Over the past few years, a strong reaction against the sterile world of laptop sound and video has inspired a new interest in analog processes, and a fresh exploration of the pioneers of the electronic arts during the pre-digital era of the 1960s and 1970s. Artists and inventors such as Nam June Paik, Steina & Woody Vasulka, Don Buchla, Serge Tcherepnin, Dan Sandin and David Tudor all constructed their own unique instruments long before similar tools became commercially available or freely downloadable--often through a long, rigorous process of self-education in electronics. John Cage once quipped that Tcherepnin's synthesizer system was "the best musical composition that Serge had ever made", and it is precisely Cage's reformulation of the concert score from a list of deterministic note values to a set of indeterministic possibilities that allowed the blurring of lines between instrument-builder and music composer that followed.
The current issue of Vague Terrain, curated and edited by Derek Holzer, features an eclectic range of young, contemporary artists who have revisited and expanded upon the philosophies and works of this earlier generation. Operating at the extreme edges of the DIY electronics scene, builder-composers such as Peter Blasser, Jason R. Butcher, Moritz Ellerich, Lesley Flanigan, Martin Howse, the Loud Objects (Kunal Gupta, Tristan Perich and Katie Shima), Jessica Rylan and Synchronator (Bas van Koolwijk & Geert-Jan Prins) all represent some of the most radical and idiosyncratic artistic approaches to creative circuitry of the moment. Their compositions take the form of systems which provide a map of what is possible, but lack a prescribed route on how to get there. The discovery—-and the risk—-is left to the moment of the performance.