Meet the Makers: fluxmonkey

The Joy of Improvised Electro-Acoustic Music

The 4th Annual Cleveland Mini Maker Faire (CMMF), taking place on November 5 at Cleveland Public Library’s Main Branch, celebrates the Maker Movement – bringing together creators, inventors, crafters and techies who strive to inspire, unite and inform.

CMMF will bring together Makers from all backgrounds and skill sets to showcase why Cleveland is an important part of the Maker Movement and how public libraries can be a natural convener of makers, companies and people who are simply interested in learning more.

One such Maker is Bob Drake, Founder and Creator of Fluxmonkey – Cleveland’s own electro-acoustic musician. We spoke with Drake about electroacoustic music, the joy of collaboration and improvisation, and the value of curiosity and community.

Who/what is Fluxmonkey?
“Fluxmonkey is kind of an umbrella project name for various work I do in and around electro-acoustic music: performance, recordings, installations, workshops, printed circuit boards, and custom-made electronic instruments.”

What excites you most about this genre of music?
“What I do is primarily improvised electroacoustic music, using original instruments. The instruments I build generally have elements of indeterminacy built into them – not random, but not always knowable in advance. So they essentially become active collaborators with me during performance, surprising and challenging me with unexpected sounds and opportunities to interact. Expanding that situation into an improvised setting, especially with other performers, adds a hear-and-now intensity and interactivity that I find really exciting.”

Why is it important to be a maker?
“I personally find working with my hands and making things intrinsically rewarding and satisfying. Being creatively involved with the process of making my own tools/instruments, and knowing not only what they do but how they work, helps me to extend their potential through non-standard techniques and even ‘misuse.’ I also had the good fortune to learn from some generous master craftsmen at a very early age, and I really value the traditions of mentorship and apprenticeship. I think they would appreciate the spirit of shared knowledge and ‘passing it on’ evident in today’s maker communities.

An apropos quote I read in a new book, Experimental Music Since 1970 by Jennie Gottschalk, talking about David Behrman, a pioneer in the area of experimental electronic instruments:

There are two key points here: (1) In Behrmans’s view, making is making, whether it is music or an instrument.  The construction of the instrument can be a significant part of the musical process. (2) You don’t have to know what you’re doing. The process and the result are not invalidated by an initial lack of expertise, but can become even more interesting as a result of behaviors that are not fully understood.”

What do you hope people learn/discover at this year’s Mini Maker Faire?
“The value of active curiosity and community.”

 Bob Drake is a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellow with the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture/Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Discover more at fluxmonkey.com.