The story of maverick, revolutionary or pragmatic instrument building winds back through the history of 20th century experimental sound and music to limn digital processing and analogue synthesis, intermedia and installation art, live electronics and AV systems, free improvisation and indeterminacy, robotics and automata, aleatory and environmental processes, Just Intonation and other militant tuning systems, before arriving at the ground zero of Russolo's noise makers, the intonarumori.
This edition of The Wire Salon brings together a panel of contemporary experimental musicians and instrument builders including Leafcutter John, Tom Bugs, Sam Underwood and Kirsten Reynolds to discuss the philosophy and practice of designing and building new audio interfaces and systems in the 21st century soundworld, whether from scratch or in order to modify existing analogue and digital hardware or software.
The discussion, which will be moderated by The Wire's Deputy Editor Frances Morgan, will examine the aesthetic, political, economic and technological potentiality (and limits) of building or rewiring new sonic tools, as well as exploring the current scene's links with hacker and DIY culture. As part of the discussion each panelist will demonstrate examples of their own custom built gear.
The Wire Salon: The Ways Of The Hacker takes place at London Cafe Oto, 7 February, 8pm, £4 (tickets on the door only, no pre-sales).
Tom Bugs has been designing and building a wide variety of electronic audio instruments as BugBrand since 2005. His low-tech/circuit bending roots are still apparent in the circuitry of the Weevil family of devices, but the refined power and aesthetics of his Modular System is the focus of his current work, which mixes artistic and technical approaches in a highly distinctive manner.
Sam Underwood, aka MrUnderwood, is a musician, sound artist and instrument designer. With the sensibility of a hacker, his work is geared towards developing new ways of creating music, sounds and interfaces with instruments and technology. He is currently artist in residence at the iShed in Bristol and guest composer at the legendary EMS in Stockholm. His activities include MortonUnderwood, a musical instrument design company co-run with David Morton; ORE, a doom tuba duo; and the Sonic Graffiti project.
Leafcutter John is a London-based musician, instrument builder, software designer and installation artist. His work combines vanguard electronics and processing with improvisation and traditional folk forms.
Kirsten Reynolds is a UK artist whose work encompasses painting, sculpture, collage and print-making as well as the use of customised sound, light, electronics and found objects. She is a former member of Bow Gamelan Ensemble and Headbutt, currently works as part of the experimental turntablist duo Project Dark, and is a member of Music Hackspace.