Watch Moritz Simon Geist’s Sonic Robots Play Thumping Techno Music in His Video for ‘Entropy’


When he performs a techno present, Moritz Simon Geist does not attain for a laptop computer. Instead, he calls on his military of sonic robots—a group of small, motorized creations that click on, clank, and whirr in an intricate mechanical symphony.

Geist composes robotic digital music, a burgeoning style of electro jams that depends on {hardware}, not software program, to engineer digital sounds and beats. His forthcoming EP, The Material Turn, debuts in October with 4 tracks made completely from self-fashioned devices—futuristic robo-kalimbas, a droning guitar, and salvaged arduous drives was percussive beat machines.

Watching Geist play music is just a little like watching a mad scientist in a lab. Trained as {an electrical} engineer, he’s a person of supplies, consistently tinkering with the devices as they ping and plonk in entrance of him. Geist grew up taking part in the clarinet, piano, and guitar, so when he first began making digital music in the 1990s, he discovered it unusual that the music was all contained inside a software program interface on a display. “I wanted something I could touch,” he says. “So I built my own instruments.”

Each of Geist’s “instruments” is custom-made in his workshop in Dresden, Germany. Some are engineered to supply a particular sound, like his tackle a kalimba, comprised of steel items and 3-D printed components. Other devices come by the use of discovery, like discovering that tapping a screwdriver in opposition to a steel lid makes a pleasing tinging noise.

The outcome is not only a dynamic, throbbing album filled with electrifying techno. For Geist, it is a method to push the frontiers of digital musicmaking.

Mr. Robot

Mechanized devices have been a curiosity for so long as music-makers may rig collectively components. Take the primary self-playing piano, the Forneaux Pianista, invented in the mid-19th century. It used air valves to inflate a bellows and mechanically thump on the keys, creating an impact of the piano taking part in itself. Vaucanson’s mechanical flute participant and Phonoliszt’s self-playing Violina would comply with, and autonomous devices remained a fascination all through the 20th century.

‘Lots of digital laptop computer compositions, they do not have a physique. I’m attempting to present this physique again to digital music.’

Moritz Simon Geist

“We have a museum full of self-playing instruments,” says Marian van Dijk, the director of the the Museum Speelklok in the Netherlands, which has an exhibit about robots and music on view this month. “People in the 19th century were looking forward to these inventions, and we are in a similar period now—looking forward to all the possibilities.”

As the sector of robotics has turn into extra subtle, engineers and musicians have developed new methods to include equipment into music-making. Shimon, a robotic marimba-playing robotic constructed at Georgia Tech, depends on synthetic intelligence to “improvise” like a jazz musician. In a jam session, it may well rhythmically bob its robotic “head” and hearken to different human musicians, then faucet out a tune of its personal. “It’s a combination of old instruments and new robotics,” says van Dijk.

Geist had seen loads of robotic music—bands like Compressorhead, a Berlin-based group that makes use of a sequence of humanoid robots to play conventional devices—however he’d by no means seen robots in techno. The mixture appeared apparent.

“Robots and techno—I mean, come on,” he says. “It’s machine music.”

His first instrument, the MR-808, recreated the sound of a Roland TR-808 drum machine in an unlimited, room-sized field full of conventional drums and robotic components. It took him three years to construct. When he debuted the instrument in an interactive exhibit, Geist realized he’d struck upon one thing fascinating. He give up his job at a analysis lab, dropped out of his PhD program, and devoted his time to creating musical robots.

Geist adopted the MR-808 with a collection of new and futuristic innovations: The Glitch Robot mixed 3D-printed components with relays, tongues, solenoids, and motors to create glitchy, metallic noises. The Tripods One, which Geist calls a “sonic installation,” is a percussive instrument constructed from arduous drive actuators arms and motors that mechanically ping steel items and comes.

His newest single, “Entropy,” incorporates a new suite of devices. A “futuristic kalimba” riffs on the African instrument, made with a circuit board, 5 steel tongs, and a piezo contact microphone managed with a Midi keyboard. A “pneumatic hi-hat” blows air into cylinders full of small styrofoam balls to create a mushy percussive noise. Rescued arduous drives make a clicking sound, much like a snare. There’s additionally a “drone guitar,” constructed by attaching a motor to an electrical guitar, and an instrument Geist describes as “crazy psychedelic glasses,” which makes use of a motorized arm to clink on beer glasses full of totally different quantities of water so that they’re tuned to numerous pitches.

For Geist, the devices symbolize not only a new method to make music, however a brand new method to expertise it. The devices every have a visible part, which makes it potential to look at the sounds as Geist creates them. “A lot of electronic laptop compositions, they don’t have a body,” he says. “I’m trying to give this body back to electronic music.”

Watching him play “Entropy,” you see styrofoam balls float up on puffs of air, whereas LED lights blink on the futuristic kalimba. The motor fingers the guitar strings like a disembodied hand. Sure, the requisite electro-techno strobe lights and bass-heavy beats really feel acquainted. But along with his sonic robots, Geist manages to do one thing more and more uncommon in digital music. When he performs, he retains all eyes locked on the stage.


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