CMKT 4, Spooky Sounds Flashlight

by Creme DeMentia

So, I am in my first rock band and it is my pleasure and privilege to be able to share this with GetLofi Readers. It consists of myself on drums/circuit-bent electronics, Jeff Cox on acoustic guitar/bass and Zach Adams on guitar/synthesizers. Here is a video from our first performance at the House Cafe, in DeKalb, IL:

In a recent GetLofi article, Spunky Toofers compared single circuit-bent devices to patches on a modular synthesizer.  I think it’s an apt comparison.  Despite the inconvenience of lugging around a gigantic array of devices, there is something to be said for the visual appeal of a table crowded with beautiful, weird-looking/-sounding gizmos.  Let us not discount either the incredibly unique sounds within some simpler devices.  I have found that performing solo has become an interesting puzzle when faced with a dozen or so instruments, all with different interfaces and sound potential, all able to make noise at the same time.

CMKT4, The House Cafe, DeKalb, IL 1/16/10 from Creme DeMentia on Vimeo.

For CMKT 4, I have added plywood wings to a student desk and done away with rack toms to accommodate some choice pieces of my circuit-bent gear as I drum.  I am currently using the Sesame Street All-Star Band Keyboard, The Animal Caller, The Bird Calendar, the Barbietron (coming soon), and a new device, the Haunted House, to get my palette of circuit-bent sounds.

I picked up a Halloween flashlight loaded with spooky sounds when I last was in Chicago.  Tommy from Roth Mobot had picked up one before when we were both at an American Science and Surplus months back, so I was familiar with the sounds and was pretty sure that he had circuit-bent it later.  I quickly dismantled it and found a pitch resistor.  What is amazing about this flashlight, musically speaking, is that it already drones on its own.   There are 8 sounds to choose from, each loops automatically until you press its button again or select a different sound.  This was probably my simplest and quickest project to date, it came together pretty fast over several days.

My only modifications were to the flashlight’s housing and pitch resistor.  The body contacts are metal beads from Michael’s, the case was a junky jewelry box from Salvation Army and the Haunted House illustration is actually cut from the cover of a garage sale book, “Haunted Houses.”  I was able to cut the flashlight lamp front flat with a Dremel cut-off disc chucked in my drill-press to turn it into the front window on the final instrument.  By doing this, it sat flush on the front of the jewelry box and I was able to use the flashlight’s own screws to affix it.  I replaced the flashlight bulb with an LED, transplanted its battery compartment, and replaced its buttons with some nice chunky black plastic DPDT switches.

As soon as I brought it to practice, it fit right in;  there are 3 different songs I use it for now.  It just goes to show that sometimes incredibly simple bends can sometimes result in very capable and good sounding instruments.

Also, CMKT 4 is coming for you, Minnesota!

9 thoughts on “CMKT 4, Spooky Sounds Flashlight”

  1. i do think of bent instruments as patches. i also think of circuit bending as a type of synthesis with strange ways to synthesize the sound itself as well as strange control modulation resulting from bends. bent sounds can rely on sample/bit reduction, sample cutups and loops, rom reconfigurations, distortion and feedback, aliasing artifacts/errors, and since i hear these types of sounds quite alot i guess this has been another kind of wall for me as well.. hearing the artifacts of bending that i’ve become very familiar with. occasionally though my jaw will drop at something completely different.

    my workaround is composite synthesis through different synthesis methods. right now i’m focusing on analog, fm, s+s, physical modelling and circuit bending. this seems to make up for weaknesses or compliment the other sounds and synthesis methods being used. sometimes i might find the envelope a little sloppy in one synth but does pads and drones really nice but another synth will snap it’s envelopes and have a beefier analog sound for leads. combined they sound better then alone. so it’s like math in certain ways.

    other times i find one or two sounds in the mix is the most expressive for the application… sometimes simplicity is best but i tend to gravitate towards complexity in sounds.

  2. do you mind if i ask what is the red goopy glue you have in there? is it good for plastic devices specifically or just easy to apply in general?

  3. Thanks for all the comments, everyone!

    Spunky – I didn’t mean to poo-poo your synthesis techniques with my article. I simply wanted to remind everyone there are still plenty of reasons to keep rummaging through the thrift stores; you yourself were the one to encourage me to find the odder, more unique toys to bend. Luckily for CMKT 4, we are making use of several synthesizers, controlled via Zach’s Midi-pickup on his guitar to get those more complex layers of noise.

    bwack – It’s just colored hot glue, I bought a bunch to use on my contact microphones. I like it because it dries fast, it’s pretty much odor-free, and you can shape it nicely. It works well for plastic, but it’s certainly not the strongest glue on the shelf.

    Alex published this article while it was still in draft form and I hadn’t embedded the video yet. I’ll see if I can convince him to stick it in there, but the other commentators are correct, the video is at the Creme DeMentia Vimeo Channel.

  4. that’s cool austin you can poop on me anytime you want.. i just wanted to eulicidate on your reference on my qsr post since you seemed to backup and make a point about the other way. not sure if it was a reaction or not but i certainly reacted. so oopsie on the poopsie on you..

    it’s just that the whole basis and growth around circuit bending has been favored around these simple toys for the past 20 years and i think just that has been case in point in the power of circuit bending and the potential of the cheap easily obtainable toys.. BUTT

    i thought i’d point out that circuit bending does have it’s drawbacks and how i deal with it, especially playing things live or in realtime..

    i probally made a suggestion like that you should find unique toys sometime several years ago but i think nowadays that suggestion would now include to also start investigating unloved racks, synths, effects, and modules from the 90’s. alot of things started to come into fruition in the 90’s and as we all know is a pretty golden age for circuit bending.. i’d say the 90’s have the advantage here since they started to develop better implementation in gear.. check out a service manual if you can to see it’s potential to be bent, check out the manual too see if has good control implementation and if it would fit your criteria for a interface you would be happy with. of course it’s just a suggestion to anyone in general who has been bending for awhile.. especially if the bender has heard the same loops, artifacts, glitches and pitch bends over and over.. and even so, the more complex targets have some limitations.. if you do find something worth bending that has great potential and great synthesis possibilities even an old timey bender dinosaur might be surprised at the output.. if you put in the time and the research i’m sure everyone can come up with something that fits their budget.. i seem to have a nasty habit of looking for and obtaining overlooked orphaned instruments and underrated gear.. more later……..

    i am very interested in the progression of circuit bending in general but i’m also very interested in how people actually perform with bent instruments.. not so interested in when people automate things too much and then put the role of circuit bent instruments as background stuff.. but how people deal with the music and control and chaos aspect of circuit bending.. so it’s interesting to see your setup here austin..

    when i first played live i guess i would think of performing as more of the role as a dj playing out his toys.. now i guess i’d look at it as live synthesis especially seeing the options i have now..

    also just curious… are you still using the techniques you showed me to make room for the odd sized components?

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