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Automated Musical Instruments
|"QUANTUM SHOT" #234(rev)|
Link - article by Jason Heath & Avi Abrams
Unusual Instrument / Robot Hybrids: No Performer Necessary
Musical instrument makers have always been fascinated by pushing the boundaries of their craft, and several creative individuals have created automated musical instruments that play without the need of a human performer.
Belgian composer, performer, and instrument maker Godfried-Willem Raes has invented a huge number of bizarre and offbeat instruments during his career. Many of them are unusual instrument/robot hybrids capable of being controlled by computers.
The Flex automat was completed in 2003. It consists of blades of stainless steel struck by solenoid driven beaters and bend by a system of heavy duty stepping motors, resembling a singing saw:
(images via; right: Moniek Darge & Godfried-Willem Raes (1983), via)
Other automated percussion instruments include the Klung (computer controlled acoustical angklung):
The Rotomoton (an assembly of 5 drums with beaters, controlled by computer):
Various Springers (automated shakers, sirens, and springs): and various other automated percussion instruments:
Other creations include the two string, four octave Hurdy-Gurdy created out of an old double bass neck:
Here is a cymbal-playing robot (left image):
...and the automated accordion:
The House on the Rock: A Surreal Music/Architecture Extravaganza
The strange and delightful House on the Rock outside of Madison, Wisconsin, is a treasure trove of automated instruments and musical curiosities. It's also a kind of an architectural wonder; check out, for example, the "Infinity Room" structure, jutting out like an other-worldly crane over the lush forest:
The gardens around the House are full of bizarre sculptures:
(image credit: Forbidden Donut)
It also features "The Music of Yesterday", a huge collection of automatic music machines, including Franz Josef's music machine that had actually belonged to the Austrian emperor. Even the entryways to the collection are something to behold:
(image credit: Forbidden Donut)
Drums are arranged in huge sculptures in the larger public spaces:
...While smaller rooms house vast collections of automated instruments: here is the 100 year old violin playing machine, made by Thomas Kupsh (more info):
(image credit: http://www.pbase.com/ysic/image/35136268)
Some instruments in this collection are also electronic, like the Space Organ:
(image credit: The House on the Rock)
The main organ is appropriately majestic:
Other Wild Automatons
Maywa Denki has also created a set of self-playing instruments:
(image credit: Maywa Denki)
We also need to mention Carlos Corpa, who creates robotic orchestras (plus robots that beg for money, recite poetry and make the automated painting shows)
(image credit: Carlos Corpa)
Musical Instruments as Art, or a Statement
Some musicians aren't satisfied with the standard size of their instrument, playing instruments like this enormous tuba (left image below):
Right image above: ...while some people just make instruments out of anything laying around, like this harp and bass hybrid!
Bottom right image: the Merrill 2007 "Style 7 plus" Harp Guitar, a beautiful instrument.
Some people just like to make art out of instruments:
(bottom right image: Battery Park City / Robert F. Wagner Park New York City)
The Gas Tank Orchestra uses instruments made from...well, you guessed it:
...while some Colombians play this instrument made out of a rifle--making a political as well as musical point:
Article by Jason Heath for Dark Roasted Blend. "Jason Heath's Double Bass" features music news, crazy gig stories, and commentary about the music business, as well as bass photos and videos. Jason also produces a weekly podcast called Contrabass Conversations which covers all things bass-related. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the International Society of Bassists (link) and is a staff writer for Bass Musician Magazine (link).
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