Watch futuristic techno made by robots – then learn how it was made

Roboticist, composer, and futurist Moritz Simon Geist has made an entire album using robotic machines. It’s stunning to behold – and he tells you all about how it developed. Let’s watch:

This is more than a gimmick: there’s a real difference in approach and process here. Moritz’s work is truly mechanical-acoustical and electro-acoustic, using mechanical, kinetic machines to produce sounds.

And Moritz has been working on this background for some time, including making an entire oversized TR-808 drum machine that replicates sounds not with analog circuitry or digital code, but by actually hitting percussion. (The claps even required a cluster of stuff to clap together.)

An extended making-of video walks through the behind-the-scenes process of how this came about and evolved.

It’s as much an exercise in kinetic sculpture as music, but then the album organizes those raw materials in an eminently listenable, musical manner. It’s quirky grooves, true to its mechanical-robotic nature – that is, even if you didn’t know what this was, you might quickly imagine dancing bots. The materiality comes through, in subtly off rhythms and precisely-placed organic sounds.

Moritz’ ongoing collaborators Mouse on Mars co-produced both an EP (“The Material Turn”, out October 12) and LP (“Robotic Electronic Music”, on November 16). And Moritz extends the musical role here, by being both inventor/builder/maker and musician – not to mention label head.

It’s great to see Moritz starting a new label devoted to this medium – Sonic Robots Records – but also getting the help not only of Mouse on Mars but legendary German label Kompakt to handle global distribution.

You can preorder the EP already, in both digital and vinyl forms:

… with the LP to follow soon.

Here’s our look at how Moritz is working with Mouse on Mars:

Here’s how Mouse on Mars are using robots to expand their band

And here’s how we first got to meet Moritz, through his robotic TR-808:

A Robotic, Physical 808 Machine Advances Weird Science of Music, Tech Alike

Want to try making your own robotic music? Dadamachines is an easy way to start, and you can explore sound and musical arrangement without having to know about the building side right away:

dadamachines is an open toolkit for making robotic musical instruments

Don’t miss Moritz’ talk, too, for our MusicMakers Hacklab this year, discussing speculative futures for machine learning:

The post Watch futuristic techno made by robots – then learn how it was made appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Watch a Tank Make Sound, as Nik Novak Makes Weapons, Vehicles for Music


In a world of machine weapons, construction equipment waging destruction, mechanized warfare and economic mayhem, maybe giant sound machines are a friendlier alternative.

Nik Novak certainly has a way of giving sound physical being. And ironically, if some of his creations might appear to assault the senses, his own sensibilities came from the frightening experience of sonic trauma. He recasts that assault in machines, but also finds ways of working with sound that get past the damage to his hearing.

And far from places of fear, the club – and studio – are refuge.

(Or, okay, if that description doesn’t grab you – the man has a badass sound tank.)

The Mainz-born, Berlin-based artist talks about his hydraulic speaker vehicles, his sense of clubs and sonic experience, and how he came to work this way in a film produced last month for Sennheiser. He sees sound as something that reshapes reality – if these appear to be weapons or terraforming equipment, there’s a reason for that:

Seeing his constructions is something of a marvel. With projection mapping and original sound, he produces audiovisual works particularly designed for these machines. The architectural constructions of some also produce their own particular sonic sculptures, fused with the tangible form of the robotic/vehicular productions.

For “Soundtank,” he has produced audio and audiovisual scores:

Pulsator takes inspiration from the “christening” of my Soundtank, a caterpillar tracked sound system I’ve built recently.

Nik Nowak vs. Ultramoodem live @ CTM 2012 from Schockglatze on Vimeo.


He’s given a TEDx talk in Berlin on the topic of sound as weapon:

See his site for more on his work:

Spotted via De:bug.

The post Watch a Tank Make Sound, as Nik Novak Makes Weapons, Vehicles for Music appeared first on Create Digital Music.

The Player Piano with Drums and Gunshots: An Oddity of the Silent Film Era [Videos]

If you want wild, futuristic, and inventive, some of the craziest inventions come from the past. The Photoplayer makes today’s music tech look positively dull.

Joe Rinaudo has made a business of bringing back antiques, but his 1926 Photoplayer may top the list.

Built to add dynamic soundtracks for silent films, the machine is an ingenious contrivance for live music generation. First, it has the ability to run “two decks” – that is, by having two rolls instead of one, you can queue up the next roll while the other is playing. (Okay, so it sort of invented DJing.) Second, the traditional piano roll is accompanied by sound effects and percussion noises triggered by chains called “cow-tails.” So, again, like live electronic music today, you can add live percussion atop the prepared music.

They were also machines anyone could play. The device handled the tricky piano playing bits; you only had to add in sound effects. But with everything from gunshots to bird chirps to thunder, various levers and chains and switches let you do all the foley yourself – critical at a time when silent films lacked sound.

Then again, now that we have sound, we might appreciate this effect more than the audience of the time. Food for thought.

Our friends at Network Awesome have pulled together a playlist of YouTube gems, many featuring Rinaudo, so you can hear the range of the instrument:
Live Music Show March 31



The post The Player Piano with Drums and Gunshots: An Oddity of the Silent Film Era [Videos] appeared first on Create Digital Music.

The Machine-Augmented Luthier: Robots Helping Make Guitars at Plek Technology

We focus primarily on new machines and technology that make music directly, but of course, these tools make instruments that make music, too. Having seen an image of a guitar string vibrating from German firm Plek A+D Gitarrentechnologie earlier this week, reader Brian Turley observes that the work that company is doing is impressive.

We’re not necessarily talking mass-manufactured, machine-made guitars, either. The device in this case augments more traditional techniques, and can be put in the hands of an expert luthier. Plek’s technique scans guitar necks in multiple dimensions, creates a virtual fretboard in which you can adjust frets, then cuts some combination of frets, nut, and saddle for the desired result. The upshot of all of this: if the frets are adjusted precisely, it’s easier to play notes and string action is least likely to impede intonation. (It plays better and sounds better, done right.)

Here’s a bit on the technique:

The computer ascertains a 3-D like graph of the fretboard surface, including the position and height of the strings. Thanks to the plek scan the relief of the neck created by the string tension is taken into account while calculating the process parameters.

In the Virtual Fret Dress menu the operator can not only determine how much needs to be cut off from each fret but can also set the fretboard radius and amount of fall-off suited for the instrument or player. You can see the height of each fret, how high each fret will be after processing as well as where fretboard buzz occurs because of frets being too high or too low.

More information:
Plek: Technology

Guitar makers and repair shops then buy these machines for their own use; it’s just one tool in a larger toolchain, and it needs a very skilled operator. Humans, therefore, are no less a part of the equation.

I’m of course way out of my depth here; I think the last time I made a guitar it involved rubber bands and a cardboard box in school. But I’d be fascinated to hear from someone working with these machines. And even for us lay people, it’s a small but fascinating window into the sorts of tools now available to luthiers.