In 2015 I attended a David Tudor oriented conference at Wesleyan University. You Nakai and Michael Johnson were in the midst of some really wonderful work matching Tudor’s paper archives at the Getty with his unlabeled instruments at Wesleyan. One of the most fascinating narratives to emerge from their work is that (unsurprisingly) Tudor didn’t start out as an electronics expert. In fact, some of his early instruments/works were based on misunderstandings of schematics pulled for Popular Science and the likes.
That really struck a chord with me. Everything I’d built up to that point was extremely simple and mostly copied from schematics I found online. In other words I wasn’t really designing much.
I started working with feedback in 2006 and particularly this kind of non-linear mixer feedback in 2007. At that time, I was enthralled with David Tudor’s untitled and the raw, visceral quality of no-input mixer seemed to be very much of that world. Later on, thanks to the amazing research of You Nakai and Michael Johnson, I learned that the instrument that was untitled consisted primarily of a series of amplifiers and filters in feedback loops.
My instrument initially consisted solely of a Mackie 1604vlz Pro (a beast in and of itself). It’s a great mixer for feedback because it has 8 direct outs that are post fader, allowing for use of the filter section within the feedback loop. Soon, I began building very simple circuits to alter and control the behavior of the system. Several designs (and the occasional guitar pedal) came and went with varying levels of success, but eventually I landed on a 6×6 matrix, 6 VCA’s and 6 momentary and toggle switches wired in parallel. Two ring modulators were added for processing on the aux sends.
Last year Nate Wooley asked me to put together a group to do an excerpt from Cardew’s Treatise for Sound American. C Spencer Yeh and long time collaborator Chris Pitsiokos agreed to come on board. Now it’s on a tape split with Ian Nagowski! Hit me up if you want one.