Circuit bending – Giving a new purpose to the forgotten devices

Creating sound instruments by adding and manipulating the electronic “brains” could be traced back to the middle of the 18th century when a Czech theologian Václav Prokop Diviš invented the Golden Dionysus (Denis d’Or) that is considered to be the first electrified musical instrument. Unfortunately, the instrument was sold in Vienna after his death in 1765, and soon after it vanished without a trace, therefore many are skeptical if the instrument was the first electrophone or not. It was mentioned that the instrument produced sounds when the iron strings charged with electricity were struck. The circuit behind it could imitate the sounds of a whole variety of other instruments, including chordophones such as harpsichords, harps and lutes, and even wind instruments.[4][5]

(Figure 1: Denis d’Or – the first electrophone)

In regards to circuit bending as we know it today, Reed Ghazala is the father of the technique that is widely popular even today. He pioneered and named the technique in 1966, when he accidentally discovered it by leaving the circuit of a small amplifier exposed, causing the short-circuited that started to produce oscillating, synthesizer like sounds. He later created instruments for many prominent musicians and media companies. Circuit bending started to become increasingly popular in the late 90s between the sound art/design communities and many interesting circuit bend instruments/projects are being reborn every day from the long-forgotten devices.[1][3]

Interesting interview with Reed Ghazala:

(Figure 2: One of Reed Ghazala’s circuit-bent instruments)

But why circuit bend? We could consider circuit bending as the art of creating an output the was not originally intended by the creators of the object. That means that with a little knowledge about electrical components and circuits one can revitalize a long-forgotten device and give it a new purpose. Either it’s a kids toy or an audio bible, picked at a market fare or found in an attic, a sound designer can achieve pretty impressive results just by changing a couple of capacitors or resistors, adding a couple of potentiometers, or just a jack so he can connect the modified device to the rest of his equipment. That creates a personalized instrument and of course, prevents the pile of forgotten circuits from ending up in a garbage dump, or a recycle center, slowly decomposing and impacting the effect on our environment long after it was disposed of.[2]


[1]Ghazala, Reed (2005), Build Your Own Alien Instruments, Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

[2]Hodgson, Jason. (2017). Circuit-Bending: A Micro History Introduction to the topic of discussion.

[3]Wikipedia, 2020, Reed Ghazala, Last modified June 11, 2020,

[4] 1753 Denis d’Or, 2020,

[5] World’s First Electronic Instrument — From 1748, 2016, Last modified March 3, 2016,

Figure 1:

Figure 2: