Sounds Like Art

Interview by Koen van Bommel

Sounds Like Art exhibits the vanguard of the musical expression, home to sound artists like Gijs Gieskens who’s quirky instruments continuously visualize novel sound. The ‘Sounds Like Art’ exhibition focuses on all the wonderful things that happen in the grey area between music and art. With instrument displays, performances and workshops the exhibition gives an adventurous view of where music stops and art begins. We had a short chat with circuit bender and instrument builder Gijs Gieskes (one of the exhibitors) about his inventions and his antics.

Hi Gijs! I love these machines you’re making. You just showed me some pictures, like this one called ‘percussive spring reverb’. Now I know what a spring reverb is, but what does a percussive one do?

It works just like a regular reverb, but this one has a VU meter that taps against the spring, and it gives a cool effect. Kind of like the sound a guitar amp with reverb makes when you push it, but less loud.

Less loud? Hm.. I noticed your devices tend to make subtle sounds. But this is the loud issue of Subbacultcha!, are you not into loud noises?

Loud as in volume? Not really no. But you could play them over a huge PA, that will make them go loud.

You told me you keep one of every instrument you make. Do you ever turn them all on at the same time? That would make a great noise, I guess.

No, there’s just too many. And I like them best one at a time.

Are they meant as instruments, or as works of art?

Well, you can make music with them, but you’d need to like that sort of music.

When you’re making them, do you know in advance what they’re going to do, or is there a factor of chance? Like, I know that with circuit bending, you’re never quite sure what the outcome will be.

When I start a project, I don’t tend to change it in the process. I try to do everything right the first time. Saves a lot of work. With circuit bending you never know exactly what’s going to happen, but to a certain extent you can predict it. So it’s sort of predictable, but not entirely.

Have you always been fascinated by machines? Like, did you use to have a lot of Lego Technic as a kid?

Nope, I never used to do anything technical as a kid. I remember my dad took me to a junkyard once, and I was very interested in the circuit boards and stuff.

 So your dad sparked your enthusiasm?

Yeah, he’s in a band and they have a lot of instruments, like a Juno-60 and a TR-808. Thats what I started with. I didn’t have any money to buy instruments, so I decided I would make them myself.

If I gave you an insane amount of cash, what would you like to build?

Oh, I don’t know, I’ve never really given it much thought. The things I make tend to be as small as possible.

So you wouldn’t be into buying CERN’s Large Hadron Collider to mess with?

That is a good one. I really like the Large Hadron Collider. I could use it to make a bunch of black holes.

Gijs Gieskens, Andy Cavatorta and Tom Verbruggen display their works at the Sounds Like Art exhibition at MU, Eindhoven until 5 May.