Beatrix*JAR is Jacob Roske and Bianca Pettis, from Minneapolis, MN. They're a performance duo who have come to be known around Minnesota and beyond for their series of workshops on circuit bending, in addition to their own work as sound artists. They have one CD, titled I Love You Talk Bird (2006), available at their website.
I first came into contact with Jacob Roske in 2003, looking for an opening act for a show at the Theatre de la Jeune Lune, in Minneapolis. I'd invited The Evolution Control Committee to perform there as part of a Festival of Appropriation preview party, and was trying to think of a local opening act. A friend told me about a number of circuit benders in town and I got in touch with as many as I could, assembling a "circuit bender's orchestra." Jacob Roske was one of the artists I met that evening, as he and Matt Cisler (Datura 1.o), Logan Erickson and Tim Kaiser came together on that occasion to create a live mix of circuit bent sounds and noises. Read my Blog post about the show HERE.
Since that performance, JAR's joined forces with Beatrix and taken the show on the road, adding a workshop wherein the duo teach others how to do what they do. Circuit bending is the creative process of altering electronic toys (and other electronics) in order to affect the audio output of these devices. It's a pretty challenging concept for those of us who aren't all that tech-savvy, but that doesn't stop Beatrix*JAR, who've conducted their workshops all over the United States. Check out their website for more information!
Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Beatrix*JAR...
*Do you use a pseudonym? Jacob Aaron Roske is JAR and Bianca Janine Pettis is BEATRIX.
*Members: Jacob Aaron Roske and Bianca Janine Pettis
*Founding Members: Jacob started making music as JAR and he met Bianca later and she became his Beatrix.
*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: All of the above.
*Another genre descriptor: We call ourselves “sound artists”
*Why you use this descriptor: We are not “trained” musicians. The songs that we create are very visual and when we create them we work from a place of sonic expression.
*Location: Together we’re from Minneapolis. Jacob was born and raised in Hopkins, MN and Bianca was born in Denver, spent a majority of her life between Houston, TX and Charlotte, NC, attended college in Yellow Springs, Ohio (Antioch College) and moved to Minneapolis about ten years ago.
*What is your creative/artistic background: We have always been inspired by our immediate environments appropriating fashion, visual, theatrical and audio worlds to create very unique works of art and expression. We are always creating something.
*History: We’ve been making work together since the moment we met in a video editing suite - that was about 3 and a half years ago now.
*Born: Jacob was born in St. Louis Park, MN 11.26.77 and Bianca was born in Denver, CO 1.17.73 (shhh).
*Motivations/Philosophy: During a two-day residency at the Erie Art Museum in Erie, PA we invited a young lady to play a song on a large Casio keyboard we were using as a tool to demonstrate circuit bending. She approached the keyboard, her movements like a tiny robot as she struggled to recall the series of keys that make up the song “Three Blind Mice.” When she was done we asked her to play the song a second time to demonstrate to her classmates what circuit bending is. We triggered a toggle switch as she played the song once more. What resulted sounded little like “Three Blind Mice” more a sonic explosion of indeterminate glitchy garbled sounds. She continued to play and each time she stroked a new key the output of the machine was totally new and unexpected. When she was done she said: “That didn’t sound like “Three Blind Mice” at all!” Our point exactly! As children each of us approached musical instruments inspired to play but limited by the constraints of musical tradition. We wanted desperately for the instrument to make sounds but each time we approached our guitar, organ or alto sax we struggled with the hurdles of what music should sound like or how these instruments should be played. Try as we might we couldn’t color inside the musical lines. Discouraged we resolved at a young age just to be good listeners. As adults, sound art and circuit bending served as major catalysts in our musical breakthroughs. Sound Art offered us a new way of thinking about sound that actually made sense to us. We learned that musical expression is not limited to just musicians and anything that makes sound can be a musical instrument. Circuit bending reinforced this idea by allowing us to take existing audio devices and alter them to creatively express ourselves.
*How would you like to be remembered: As hyper-creative sound artists who inspired the world to delve deeper into non-traditional sounds and changed the world’s perception of what music is.
*Web address: www.beatrixjar.com