"QUANTUM SHOT" #234(rev)
Link - article by Jason Heath

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.

(images via)

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):

(image via)

The Rotomoton (an assembly of 5 drums with beaters, controlled by computer):

(images via)

Various Springers (automated shakers, sirens, and springs): and various other automated percussion instruments:

(images via)

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:

(images via)

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)

(images via)

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:

(image via)

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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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great automated musical installation is If VI was IX, a huge automated sculpture by Trimpin at the Experience Music Project in Seattle. It plays loops of music in different styles on a number of automated guitars, banjos, keyboards, etc. Plus it looks awesome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trimpin

Blogger Will said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the band Captured! By Robots which consists of one human and a band of automatons. See http://www.capturedbyrobots.com/.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about that: http://www.graffagnino.net/wwwpeart/ ?

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

thank you guys... will update with the first opportunity. good stuff.

Blogger dan said...

All the automatic instruments look fantastic.

Post by Dan,
Webmaster of http://www.gadgets-club.com the newest gadgets blog

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post!

Godfried-Willem Raes may have some original ideas about things, but at least some of what he builds is nothing new...

First, let's take a look at his "Klung", a supposed "metal anklung" that he built.

Raes Klung

If you look at it, you may notice it bears a striking resemblance to the vintage percussion instrument the Deagan Shaker Chimes (AKA "Deagan Organ Chimes"):

Deagan photo

Deagan article

As you can read in the article, these vintage production-line chimes WERE based on the Anklung... so really, Mr. Raes' idea is nothing new.

Neither is automating them, apparently. The House On the Rock in Wisconsin has no less than THREE sets of Deagan Shaker [Organ] Chimes, all rigged to play (more-or-less) automatically with various ensembles; respectively the Blue Danube Room (opened in 1991),

Blue Danube Room

the Red Room (opened in 1978),

Red Room

and the Circus Room Orchestra (opened sometime in the 1980's).

Circus Orchestra

The chimes in the Blue Danube ensemble (a rather ersatz affair made from an old Mortier dance organ facade) are especially notable, not only because each chime assembly has been taken out of its stand and arrayed visually at the top of the ensemble (rather than being left in the original rack like the other 2 sets),

Upper part of Blue Danube

but also because they are the only real tuned musical instruments in the whole ensemble! (the string and other non-percussion sounds are produced by synthesizers and emanate from a large speaker hidden behind the tympani on the far right).

Speaker in Blue Danube

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Wow Andrew, thank you for the wonderful info.
The first Blue Danube image link is broken.
Will cover some more in our next part in this series!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what that thing sounds like>

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic automated musical instrument!! wish i have musical instrument someday!! give a thumbs up on su!!


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