Posts Tagged 'Compressor Head'

Vinyl size

It’s been a while since I’ve picked through the mechanical innards of robot music, but there are enough servos whirring around this sub-genre to justify a revisit. While the mechanical prowess might not have advanced all that much since sensational acts like Compressor Head made their debut, the artistry has definitely shifted to a different level.

It’s hard to pitch a series of Meccano, steam engine-based instruments against some of the more hi-tech productions out there, but Morten Riis low-fi music boxes do create a weird, ambient soundscape unlike any other. Not only that, but there’s something wonderfully intricate and understated about how he presents his work to the world.

In a more computerised vein, electronic composer/producer Squarepusher also took his own machine music in a fresh direction via a partnership with Japanese robotic artists Z-Machines. The result was a painstaking album recording that resembled a computer game soundtrack. Yes the hands of the composers were ever present in the coding, but the use of real world instruments – as opposed to synthesized sounds – definitely created something more organic. It’s an approach also exploited by Mason Bretan over at Gerogia Tech, with the added nuance of the robot performers improvising in reaction to the aural noodlings of their programmer.

So, steam instruments, robot music, robot improvisation and now, taking the sounds even further ‘out there’, a bio computer listening and reacting to composer Eduardo Miranda at this year’s Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival in Plymouth. The organic components, grown from a many-headed slime mold, act like ears that listen to the pianist and react by generating sympathetic electromagnetic vibrations through the piano’s strings. Combined, the symbiotic musical relationship creates something that sounds like a contemporary classical piece, coupled with something more ambient.

We’re all wired for sound then, right? Well, obviously, that all depends on personal taste. From my perspective, there’s still a way to go until a captivating performance is perfected. Whatever you think, though, none of these robots would emerge victorious in a dance-off against the Public Service Broadcast!

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