Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Some recent musical mad scientists:

The Chipophone is a homemade 8-bit synthesizer, especially suited for live chiptune playing. It has been built inside an old electronic organ." Yep, Linus Akesson of Sweden can play those bloopy-bleepy video game sounds on a proper keyboard, the kind of two-level organ your grandma might have in her living room. A helluva lot of work went into building his contraption. Dig the 7 minute demo video:

And check his original song:

Linus Akesson "Spellbound" (not the Hitchcock theme)

It's pretty obvious by the number of robot musicians we've covered here that mechanical music is a growing phenomenon, and now that veteran jazz star Pat Metheny has embraced it, maybe other music journalists will finally start to take it seriously. We're here, we're gears, get used to it! (sorry.)

Metheny's The Orchestrion is truly a marvel - it isn't just one robot playing pre-programmed music, it's a whole orchestra. And the level of performance is remarkable. Much robot music is understandably a bit stiff - machines can't really "swing" - but this stuff comes as close to passing a musical Turing Test as any, where you can't tell if you're dealing with artificial or human intelligence.

Musically, he's favoring percussion instruments like xylophones. Easier for robots to play, I guess. And that's fine by me, I like percussion music.

Pat Metheny - "Orchestrion" (excerpt) - Metheny's guitar is the only live instrument here.

It still sounds like typical Metheny fusion jazz. But the Los Angeles-area KarmetiK crew have built a Machine Orchestra with more of an eclectic bent. They are from CalArts, after all, so they have to get all ethnicky 'n' stuff. No albums or mp3s, but there's a video on their site, and another one HERE of their fascinating mixture of robo-rockers and humans.

Thanks to Richard E. and Joshua U.!


Anonymous said...

This reminds me to some degree of what Alex Jordan did with his "Music Machines." Very cool stuff!

Mr Fab said...

Hey anon, thanks for reminding me of this post from Fatty Jubbo, where he posted mp3s of Alex Jordan's Music Machines:

(Hope the mp3 links are still good - I can't tell, I'm at work right now)