The Furby Youth Choir

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The Furby Youth Choir

Those of you who attended Maker Faire 2008 in Austin may recall the performance of local circuit-benders Furby Youth Choir. I recently had a chance to attend one of their live performances at the United States Art Authority, next to Spider House on Fruth St. in the UT Campus area.

A Furby, for those who were living in a bunker preparing for Y2K during their vogue, is a robot toy that looks a lot like Gizmo from The Gremlins. They talk and sing and move their mouths and eyes and other neat stuff, including reacting to their environment and, to an extent, “learning” certain patterns of behavior. The large feature set makes them popular with hackers, especially circuit benders.

Anyhoo, as one can imagine, a small army of them singing on-stage is fairly unsettling. What’s more, FYC’s music is decidedly avant-garde, dissonant, and ominous. Two performers stand over a table covered with circuit boards and wires and bend the aforesaid circuits in real time. Add to that mix a video projector beaming twisted animations and other visual psychedalia upstage, and the whole experience becomes a bit….overwhelming. US Art Authority is a small venue, and to my 25-to-34-year-old ear, they were rather too loud for it, but they still get huge points for originality. If you get a chance to see them, you should. Just be sure to pack a pair of earplugs.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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