, including Karen Stackpole, Dimitri, Dr. Rek, and Pete Edwards, introduce themselves and talk about how they originally got into circuit bending and what they use it for today. Erin Pauley tells the story of how she met her husband, Mark Pauley, because he was circuit bending Speak & Spells at one of her friend’s houses. Mark Pauley briefly adds his version of the story.

Dr. Rek introduces himself and describes his circuit bending documentary project, talking about why he decided to make it and what he thinks people will find interesting about it. Dr. Rek shoots footage of concerts, workshops, and other circuit bending events. Several interviewees and other people work on circuit bending projects and play with instruments they have created. Dimitri sits in his studio and talks about the circuit bending class he teaches in San Francisco. Still images of some of the things he’s bent are shown over some of the audio. Dimitri teaches his class and a wide shot is shown of students working on projects.

Erin Pauley talks about why people find circuit bending so intriguing and fun. She discusses the Maker Faire and how they make circuit bending accessible for a wider range of people. Karen Stackpole, Dimitri, and Dr. Rek give their opinions on what people love about circuit bending. They also talk about circuit bending’s place in music and whether or not they think it will continue to grow in popularity.

Bent, Not Broken

Here is a brief, but well done, circuit bending documentary I found on YouTube called, “Bent, Not Broken.” It was produced by Casey Clark and focuses on a group of circuit benders in Chicago. It has some great footage of unusual bent toys as well as interesting interviews with some of the benders.

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Interview with Erin Pauley

I recently had the chance to interview my friend and fellow Ex’pression Sound Arts major, Erin Pauley, about her circuit bending knowledge and experience.

Erin Pauley in her Studio

Although Erin hasn’t bent many things herself, she is an electronic musician and is very knowledgeable about circuit bending and a variety of other experimental techniques. In addition, she knows many people who are directly involved in the circuit bending movement, including Dr. Rek, who is putting together the first official circuit bending documentary. Erin had a lot of great things to say about the experimental electronics community, circuit bending’s place in music, and why people are so drawn to it once they discover what it is. You can listen to excerpts from the interview below.

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