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The 2012 Circuit Benders' Ball screeches and beeps at Brick Factory

Get Bent


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Tony Youngblood is a busy guy. When he and Square People drummer Tommy Stangroom aren't hosting live music events in their basement or backyard as Noa Noa, Youngblood is podcasting and blogging at his Theatre Intangible site, leading a Kickstarter campaign to fund his latest Circuit Benders' Ball, and occasionally contributing to this very alt-weekly. Youngblood documents Nashville's experimental music happenings and keeps his audience up to date on the latest news regarding the Circuit Benders' Ball, an event that he founded in 2010.

"The Circuit Benders' Ball is a daylong festival featuring electronic workshops, circuit bent performances, and an interactive art gallery," explains Youngblood. But what is circuit bending, exactly? Youngblood explains: "Circuit bending is the repurposing of discarded technology — for example children's electronic toys — into sophisticated musical and visual works of art." For a circuit bender, music is not just about composing and performing — it's about coaxing rhythm, melody and harmony from the technology that surrounds our daily lives. Circuit bending is noted for the inconsistent sounds that are produced by unscientific alterations to existing gear, and the random quality of these tones finds circuit bending most often associated with noise performances and improvisational settings.

The first Circuit Benders' Ball was held at the now-defunct Open Lot artist collective. Two years later, the event returns to Nashville after popping up in another city earlier this year.

"CBB became a franchise with a ball in Columbus, Ohio, hosted by The Fuse Factory," says Youngblood enthusiastically. This year's Nashville event will take place at Brick Factory — a space that screams "perfect fit" for Youngblood's experimental aspirations.

"Brick Factory is a community workshop, a gallery, a performance space and a creative teaching facility, so it's a perfect location for an event that combines all those elements," explains Youngblood. "They also have multiple rooms, which allows us to have two stages for quick turnover, an outdoor area and an art gallery." Megan Kelley and Stephen Zerne will curate the gallery, and Brick Factory's entire woodshop will house a giant installation by artist Josh Gumiela. In addition to the sights and sounds, CBB experts will teach three workshops. Workshop tickets are limited, and the curious are advised to make their purchases in advance.

"If you do only one thing at the ball, take Roth Mobot's Intro to Circuit Bending," advises Youngblood. "It's a rare opportunity to learn from two of the genre's true masters." Roth Mobot is the Chicago-based circuit-bent musical duo of Tommy Stephenson and Patrick McCarthy. Both benders will be joined at the ball by a host of hackers including: CMKT4's Zack Adams' new project Nashville Robotic Philharmonic; thrash violinist Joey Molinaro; the Teletron Orchestra's consciousness-documenting performance using hacked Mindflex games; and an audiovisual collaboration by Kelli Shay Hix, Gumiela and Lucas McCallister.

A quick glance at Urban Dictionary reveals that when you tell someone to "get bent," what you really mean is "Go to hell," or "Fuck off." But from the looks of Youngblood's Kickstarter promotion, which has already surpassed its goal of $1,000, this Circuit Benders' Ball may be the biggest one yet. Maybe a few years from now the phrase will have transformed to mean something new. We've got a few ideas: "Get creative," "Get noisy," and "Get smart."

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