Reed Ghazala’s Incantors and his Video Octavox

Last modified 8-12-2009
Video Octavox

Reed Ghazala

From the book & CD package Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones comes this image of Reed Ghazala‘s Video Octavox. It’s sitting, in this photo, on top of an old-fashioned television set. At the end of each of the eight droopy coiled-wire arms is a light-sensor provided with a suction cup. The sensor can be attached anywhere on the surface of a TV screen. As the TV plays, the varying signals from the 8 sensors serve to modulate eight synthesizer voices, generating a sound track for whatever shows on the screen.

Reed Ghazala is best known as the leading practitioner of circuit bending, the art of deliberately short-circuiting audio components in search of interesting sounds. Some of his best-known work has been with the instruments he calls Incantors. Incantors are based on a line of electronic toys made by Texas Instruments, now discontinued, called “Speak & Spell.” In Reed’s hands, with the output from the Speak & Spell’s sound chip misdirected and recycled in circuit-bending style, an indescribable amalgam of sound spews forth, with snatches of human utterance strangely pitch-shifted, segmented and de-contextualized, mixed in with musical tones and abstract electronic noise.

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Excerpt from Reed Ghazala’s “Silence the Tongues of Prophecy”

An unforgettably strange and evocative piece of Reed’s circuit-bent music appears on the Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones CD, while more photos and more information on his work appear in the accompanying book. You can hear an excerpt from that track by clicking the media player above. Better yet: order the book and CD for yourself from our catalog.

Reed Ghazala also produced a series of articles for the Experimental Musical Instruments quarterly journal. It’s a little hard to describe what those articles were about: some focused on circuit-bending and other approaches to instrument making, while others were more like thought-experiments in sound exploration. The Ghazala articles appeared in most of the journal’s issues from Volume 8 through the final issue of Volume 14. These and all the other back issues remain available.

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