Mix Tape: Circuit Bending with Beatrix Jar

Rich Horton goes in search of sound that weaves itself into music, with Beatrix Jar, inventors of aural devices.

beatrix jar
beatrix jar
beatrix jar

The standard band set-up for most musical acts is a guitar, bass and drums. Over the last few years laptops and DJ set-ups have been added to the mix. Beatrix Jar—which is Bianca Pettis and Jacob Roske –have moved away from all those instruments to create songs patterned around sound collages of unique beats, noises, radio signals and samples.

While it seems they are standing over a DJ table, there are no turntables to be seen. There’s an array of old kids’ toys, cheap keyboards, and other sound-emittting devices instead, to be used for “circuit bending.” I’d never heard the term before. Roske described it to me.

“Circuit bending is a do-it-yourself sound art which allows you to discover new hidden organic sounds in battery-powered electronic toys recycled from homes, thrift stores, second hand shops and garage sales. We are both drawn to and inspired by non-traditional instruments: found sounds, video games, children’s toys, am radio, circuit-bent machines…and whatever is around,” he said.

While the average local music listener might shy away from the experimental part of Beatrix Jar, they have found their audiences at art galleries and other such unconventional, alternative spaces.

“We’re still defining our core audience…Our sounds exist for people that are stimulated by unconventional sounds and those who like to be challenged with layers of sonic deconstruction,” said Roske.

As with any musician, circuit bender or artist, breaking new ground can be personally satisfying. Beatrix Jar loves what they are doing, but they also want people to hear it.

“Creating and playing our music is our passion — but we also love bringing it out live to audiences. We’re bored with the repetitiveness of ‘traditional music’- so we feel it’s our duty to challenge people to listen in new ways,” said Roske.

The local experimental music scene is small, so finding other acts like Beatrix Jar can be hard. Beatrix Jar has found a few artists that provide challenges for their own listening: Mystery Palace, DJ Jon Nelson (Some Assemby Required) and Keston and Westdal are creating some of the music he finds intriguing.

Beatrix Jar has also started a Circuit Bending Workshop that they put on every two months at their creative space. They’ll also do the workshop as a road show, along with other groups or organizations, so call them if you’d like to bring this into your particular mix. They have some devices that they will bring along, but they encourage people to bring their own battery-powered electronic toys or keyboards to experiment with. You can find more info on their website, www.beatrixjar.com (see below for link).