Since 1985 we’ve seen a variety of playing music robots. Maybe some of you still remember the Toyota robot that played the trumpet, presented in 2005. Some others might know the german robotic band named “Compressorhead”, created in 2013. But those were not the only ones. There were other robots that improvised based on what a musician played, intelligent robotic arms designed to replace a human one, or to empower a musician through an extra arm playing an additional drum. Let’s not even mention that melodies created by artificial intelligence exist.
Does music lose creativity if being played by robots? Does it lack artistic value then? After reading this article you’ll decide for yourself. But let’s start saying that every performance comes from a human idea, no matter if the human is in direct contact with the instrument or not. Once translated into MIDI language, when its already processed, the music is executed by robots. But the conceived human original idea remains still untouched.
DIY music robots
There’s an inventor that went even further with this idea, in his case more a philosophy than an idea. Moritz Simon Geist works on the electronic music robots field. Actually, he works on “the world’s first techno record played entirely by self-made futuristic robots”, as his site states. This revolutionary kind of music creation breaks the limit of existing music instruments, taking organic, mechanical sounds from everyday life and converting them into tech sounds. Simon is focused on identifying beautiful sounds we are used to, those we hear when we perform common tasks at home or when we walk on the streets. Avoiding using traditional music sounds, or electronic produced ones, he replicates these organic sounds and creates music pieces out of them. That he achieves by using DIY futuristic robots that don’t sound like any of the instruments we already know.
Among his instruments, you can find a strange one created with an air compressor, another one that gets sounds out of drink glasses, or one that was inspired on a Kalimba, an African instrument. His robots are really precise ones. And we are not talking about electronic sounds, but as we said before, organic ones, electronically handled. You don’t play the instruments with your hands, you play them with a keyboard that connects with a MIDI signal but still, you can manipulate the sound with your hands to change it, which adds more expression to the final result. In this way, Moritz Simon Geist is pushing the boundaries of music creation as we popularly know it.
“Imagine a room, not a stage, where all the robots are placed and people can walk in between the robots and there is immersive 3D sound,” says Simon.
In this case, the main setup is made of a computer, a keyboard, a program for controlling music stuff, not much more. Microphones on the instruments and lights for the spectator to visually connect with the instrument and with what’s happening on stage. In fact, the robots also look cool, showing off thoroughly designed aesthetics. This musician aims to change arts and music into multisensorial. And so his robots have become a pyramidal art installation.
- The Electronics (PCB with MIDI-In, Mosfet, )
- The Mechanic Actuator (Motor, Solenoid)
- The Acoustic part (body, tongue, drum, string, mallet)
- The Amplification (piezo mic, pickup, Microfon)
The music creation future is about to come
If you are interested in becoming a new gerenation musician yourself, this artist encourages you to do it, and so do we. You can always start building your music robots, taking a look at the technical background here. This is techno that challenges and explore technology’s limits. We are now capable of taking everything we need in a suitcase and robot performers will allow us to create unique pieces and to experience new expressive possibilities.
It’s not about deciding which is better, traditional instruments or robotic ones, but to play and discover the potentiality of electronics. Are robots starting to be capable of everything? Or are we the ones?