Prepared Walkman Improvisation

From the time I began circuit bending, I have been playing with walkmen. they are cheap and readily available, and there are a number of interesting things you can do with them. some of which has been previously documented here.

In the past though, I mostly did things which involved tape, as that was fairly obvious and direct. for an early experimenter there is a lot of fun to be had with a walkman and a simple tape loop. But as my interests have moved away from looping, constant sound masses, to more discreet utterances of sounds delineated by space, and focused on timing and texture, I have also moved away from tape.

Even still, the whole object of the walkman with it’s very common, even almost sad appearance, holds something for me. Perhaps it is history. It being the first playback device i owned, and part of my first forays into sound experimentation.

Because of this, I have been drawn back to it again. To attempt to wring from it the last quantities of available sound from beyond magnetic tape. Instead of once again firing up the loops (though I do plan on doing another loopscape at some point) I instead fired up the soldering iron and investigated the inner workings.

I have made walkman feedback devices before that did not require tape, but for this one I wanted to push into all the lesser known areas, and find things I’d never found before. So instead of attempting to build a finished device (which almost always dissappoint imo) I chose to create a kind of platform for continued exploration that left no routes closed off. i simply opened to back of the walkman to expose the board, and prepared it in several ways:
prepared walkman
I added a discrete motor control, and amplification knob and shutoff, a “bit crushing” knob, and inputs for up to two stereo devices. the devices currently include, a tape head, a contact mic, and a small speaker. I have also added metal posts to a few of the solder pads on the PCB so that I can easily attach alligator clips to them.

The following is an improvisation made using this device, and it’s various preparations, recorded direct to MD. In some ways it is still a study, but it is also a piece to listen to and enjoy many times. I have been listening to it occasionally for weeks, and it still confounds me. I hope it pleases you as well.

Be warned though, it starts quiet, but get’s quite loud. there are some very high pitches in here as well.

- Improvisation for walkman (without tape)

2 Responses to “Prepared Walkman Improvisation”

  1. travis Says:

    hey i’m working on a cheapo walkmen right now, it already played back tapes at a slower pitch so i’m adding a pitch pot to it.. messing around with it i was listening through headphones straight from the headphone jack and it sounded really cool warping the music on the cassette.. but when i plug it into my studio mixer with a 1/8″ to 1/4″ cord the only thing you can hear through the speakers is the motor and stuff but no audio from the cassette?? i’ve tried different cords and inputs on my mixer and no difference.. but plugging my headphones back into the walkmen i hear the audio everytime.. it’s baffling me…
    if you can help at all pleeeaase send me an e-mail.. i have a 1/4″ jack i’m gonna try to hook up as the output for the walkmen to see if that works..

  2. howsthatsound Says:

    travis, it’s hard to say what exactly is the issue here. it could be impedance, it could be a grounding issue on that cheap walkman. i have had similar issues myself. i tried playing this prepared walkman through an amp and mixer the other day, and it behaved completely different. it still make some great sounds, but it was not what i wanted, so it looks like we are in a similar boat. :) if i figure anything out i will post.

    fwiw, switching to another jack won’t help as the jack is just a connecting device and has no bearing on the interference you’re experiencing. impedance is most likely the culprit i’d say.

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