The Record Interview
Read the interview below or straight off the Record website here.
It’s not an abandoned shop or even necessarily haunted in the conventional sense of the word. But its storefront owner likes to think that inside the shop he is “unlocking the friendly ghost in the machine,” said Peter Edwards who is the owner of Casper Land on Fulton Street, one of the newest additions to the Collar City.
And, like Casper the Friendly Ghost as a representative of the afterlife, Edwards deals with something not many people understand or know much about. It’s called circuit bending.
In it’s most condensed and simplistic definition circuit bending is making circuitry malfunction which makes strange effects and noises emerge. Basically, it’s a type of music.
Edwards explains: “It’s a creative approach to electronics. Part of it deals with the sciences and the manipulation of electricity and theories. Then, the other part is more about being creative and seeing what happens when you turn that knob or push that button.”
Edwards has lived in Troy with his fiancé for about four months. They opened the shop in June. “Music can be defined in so many ways. It’s any weird sound you want it to be. Circuit bending is not your traditional sound. It’s not always harmonious or especially pretty to listen to. But it makes a unique sound which is what I like.”
Edwards, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and originally from Vermont, moved to the area from Brooklyn with his fiancé, Kate Sweater, who works at the Light Research Center in the Gurley Building, just across the street from Casper Land.
This is the first time Edwards has owned a storefront.
“In New York City, there was a never-ending group of musicians to work with. Here, it’s nice to work with people of all backgrounds. I love getting whole families in here who have no idea what circuit bending is. Then I can show them. The collaborative potential is great here,” he said.
Lining the walls of his workshop are a myriad of knickknacks like doll heads, a Wonder Woman piece of art, Speak and Spells, a child’s driver’s wheel toy, and even a Pokemon Jigglypuff figure.
“My work has been the justification for any collecting,” said Edwards who was collecting these odds and ends long before he got into circuit bending nine years ago. “It’s the appropriation of media and modification of technology. It incorporates my personal collecting with work and with art for art’s sake. It’s all nicely blended.”
He uses old, discarded pieces of technology and manipulates it to create noises which can be musical or just chaotic. The sound has been used by composers like Danny Elfman, who does the musical score for most of director Tim Burton’s movies, and musicians like Beck.
“It can be an R2D2-type sound,” he said referring to a robot character from “Star Wars” which beeps and blips to communicate.
As his electronic orchestra — including an modular synthesizer, tone generators, an old Nintendo, a Casio keyboard, and two Barbie karaoke machines — comes to life in his workshop, a wall full of homemade devices work together to make a form of music. It sounds almost like techno but with more random noises popping up and the Nintendo shows some visual shots as well.
He finds his artistic mediums at thrift stores, flea markets, online, and even in garbage piles.
“I’m cashing in on our unfortunate cultural affixation of throwing out broken items, without even trying to fix them, and then buying the newest piece of technology to replace it,” he said. “Personally, I’d rather fix something than buy it new. You invest more time and energy into it when you fix it and you can make it your own and maybe even improve it so it’s better than what you find in stores.”
When asked about circuit bending, other music-themed stores in Troy, like at Cathedral Music, had never heard of the concept.
“That’s not surprising,” said Edwards explaining that even though the term has been around since the late 1970s it’s only really gained popularity in the past four years.
Attempting to enlighten the area on the artistic form of music, Edwards will be teaching classes on circuit bending at The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy in November and January. He has also been hosting events at his shop, located at 469 Fulton St., for Troy Night Out.