Dorkbot One

Electronics meets music meets ears at Whistle Stop on Wednesday

Locust guitarist Bobby Bray will be a curator at the inaugural Dorkbot event Wednesday at Whistle Stop in South Park.
  • Locust guitarist Bobby Bray will be a curator at the inaugural Dorkbot event Wednesday at Whistle Stop in South Park.
  • Image by Cari Veach

Dorkbot: “people doing strange things with electricity.” It was founded by Douglas Repetto 15 years ago as a music and technology conclave in New York and has since spawned meet-ups in about 140 cities worldwide.

Repetto, now director of the Sound Arts MFA program at Columbia University, learned much of his craft at Cal Arts in the ’90s under Tom Erbe, the current Studio Director at USCD’s Department of Music.

“I’ve always been involved in DIY electronics,” Erbe says. “In the ’70s, synths were really expensive but you could go to Radio Shack and build things out of fairly simple components. Then, around 1984, I realized that programming would be the way to go for building interesting, economical DIY stuff.”

Tom Erbe and Bobby Bray tinkering with the Eurorack.

Tom Erbe and Bobby Bray tinkering with the Eurorack.

With that recognition, Erbe created SoundHack in 1991, one of the first freeware sound softwares for Macintosh. Erbe has been considering a San Diego Dorkbot collective for the past five years, but it wasn’t until he assembled a number of professors, musicians, and DIY electronic enthusiasts that the idea took hold. One of those enthusiasts was Bobby Bray, a 2011 USCD graduate who studied with Erbe in the Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts major in Music.

“I learned a great deal from Tom,” says Bray, who will be the first of a rotating cast of Dorkbot curators. “It started as a mentor/student relationship. Now I’m curating him and I’m a teacher at a few different institutions, so it’s kind of coming full circle.”

Using software developed by USCD’s Miller Puckette, Bray has designed one-of-a-kind effects pedals that he will be showcasing following Dorkbot.

Past Event

Dorkbot SD

  • Wednesday, January 13, 2016, 8 p.m.
  • Whistle Stop Bar, 2236 Fern Street, San Diego
  • 21+

“At this point we have pretty much every academic institution in San Diego involved,” Bray says. “It’s academic, but it’s also just the right time for this city. We are strategically having the first Dorkbot event before Open Oscillator [an open-mic style electronic monthly] because there’s a convergence of people doing these similar things. It develops a community, and now it includes the academic community.”

Keynote presenters include Erbe, who will be discussing his recent switchover from software to hardware and digital versus analog, as well as Elle Mehrmand, an L.A.-based performance artist and UCSD graduate who will talk about “organic sensors, wet interfaces, and using the body as a way to talk about how we have already become cyborgs.”

The free Dorkbot event is Wednesday, January 13, at 6 p.m. at the Whistle Stop Bar.

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