The Bent Festival starts this week in New York City.

The Bent Festival is a traveling roadshow where people display and perform with their Circuit Bent instruments. We all know what circuit bending is right? If you live in a city hosting one of the shows I recommend going. It’s one of those things your girlfriend will laugh at you for but it will make you a better person. Enjoy some truly interesting home brew creations ranging from the starter mod “Speak N Spell hack” to a Furbee gone berserk.

The Bent Festival is an annual art and music festival celebrating DIY electronics, hardware hacking, and circuit bending. Each year we invite artists from across the country and around the globe to perform music with their home-made or circuit bent instruments, teach workshops to adults and children alike, create beautiful art installations and to generally come together, face to face, and showcase the state of the art in DIY electronics and circuit bending culture. –

As I mentioned in this post I went a few years ago and really enjoyed myself. Each year the festival grows and is now associated with Make Magazine which is one of my favorite reads. I saw the following video on the mighty Matrixsynth blog today:

New York – April 24-26
LA – April 17-19
Minneapolis – May 1-3

BDM – Broken Drum Machine Plug-in from NUSofting.

NUSofting Broken Drum Machine

Here is an interesting plug-in. It’s been available for PC for a few months but now that I can use it on my Mac it’s worth a post here. It’s a four channel drum machine plug-in that uses samples (PCM) and analog modeling. What’s unique is the fact that this virtual machine has been “virtually” circuit bent!

You get four pads and individual outputs. Each pad allows the usual stuff like pitch, decay, tone, pain and volume. You also have chaos and chance sliders. Chaos sets is the amount of bending and chance sets how often chaos occurs.

Inspired by a combination of several old school beat boxes and the circuit-bending culture that revolves around cheap, and old, hardware musical instruments (such as the “toy” Casio and Yamaha keyboards of the 80s), Broken Drum Machine brings the lively, “ever changing”, circuit-bent drum machine sounds to your DAW. –

You can use your own samples and even alter the GUI. When you do so you can save your changes in what NUsofting calls “Modpaks”.

Here’s a few audio samples of BDM in action from the NUsofting website:

This plug-in is 35 euros/about $50. There’s more audio samples, demo songs and a demo version of BDM at the NUsofting website: click here

Alien Devices Modified Instruments from Arizona.

Circuit Bent Alesis

Robert Green has been circuit bending instruments for about 7 years. If your not the type to pick up a soldering gun and risk electric shock but need a bent device definitely take a close look at what Robert has to offer.

Besides the usual Speak N Spell and Casio SK modifications, Robert specializes in digital drum machines including the Alesis HR-16, Roland TR-707 and Yamaha series. Some of his bends use a patch bay modification and others metal switches.

This Alien-Devices modified Alesis HR16 drum synthesizer features 28 sound modifications which are controlled by 14 three-way switches. The modifications can effect the drum sounds in subtle or drastic ways creating beat mutations, digital filtering, distortion, synth tones, envelope warping, overload, bizarre beats and electronic textures. These units are excellent sample sources as well as stable live instruments and are fully MIDI capable.

If you want to get your hands dirty and try some modifications yourself there is a CD-Rom video tutorial for sale on Amazon called Circuit Bending for Beginners. I personally have not seen it but I’ve heard good reviews. There is of course plenty of free stuff to start watching on YouTubeCircuit Bending for Beginners including “Circuit Bending Workshop” by Ben Goldstone. The comments under that video are pretty interesting.

A few years ago I went to the Bent Festival in New York. It’s a nice geek fest of circuit bending. My favorite “instrument” was a old dot matrix printer rigged to play audio notes depending on which key you pressed. Here are the upcoming dates/locations for 2008:

Los Angeles Bent Festival – April 17th-19th, 2008.
New York Bent Festival – April 24th-26th, 2008.
Minneapolis Bent Festival – May 1st-3rd, 2008.

Do you own any bent instruments?