Shinth Tour | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Shinth Tour

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While fiction writers are busy imagining an apocalyptic showdown between man and machine, Chicago's own Peter Blasser is demonstrating how the two depend on each other by making music with his homemade electronic instruments, called shinths. A shinth is an exposed circuit board with no electronic inputs that produces sound when a human touches it with his fingers and places a conductive spoon that's hooked to an amplifier in his mouth, sending a small dose of voltage through his body. Literally acting as a conductor, whoever's digging in becomes part of the instrument. The results tend to be soft and otherworldly, but the sounds you can make (a finger running along the edge of a crystal glass, the buzz of a faraway swarm of bees, fluttering wings, a creaky ship rocking from side to side, weeping, groaning, bits of static) depends entirely on how you caress the circuits. "To make a shinth," says Blasser, "you must eliminate all intentions or hierarchy or goals. In electronic design this is difficult because practicality has overwhelmed the field--there are no wandering paths in it anymore, just straight ones to a well-defined goal." For this tour, which was funded in part by the Daniel Langlois Foundation--a Montreal organization that provides grants to endeavors that merge technology and art--Blasser has invited some other electronic musicians to play shinths with him: beat master Fashion Flesh, half of Super Madrigal Brothers, a glitchy techno duo that shreds up early 90s Nintendo music; Eurotrash psycho-pop artists Los Fancy Free, whose front man was raised by Mennonite hippies; Skeletons (aka Matt Mehlan), the most composition-minded of the bunch; and Twig Harper, the madman whose own disemboweled and reconstructed electronics make up half the arsenal of Baltimore's Nautical Almanac. The tour ends with this show, so expect some well-worked-out psychic interaction and cosmic arrangements. Sunday, December 14, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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