There is a curious but fascinating subset of musicians out there who create music by circuit bending. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, circuit bending is "the creative, chance-based customization of the circuits within electronic devices such as low voltage, battery-powered guitar effects, children's toys and digital synthesizers to create new musical or visual instruments and sound generators" (thanks, Wikipedia!).
Thanks to developers Kurt James Warner and Mayank Sanganeria, you can now experience circuit bending on your iPad. With bent.fm, you can simulate this by manipulating the bend matrix and virtual keyboard to make some crazy sounds.
While there aren't any official video demos for the iPad version yet, you can get a feel for the app by watching the bent.fm lite (free iPhone app) demo below:
As you can see from that demo video, this app is capable of some wild sounds. Thankfully, the iPad version provides a great interface, keeping all the main controls within two screens. Dominating the main screen is the bend matrix, which is a grid of "connections" that can be tweaked in a massive amount of combinations. I don't pretend to know exactly what all these connections mean or what they do, but it sure is fun to test them out.
The second screen contains controls for the ADSR's for the amplitude of each FM synth, and further controls for the oscillators. You can also change the virtual keyboard from "standard" mode to a ribbon mode (think KORG Monotron-style keyboard).
The matrix screen
There is some in-app help available, for those of you who want to understand better what is going on. This is a good place to start. For an app like this though, I think most of the fun is not knowing what you are doing, and experimenting until you find something you like.
Where the bent.fm app is perhaps better than physical circuit bending is with the ability to create and save presets. Not only can you recall your presets later, but you can also download presets created by the community. I really like the idea of sharing presets, and many more app developers are starting to implement this as well.
The parameter editing screen
I have no experience with circuit bending physical objects, but find it to be a fascinating combination of creativity, ingenuity, and experimentation. Who among us didn't marvel at electronics as a kid, and want to take them apart to see how they worked? With bent.fm, you can experience some of that wonder, and create some of the wildest possible sounds on iPad. Never has the phrase "happy accidents" been more applicable than with bent.fm. There is likely to be a lot of "trial-and-error" here, and I found myself hitting the reset button quite a few times when I had no sound. But, that's part of the appeal here.
If you're looking for a new app to use in your Chuck Berry tribute band, this app is not the app for you. Looking to create a beautiful ballad for your significant other? Keep on moving. But for those musicians into experimental, ambient or atmospheric music, there is much to be liked here. If you're still on the fence, then definitely go grab the free iPhone version here to get an idea of what bent.fm is all about. I think you'll find yourself interested in the iPad version after just a short play.
If you're thinking about buying bent.fm, please consider clicking through our App Store link below. Thanks![app 931296643]