Last month, Music Feeds reported on Moscow artist Dmitry Morozov, who’d designed an arm-mounted robot that turned his tattoo into musical notation. Taking things just a slight step further, electronic producer Squarepusher and a team of Tokyo roboticists have crafted an all-robot band.
As Wired reports, the Z-Machines were created by a team of roboticists at the University of Tokyo last year. The team then asked several artists to create music that the robots could be programmed to play. Among them was Squarepusher, with a submission he titled Sad Robot Goes Funny.
But Squarepusher, real name Tom Jenkinson, a UK-based experimental producer best known for his releases on the Warp and Rephlex labels, decided he wasn’t done, and proceeded to write an entire EP of material for the Z-Machines, titled Music for Robots – officially released last week.
As Jenkinson tells Wired, the idea was to see if robots can play emotionally engaging music while completing musical manoeuvres no human is physically capable of. “The robot guitar player for example can play much faster than a human ever could, but there is no amplitude control,” he says.
“In the same way that you do when you write music for a human performer, these attributes have to be borne in mind—and a particular range of musical possibilities corresponds to those attributes. Consequently… familiar instruments are used in ways which till now have been impossible.”
Readers can check out a video of Mach, a 78-fingered guitarist, Ashura, a 22-armed drummer, and Cosmo, a robot who plays keyboards with lasers, are capable of below. In action, the music the Z-Machines play sounds sweetly familiar to freeform jazz, yet uncannily sterile and non-human.
Watch: The Making of Music For Robots
Watch: Squarepusher × Z-Machines