I built Number 4 in the summer of 2008 while killing time between finishing a teaching gig in Connecticut and returning to the Bay Area after a year’s absence. Admittedly, boredom was mostly the culprit for this one, as I’d already packed what I needed for the trip, stored what I had to and shipped all that I couldn’t take on the plane – you know, power tools and the like – the stuff that’s just a little too expensive to reinvest in in situ, especially when you’re living on an artist’s dime. However, outside of the desire to give myself something to do, as well as tidy up a couple spare resistors lying around the house, I did set out to accomplish something in building this creature; namely, this was an attempt to recreate the first synth-esqe box I’d built a few years back while pursuing my Masters degree at Mills College. Being fairly unfamiliar with electronics at the time, and even moreso unschooled in effective woodworking abilities, I have to admit that in hindsight, the aforementioned proto-box that I cherished with all my heart and soul and used in countless Pink Canoes recordings and performance was a bit of a blunder. It possessed multiple short circuits, was entirely ungrounded, was dynamically unpredictable, was fairly large and bulky and had at least a couple rusty nails sticking through its facade. But hey, it was a start. Returning to the design, I was admittedly somewhat shocked at the differences in build and appearance, not to mention time spent on the bench. With the proto-box, I think I labored over it for weeks, hunting for materials throughout the bay and laboriously weaving each lead into a jumbled nest that made Mills’ coveted Buchla prototype seem well-organized in comparison. For the recreation, I think I hammered it out in an afternoon, reducing the size of the circuit and enclosure by at least 60 percent, while simultaneously also improving on every aspect of the box, resulting in an extremely stable, versatile machine – with less of a risk of accidentally contracting tetanus from a performance to boot!
As it was only appropriate, this box also served as one of my de-facto instruments while performing with the Canoes, this serving as an expansion module for Number 8 – one of my longest serving instrumental mainstays, used both in solo performance as well as numerous ensembles throughout the Bay Area and beyond. At the moment, Number 4 is currently employed by one Mr. Daryl Shawn, a guitarist and tape manipulator with one of the craziest touring schedules I’ve ever encountered. For more information on Daryl, or his Swanwelder label, please check out his site. To provide a decent idea ala what this box is capable of, here’s a quick video clip of the Pink Canoes performing at Ratskin Records’ Razorwire compound in April 2009. As for the fate of Number 4’s prototypical ancestor, it pains me to say that after years of service, it died an untimely death while on tour in January 2008 alongside Ayako Kataoka. Not to say that I couldn’t repair it, as it’s simple enough to rework for sure. I think in this case I made the decision to rebuild and preserve as opposed to repair and reinvent. At the moment, said box, alongside a decent collection of other prototypes and additional electronic oddities is currently on display at my parents’ house in Rhinebeck, NY. What can I say – it’s always interesting to track the progression of your craft – or something to that extent.
le Pink Canoes, live at the RazorWire Compound in Oakland, Ca. 04.19.09