The Speak & Math was a popular and revolutionary electronic toy created by Texas Instruments in 1980. Speak & Math was one of a three-part talking educational toy series that also included Speak & Spell and Speak & Read. It was originally advertised as a tool for helping young children to become better at mathematics.
Experimental musicians have been taking these toys and rewiring the innards, adding switches, knobs and buttons in a process called Circuit Bending. All those bloops and bleeps can be used to generate soundscapes or special effects. Some musicians even perform entire solo performances on circuit bent instruments. I have a circuit bent Speak and Math that I purchased on eBay (there’s TONS of bent toys over there!) and I used it as a post-modern Hindu drone for the experimental raga, “#” by my avant garde alter ego, Quadraphonic Octopus. Here’s an excerpt:
Quadraphonic Octopus “#” (excerpt)
I recorded the circuit bent parts onto seven different cassettes (anybody remember cassettes?) at random times/textures and then played them back simultaneously on seven cassette recorders. The raga was performed live on a 3-string cigar box guitar while the cassette players sang out.
Quadraphonic Octopus’ album “Chaos Walks a Dog Named Frank” features the full, extended “#” raga. Purchase your copy here. $8 LINK