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Beyond DIY in Electronic Music

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 November 2013

John Richards*
Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH, UK E-mail:


Do-it-yourself (DIY) in electronic music represents a new paradigm that is not just about DIY. Doing-it-together (DIT) and the idea of community and shared experiences are at the root of DIY practice. This article discusses how the workshop and the event have become central to practitioners working in the field of DIY. Collective instrument building, the concept of the living installation, and performance are viewed as a holistic event. Some specific examples of the author's work known as Dirty Electronics are considered, where emphasis is placed upon experience rather than the ‘something to take home’ factor. These include the following works: ICA Solder a Score, Noise Shadow, Still and Cut & Thrust. Composing ‘outside’ electronics is regarded as a method for revealing processes that can be represented in other areas of the work beyond sound-generating circuits. The article also looks at how building circuits and sound devices acts as a way to create a tabula rasa, and how the idea of delegated performance, where instruments are played by ‘non-experts’, serves to establish a naïve approach and authenticity in performance. Through the sharing of information online and in workshops, the DIY community has become knowledgeable, which has resulted in a community ‘full of experts’ and the growth of custom-designed circuits. The rise of discrete hand-held music players, such as the Buddha Machine, and the boutique synthesiser are also discussed, and the physical artefact and sound object are seen as a vehicle for the dissemination of ideas. Finally, the question is asked: ‘In DIY practice, where does the authentic document of the work lie?’

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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