Text by Berit Janssen, images by Jon Reus.
On Saturday afternoon, Steim’s studio is a den of soldering fumes: Rob Hordijk and Joker Nies have come to Amsterdam with their Benjolin kits, and 15 participants work eagerly on sorting tiny resistors and other electronic parts, in order to place them on a circuit board. At the end of this process, a brand-new synthesizer with two oscillators, a filter and a so-called ‟rungler” cicuit is born. But before that, many, many contacts need to be soldered.
The different backgrounds of the participants are no problem at all, since Rob and Joker help everybody patiently, give crash courses in soldering and answer questions. Three o’clock. The first wails, noises and squeezes echo through the studio – some of the Benjolins are finished! Other boards still need a lot more quality time with the soldering iron, some even beyond six o’clock, when Rob gives a lecture about the thoughts and theory behind the Benjolin. But thanks to Joker’s indefatigable help everyone leaves Steim with a working noise box in their bags. Some people leave very late, however: the chance to jam with the Benjolins in the Hotpot lab in the evening is just a bit too tempting. Playing the Benjolin is a fun experience, since its circuits are designed to provide a certain amount of unpredictability. There is no direct relationship which would allow us to systematically increase the pitch, for instance. Instead, any twist of the eight potentiometers can lead to yet another completely different sound experience. Once arrived at a great sound, it takes some skill finding it back later. But the chaotic merging between different states, the transition from clicks to bubbles, from buzzes to howls, is probably the reason for why the Benjolin feels so alive. After the workshop, the instrument can be extended in various ways: first of all, it needs a nice case, since the afternoon just provided enough time to build the electronics. Also, a lot of inputs and outputs remain unused. So in the next steps, several Benjolins could be connected, or combined with other hardware: endless DIY pleasure.
More images by Takuro Mizuta Lippit: