music for music robots / voice / electronics

image: Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (Al-Jazari, 13th century)

Robotica is inspired by the person and work of the ingenious early 13th century scholar/inventor Al-Jazari, the Mesopotamian creator of the some of the very first musical automata (as well as many other devices).    Robotica is written for Eric Singer’s “GuitarBot”, his array of percussion “ModBot” robots and “XyloBot”, as well as my spoken and sung texts and live sound manipulations.

I am intrigued by Al-Jazari’s drawings and descriptions of his mechanical inventions in his  “Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices” written over eight hundred years ago in 1206.    “Robotica”  is my imagined music for his automata and in part reflecting on mechanical aspects of his many remarkable inventions, musical and non-musical some of which are still in use today.

The piece has been and ongoing project since 2008 when the first ideas and music were developed with the LEMUR music robots during a residency at Eric Singer’s LEMURPlex (see video bottom of the page).    Through funding from Franklin Furnace Fund it was further developed and presented in 2011 during Music with a View at Flea Theater.
(see video below).    And in March 2016, the piece was once again expanded for performance at Avant Music Festival 2016 (with the Bricolo Music System).

Wil “maraca” controllers of the xylobot

In performance, I control both the notes being played by the LEMUR robots and my audio processing via computer programs which I write (in Max/MSP) and with 2 Wii controllers in tandem physical gestures.     Many of the texts I speak and sing were originally generated using an online poetry robot and I created rhythms and melody and embedded meaning using Morse Code for the word “robot” and texts related to Al-Jazari.  These ideas, plus my use of polyrhythmic metronomes have all been part of my long-term musical work and inquiry.

LEMUR xylobot

This performance/variable media art work was made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.  Major support of the Franklin Furnace Fund was provided in 2010-11 by the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, and Jerome Foundation.

Performance and development of the work started during my 2008 residency at LEMURPlex (League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots, then in Brooklyn, run by Eric Singer).   In 2011 with funding from Franklin Furnace fund and support from Harvestworks (rehearsal space and material support), I finished the next part of the work, recorded and presented the work-in-progress during a Music with  View concert curated by Kathleen Supové at Flea Theater.

In March 2016, songs from Robotica were included on a solo evening performance as part of Avant Music Festival 2016 – Tuesday Tangents series at Wild Project, NYC.  This was an expanded full-evening version of the work, using a mechanical music system by Nick Yulman (Brooklyn). More information about the concert here..

As part of the concert I was interviewed by Steven Swartz for (now defunct) SoundNotion podcast in episode #229.

Documentation from Avant Music Fest 2016:

Working on the piece in my studio prior to the Avant Music Festival show in 2016:

Photos from the concert:
Robotica at Avant Media 2016

Here is some earlier documentation from back in 2008 when developing the first version of the pieces at a residency at Eric Singer’s LEMURPlex (Brooklyn).

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