Alex Inglizian dreams up his next hacked invention.
Noise music has long been utilizing new methods and non-traditional instruments to create unintended and new sounds. The act of modifying and re-appropriating non-standard instruments for composition purposes can be traced to such legendary experimental composers as John Cage and David Tudor. Chicago based artist/composer Alex Inglizian utilizes circuit-bending and hacking of battery-powered children's toys to modify and create his own instruments and sounds. Inglizian's "toys," or hacked instruments, have received recognition at the Chicago Public Radio-sponsored Third Coast International Audio Festival (for which he designed an award), and he was featured as a special guest at BENT, one of the country's largest electronic music festivals. He works at Sound Studio and regularly performs around the city.
What is "hacking," and how do you fit that into the context of electronic noise music?
Just google "hacking" and you'll come across a ton of stuff on the web. There is a lot of people out there hacking and making instrumentsóbut I think the difference is that a lot of people make an instrument and are happy to play it just for itself, by itself. I try to modify them so they can be triggered melodically and rhythmically, subtracting the beauty or even the ugliness of the soundsóthe glitches, static and sometimes disturbances that come out of them. The term hacking has a negative connotation that I'd like to re-claim in an artistic context. I would say it's more like creatively reusing an object in a way that wasn't intended for it originally.
How important is circuit-bending or hacking to your work?
I saw a "Dreamphone" at a thrift store (I'm not sure if you remember the board game from the early '90s. You dial numbers on a toy phone and try to figure out who wants to go on a date with you). I saw this phone and thought I could use the sounds from the circuit and incorporate them into one of the pieces. I rewired the insides and connected them to a synthesizer. I can run them on a loop, change the tone or the distortion. So there is a lot of playfulness associated with the fact that a lot of these instruments are toys in just how they look, and a certain freedom that I think is sometimes harder to achieve with more traditional instruments. But my projects are not specific to circuit bending. I look at it more as a technique I employ when I have a specific sound or a project in mind.
How did you first become interested in circuit-bending and how did that progress to making your own instruments?
I was interested in computer music, and played around with sound software at first, but after a while that I felt that the sound it was producing was pretty sterile; I wanted to open the gadgets, look inside and to get my hands dirty. John Cage and David Tudor had a big influence on me. And especially Tudor, he was the first classical musician to manipulate electronic circuits and build his own electronic instruments from scratch. His instruments often looked like metal boxes with knobs. Also when I was at school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I took a class on the art of hardware-hacking with Nicolas Collins. It was a memorable class; Collins was teaching us from materials he was collecting to put together in a book. There was a lot of talk about handmade instruments and at that point I felt I had run myself into a wall with circuit-bending. I was running out of creative possibilities, so the next logical step seemed like building my own circuits. I built my first instrument in Collins class, and he featured it in his book, Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking. That book is still very influential for me.
Where can I look in Chicago to find electronic noise music?
Lampo is a great experimental music presenter; they bring in electronic music composers from across the world. Then galleries like Deadtech and Enemie Gallery often host live music performances.
What is your favorite place in the city?
American Science and Surplus, you can find everything there.