by Claire Marie Porter
(full story can be found here)
For some, making and customizing instruments is the practical solution to unsustainable artistic ventures. For Matt Garfield, modifying instruments is a marriage between art and technology.
Garfield, frontman of electropunk band Mose Giganticus, was a professional musician for seven years, five of which he spent touring full-time. He got a master’s degree in electrical engineering while continuing to perform.
Coming out of the touring life, Garfield got a job in IT and became the senior electrical engineer at NextFab four-and-a-half years ago, in what he describes as fortuitous circumstances.
Now, he’s found a synthesis of his two passions—embedding electronics in existing instruments, which he describes as a “collaboration” between his artistry and engineering skills.
On his computer in his NextFab office space, Garfield brings up pictures of a MIDI controller keyboard he bought off the shelf, documenting his processes through images. He took apart the keyboard and embedded electronics and custom lighting in it, resulting in a highly-customized look you can’t find anywhere else, he says.
“I put a lot of effort into the whole visual aesthetics of the instrument, the interplay between controlled lighting … and the music itself,” he says.
Garfield offers to do some quick live programming, and after ten minutes of clicking and coding, the keyboard attached to his computer becomes a multi-colored light show.
He still plays drums and keyboard and sings for Mose Giganticus, and his most recent instrument-modding project was for a music video he produced himself.
In the video, the drums, guitars and keyboard swirl with colors and move with the sound on a stage. The result is psychedelic and haunting.
Garfield creates what he can’t buy.
“Either because I can’t afford it,” he says, “or because it doesn’t exist at all.”