Installation view of Irregular Hours by Dewanatron at Pierogi 2000.
"Dewanatron: Science Beat" Zoo Magazine No. 11. (2006) pg. 26.
It was a calm, beautiful, unseasonably warm Saturday evening in late
January 2006 when a modest crowd gathered around a thick wood beam in the
center of Pierogi 2000's main space in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn
The walls of the space, painted turquoise, held instruments that appeared to be
combinations of clocks, radios, replicas of buildings, violins, and elementary school
classroom speakers. Some had lights, some were connected together with guitar
string and all had knobs stolen from amps past and present, beautifully housed in
glowingly-finished casings. Wires at the bottom connected everything.
The enveloping aesthetic was 1950s-era futurity mixed with New England
"wasp" sensibilities. These odd objects were scheduled to perform this fine evening.
As the audience waited, wondering what kinds of sounds would emerge from such
a contraption, dull but poignant tones volleyed between the works.
Finally, its creator Brian Dewan appeared. Securing everyone's attention,
he said that the objects on view were called "Wall Gins."
"Tonight's performance will be unique in that the gins will be operating
independently and in concert because they are united by shielded cable to a
Rotary Ordinator that will give each Gin a clocklike pulse," explained Brian. "Leon
and I will then circulate the perimeter of the room and operate the instruments by
adjusting the knobs, creating a meadow of sound not wholly planned or controlled."
Brian, a round, sharply dressed man who looks like a school teacher from
the '50s , studied electronic music at Oberlin College in Ohio "at the end of the
analog era when digital stuff just started coming in."
His cousin Leon became interested in analog electronics while studying
physics at Harvard. "It all began when we figured out we could take a calculator
and bring it near a detuned AM radio resulting in all kinds of crazy noises because
of the RF signals coming from the calculator," said Leon."But we only started working
on these instruments in the spring of 2002.
Ping, Ping, Bleep, Ping, Pong, Boop, Blop, Blip... As the pair moved around the
room from instrument to instrument, adjusting the knobs like scientists or computer
engineers, a "composition" slowly emerged.
Leon, whose inventor father influenced him in dealing with the problem
solving aspects of creating these instruments. operated the knobs with the flickering
fingers of a scientific maestro, exposing some of the poetry inherent in the controlled
randomness that makes the performance so unique.
Amidst the knob turning and Gin toning, one began to wonder whether the
Dewans knew what they were doing. The performance was so puzzling that its
completion was met with utter silence. But then, the room erupted in applause.
Brian followed up by explaining that the next piece would be "Melotronic,"
utilizing soft cushions of sound and cricket noises. Again, it elicited applause. The
third piece incorporated bell ringing and the sounds of hand bells set to a
mathematical pattern decided by the Rotary Ordinator. As it ended applause again
filled the room. Finally, when Brian invited the crowd to "gently monkey" with the
instruments, the room erupted into a cacophony louder and more chaotic than a
cuckoo clock store at high noon, proving that the Dewan cousins knew what they
were doing all along.
For more on Dewanatron visit www.dewanatron.com.
For more on Zoo Magazine visit zoomagazine.de.
The cover of Zoo No. 11.
The article as it originally appeared.
Thanks to Zoo Magazine and the artist for permission to reproduce this article.