My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Did Someone Say Circuit Bent Smoke Alarms?

Better yet: "circuit bent smoke alarm ... ringtones"?

Dylan Sheridan recognizes that the ubiquitous line of defense against residential fires is, in fact, a low-grade computer chip that sounds like a (very) early arcade video game. In Sheridan’s capable and purposeful mishandling, the generic smoke detector is transformed into a device for stuttering, glitchy, gloriously broken noise. The shrill sound of the alarm, designed to be annoying so as to cut through all other noises and alert the human ear to the presence of danger, is here rendered raw material for playful, ebullient noodling. As John Zorn is to the duck call, Diamanda Galás to the human throat, and Adrian Belew to the guitar, so is Dylan Sheridan to the smoke alarm.

This all was accomplished through circuit bending, the trial and error process of getting the inner guts of devices to do things they weren’t intended to through experimental rewiring and other techniques. As for the results of Sheridan’s fiddling, they sound alternately like anxious geese (“call_6”), cartoon geese (“call_7”), Morse code (“call_13”), a balloon losing air post-singularity (“call_17”), the world’s most shrill grindcore singer (“msg_9”), and actual video games (“call_8,” “call_14,” and numerous others).

No doubt aware that these sounds might not be all that enjoyable at length, Sheridan has limited them to the dimensions of ringtones. The meatiest of the 26 tracks on the album Circuit Bent Smoke Alarms – Ringtone Collection is just 22 seconds long. The majority are under 10 seconds. And many are so brief that the Bandcamp website registers them at a length of 0.

The album is available for whatever price the user chooses at dylansheridan.bandcamp.com. The above image accompanied the release on Bandcamp. More from Sheridan at dylansheridan.com. (And many thanks to Danny Clay for recommending this album to me.)

By Marc Weidenbaum

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