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.

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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 totally from self-fashioned devices—futuristic robo-kalimbas, a droning guitar, and salvaged laborious drives became 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, always tinkering with the devices as they ping and plonk in entrance of him. Geist grew up enjoying the clarinet, piano, and guitar, so when he first began making digital music within the 1990s, he discovered it unusual that the music was all contained inside a software program interface on a display screen. “I needed one thing I might contact,” he says. “So I constructed my very own devices.”

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

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

Mr. Robot

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

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

Moritz Simon Geist

“We have a museum stuffed with self-playing devices,” says Marian van Dijk, the director of the the Museum Speelklok within the Netherlands, which has an exhibit about robots and music on view this month. “People within the 19th century had been wanting ahead to those innovations, and we’re in the same interval now—wanting ahead to all the probabilities.”

As the sector of robotics has grow to be 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 could actually rhythmically bob its robotic “head” and hearken to different human musicians, then faucet out a tune of its personal. “It’s a mix of previous devices 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 imply, 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 infinite, 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 stop 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 number 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 set up,” is a percussive instrument constructed from laborious drive actuators arms and motors that mechanically ping steel items and is derived.

His newest single, “Entropy,” contains 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 delicate percussive noise. Rescued laborious drives make a clicking sound, just like a snare. There’s additionally a “drone guitar,” constructed by attaching a motor to an electrical guitar, and an instrument Geist describes as “loopy psychedelic glasses,” which makes use of a motorized arm to clink on beer glasses full of completely different quantities of water so that they’re tuned to numerous pitches.

For Geist, the devices characterize not only a new solution to make music, however a brand new solution to expertise it. The devices every have a visible part, which makes it doable to observe the sounds as Geist creates them. “Loads of digital laptop computer compositions, they do not have a physique,” he says. “I’m attempting to provide this physique again to digital 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 together 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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