Sad Robot Goes Funny


As robotics continue to advance and become more accessible, and digital technologies only become more pervasive in our lives, some interesting conversations are being sparked about the blurring lines between humans and machines. 

Warp artist Squarepusher is really creating an interesting dynamic around this with the release of his 'Music for Robots' EP, a collaboration with Kenjiro Matsuo and a team of Japanese roboticists.

Matsuo and team developed what they called 'Z-Machines', a music-performing set of droids that could do things well beyond the most advanced musicians. With examples like a guitarist with 78 fingers or a drummer with 22 arms, the resulting composition sets out to dispel the myth that music performed by robots could never be emotionally powerful. 

Squarepusher x Z-Machines - Sad Robot Goes Funny.

From Squarepusher:

“In this project the main question I’ve tried to answer is ‘can these robots play music that is emotionally engaging?’

I have long admired the player piano works of Conlon Nancarrow and Gyorgy Ligeti. Part of the appeal of that music has to do with hearing a familiar instrument being 'played' in an unfamiliar fashion. For me there has always been something fascinating about the encounter of the unfamiliar with the familiar. I have long been an advocate of taking fresh approaches to existing instrumentation as much as I am an advocate of trying to develop new instruments, and being able to rethink the way in which, for example, an electric guitar can be used is very exciting. 

Each of the robotic devices involved in the performance of this music has its own specification which permits certain possibilities and excludes others - the robot guitar player for example can play much faster than a human ever could, but there is no amplitude control. 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, in this project familiar instruments are used in ways which till now have been impossible.”

Get your hands on the full Squarepusher EP on Bleep.

Bonus video. Check out the speed test on the Z-Machines. They can definitely shred: