Japanese artist Ei Wada discovered that old cathode ray tube television sets make great percussion instruments by mistake, but he managed to turn this accidental discovery into an art. Today, his unique Braun Tube Jazz Band is famous all over the world.
Wada first became interested in percussion music at age four, after attending a Gamelan music performance in Indonesia. He was impressed by the sound of the percussion instruments, recalling that he felt “taken to another world”. This memory stuck with him, and a few years later, while tinkering with some old cassette tapes, he realized that the off-key sounds they produced were very similar to the Gamelan music that had made such a big impression on him. Since then, he has been focusing on producing otherworldly sounds with obsolete gadgets that people usually throw away.
While attending university, Wada met three other guys who shared his passion for unconventional musical instruments, and together they founded Open Reel Ensemble – a band that specializes in making music with vintage gadgets. They started programming sounds on old tape recorders through trial and error, and even though their musical performances were well recieved by critics, Wada knew that they would one day run out of obsolete tape for their old recorders. So the band started experimenting with other old tech. And that’s how the Japanese musician discovered his most successful instrument – the old TV set.
Wada says it happened completely by mistake. After plugging a sound cable into a composite video connector port and seeing the sound on the screen as an image, he started pairing multiple TV’s with PC-controlled video decks at different pitches, thus turning them into percussion instruments. Then, he connected guitar amps to his feet and started touching the TV screens to produce buzzing noise. Today, he can make the old cathode ray tube television sets sound like electric drums.
The Japanese artist uses the electromagnetic properties of old TVs to transform light into sound and back again. The obsolete devices become percussion instruments, light synthesizers and VJ/DJ equipment at the same time, and his hands – actually his whole body – become antennas. It sounds weird, but just take a look at the videos of Wada performing and you’ll see it’s actually pretty cool.