Workshops 101

“Workshop…There’s plenty of info on the net!” Maybe, but a lot of us are visual learners. We need someone to show us while we touch and feel around the task at hand. Who better to show you than a good buddy who does circuit bending in his/her basement. You know, the guy you always see at the thrift store picking out new gear to bend. Ask him if he wants to throw a workshop and help you learn how to bend. Invite your sister and the dude upstairs and it’s a sure party! Well if I was to ask a friend I’d ask my good buds Bianca Pettis (Beatrix), and Jacob Aaron Roske (JAR), from Beatrix*Jar, out of Minneapolis to help me out. See they’ve done plenty of siminars spreading the good work of bending. They also put on a really rocking show! I asked if they could maybe help explain what all goes into a workshop, and this is what they said…


Q: How many Circuit Bending workshops have the two of you put together?

JAR: Gosh maybe thirty?

BEATRIX: Or maybe forty?

JAR: Thirty seems about right.

Q: Do you travel a lot to places to put on workshops? Is this sort of thing in high demand?

JAR: We have traveled a lot of places, there’s always new places to show circuit bending.

BEATRIX: We’ve been up and down the west coast – through a lot of the midwest. We would like to travel more. It’s not an easy thing though – in the end we sort of create the demand for ourselves. A lot of energy goes into contacting institutions and venues to see if they would be interested in hosting us.

JAR: Most people don’t know what circuit bending is.

BEATRIX: It’s our duty to tell them!

Q: Where are some of the places you’ve been to, to put on workshops?

JAR: Gosh – so many: Erie Art Museum in Erie, PA. Wexner Art Center in Columbus. Ohio, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore…

BEATRIX: Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus Ohio, this D.I.Y. Space in Cleveland called Parish Hall, Trunk Space in Arizona.

JAR: The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor Michigan, a really cool space in New Mexico called High Mayhem and Super Happy Funland in Houston.


Q: What was the best workshop you have done as far as location and crowd?

JAR: When the Bent Festival came to Minneapolis and the Spark Electronic Art and Music Festival at the University of Minnesota. Those two were pretty big as far as workshops go.

BEATRIX: We felt the most love at a venue called the Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor. The workshop was chaotic but in the end a group of three teenage girls started a band.

JAR: They called themselves Triple Trouble.

BEATRIX: The played instruments they had circuit bent that afternoon at our workshop.

JAR: They’re awesome!

Q: What all goes into preparation for a workshop?

JAR: We practice at the house with an imaginary audience.

(They both laugh)

BEATRIX: I just try to make sure we have all the tools and supplies…Jacob never does!

JAR: We go thrifting for toys. We usually ask people to bring their own toys to the workshop – but we find it helps to have a lot of backups.

Q: What kind of things do you go over in your workshops?

JAR: A real good introduction. What we like to call the basics of adding an on/off switch.

BEATRIX: We only endorse battery powered devices – and we get real excited when someone puts on a switch during the workshop.

Q: What do you teach as far as applications of their new found knowledge?

BEATRIX: We talk about circuit bending in perspective to sound art and we encourage people to make music no matter what the instrument.

JAR: We want people to walk away and feel inspired to listen to different types of sounds in the world.

BEATRIX: We want to encourage people to be sonic explorers. We also try to book a performance with the workshop at the same venue…

JAR: …to show people how we use circuit-bent machines and hopefully inspire them to incorporate non-traditional instruments and sounds into their own work.

Q: How would you gauge turnouts in the regions you’ve been a part of with these workshops? Is one area…on top of the whole circuit bending “scene” more than another?

JAR: Honestly, turnouts vary from location to location – even the weather can be a factor. If workshops are well publicized and people know about it then the turnout is excellent.

BEATRIX: The east coast seems to have a large scene. New York – you know since they hosted the first circuit bending festival.

JAR: And we’ve turned a lot of new people on to circuit bending so maybe more scenes are forming.

Q: If someone wanted to put on a workshop in their area what should they know?

BEATRIX: Encourage people to bring their own supplies: toys, soldering guns, etc. that’s the main thing.

JAR: We always encourage people to get together and bend after our workshops…you just need a space and an interest.

Q: How would someone go about getting you guys out to their area to put on a workshop?

JAR: Just contact us: or you can call us directly at: 612-227-8414.

Q: Anything you two want to add?

JAR: Circuit bending is a real personal experience, everyone is going to have a very different sensation with it. So enjoy the trial and error and go into the unknown of sound art.

beatrix jar

If you want to know more check out Beatrix*Jar’s myspace page. They also have a bunch of tour dates listed. Maybe you can convience them to swing by your place if they aren’t already coming over for dinner soon. Dig in! -Rodney

Edited to add:

Beatrix*Jar will be playing at LoFi Fest 2007 in Iowa City on 9.15.07 Come check it and maybe even talk shop with them.