September 4, 2012
“The Victorious Kingdom Of Electricity”
Engineer Shauna Concannon helped us build a Hacked Human Orchestra this summer, in a collaboration with tech artist collective MzTEK and composer Florian Tanant. She tells us about her adventures adding to “the victorious kingdom of electricity”.
The tent is aired out and packed away, and while a few reluctant specks of glitter still cling to my face, the human hacked orchestra festival tour has come to an end.
As a relative newcomer to the field of electronics, it takes little effort to recall the basement, utterly lacking in natural light, where I had my first foray into circuit hacking; inexpertly, and with a dose of trepidation, I handled tiny components with numbers written so small that a squint became a necessary (and becoming) accompaniment to hunched shoulders and a furrowed brow.
While trying to learn the basics at an accelerated rate I was simultaneously wiring up voltage boxes with unnervingly high currents to hacked-around-with circuitry and an arduino in the perpetual fear I might blow something up. Oh, the hours spent alone late at night connecting wires, hoping for the best and troubleshooting to work out which component was the wrong way round or a dud; praise be to my only friend, the multimeter (that I was semi-confident I knew how to use).
So, how refreshing instead to be sat in an airy tent, with merry festival go-ers, threading needles, stripping wire and combining chit-chat with the crafting of wearable musical instruments.
Within the space of a few hours individuals with limited or no previous experience created functioning sound circuits and discovered how capacitors, transistors and resistors could transform into hubs of sound creation. Throw in some coloured felt and keen design skills and the hacked human orchestra is born.
Off they marched to the pop-up studio to fulfill the musical aspirations outlined by the futurists, to add “the victorious kingdom of Electricity” to the musical poem. Well, perhaps that is a little grandiose, but they certainly made some noises of note…
Compared to the dank workshop setting, this seems like a vastly preferable environment within which to get a taste for electronics. Alas, working in fields all year round is not an option. I now await the recordings – perhaps they can help to prolong the Shambala and Wilderness experience.
By Shauna Concannon
Read more about the Hacked Human Orchestra on MzTEK’s blog, check out this short film by Debbie Davies about our first workshop, see more pictures from Wilderness here and Shambala here, and check out the HHO at the Barbican in November!