by Juleana Enright
Take everything you once loved about the science fair – the excitement, the innovation, the inventions – juxtapose it with a party atmosphere and live music performances and you have Handmade Music. An open event series for people who make stuff that makes music, Handmade Music challenges how sound is engineered and who is qualified to engineer it. From acoustic instruments, DIY synthesizers and circuit-bend toys to electronics, custom software, sound art and light projections, Handmade Music participants learn the techie skills needed to produce their own gear and exchange ideas on DIY manufacturing through workshops, tutorials and interaction.
Originally organized by Create Digital Music at Etsy Labs in Brooklyn circa ’07, a regular version of the DIY series has spread all over the globe to places like New York, Austin, Portugal, Amsterdam and – yes – Minneapolis. Hosted by crafty venue, the Hack Factory and the members of Twin Cities Maker, the Minneapolis series is a monthly gathering with a mission to make noise and create a community that galvanizes the creative energy of local DIY musicians, electronic whizes and inventors.
When it comes to Handmade, we can’t help but recall the spirit of Minneapolis electronic duo Beatrix*JAR. Alongside fuzzy sound collages mixed with glitch beatboxing and mutant sound machines, the audio experimenters hosted a stream of local, hands-on Circuit Bending classes (which they reprised in a local pop-up studio event the past two weeks) where they shared their knowledge of rewiring electronic toys and forever changed our impression of the Speak-and-Spell. Beatrix*JAR were the Twin Cities’ original DIY advocates, their mantra being that anything that makes sound can be a musical instrument and that those who have been formerly trained to play music are not the sole proprietors of making music. Through circuit-bending devices, Beatrix8JAR released electronics from their phonic prison of predictability, allowed for an eclectic audio arrangement and provided the crux behind the duo’s electronic compositions.
In a similar vein, Handmade Music invites fellow noise makers to unite and think outside a box full of wires to a world full of their limitless possibilities. Those who want to join the series need only bring their creativity, an open mind and any home-designed instruments and inventions. Participants are welcome to give a concert and share their techniques. Past events have included a Pure Data series (where participants are introduced to Pure Data, a free programming environment for live processing of digital audio), an effect-box making workshop, an autoguitar set and workshop from electric guitar legend, Cyrus Pireh, a DIY amplifier making class taught by TC Maker Member and Crazy But Able founder, John Wilson and delicious nosh courtesy of nationally-known touring chef/ex-punk musician, Vegan Chef Joshua Ploeg.
July’s Handmade Music event features live raucous performances including Daniel Furuta’s strumming on a custom-built, fretless guitar, an electric shelf drumming set by Kevin Cosgrove, sounds made from abandoned tape players courtesy Shiloh, a one-woman Portishead-esque act by Diva 93, creations by 3 Moons – known for his illuminated pyramid tents – and sound + lights + visuals from Tipsy Bike.
Handmade Music 14/15 premieres Monday, July 23rd at Hack Factory, 3119 E 26th Street, Minneapolis, at 8 p.m. The event is free. Byob + byo-invention. For deets, check out the Facebook invite here.