It’s electric: Matt Garfield transforms instruments into kaleidoscopic light displays


Photo: Margo Reed

Photo: Margo Reed

by Claire Marie Porter

(full story can be found here)

For some, making and customizing instruments is the practical solution to unsustainable artistic ventures. For Matt Garfield, modifying instruments is a marriage between art and technology. 

Garfield, frontman of electropunk band Mose Giganticus, was a professional musician for seven years, five of which he spent touring full-time. He got a master’s degree in electrical engineering while continuing to perform. 

Coming out of the touring life, Garfield got a job in IT and became the senior electrical engineer at NextFab four-and-a-half years ago, in what he describes as fortuitous circumstances.

Now, he’s found a synthesis of his two passions—embedding electronics in existing instruments, which he describes as a “collaboration” between his artistry and engineering skills. 

On his computer in his NextFab office space, Garfield brings up pictures of a MIDI controller keyboard he bought off the shelf, documenting his processes through images. He took apart the keyboard and embedded electronics and custom lighting in it, resulting in a highly-customized look you can’t find anywhere else, he says.

“I put a lot of effort into the whole visual aesthetics of the instrument, the interplay between controlled lighting … and the music itself,” he says.

Garfield offers to do some quick live programming, and after ten minutes of clicking and coding, the keyboard attached to his computer becomes a multi-colored light show. 

He still plays drums and keyboard and sings for Mose Giganticus, and his most recent instrument-modding project was for a music video he produced himself. 

In the video, the drums, guitars and keyboard swirl with colors and move with the sound on a stage. The result is psychedelic and haunting. 

Garfield creates what he can’t buy. 

“Either because I can’t afford it,” he says, “or because it doesn’t exist at all.”

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