German Version

Let’s get mechanical: The INstallation MR-808 playes electronic music – with robots!

Let’s free the sounds from the dictate of electronics! The robot installation MR-808 is a replica of the famous 1980s electronic drum machine TR-808 – with robots playing the drum sounds!
I (Moritz Simon Geist) have been playing electronic music for several years now , and at some place I was bored of the electronic music production process nowadays, so I decided to go back to the physical roots of sound generation.
I am very proud to present the “MR-808” – a mechanic replica of the famous 1980s electronic drum machine TR-808! I am the first one to transfer the electronic sounds of the most influential electronic drum computer TR-808 into the real world and make it highly playable for a musician! If the TR-808 doesn’t mean anyhing to you: just take a look at the TR-808 Cult page

The Concept

The idea behind the installation is to highlight the origin of the sounds in a way no conventional media of electronic music production is able to. Does the laptop-artist make the sounds during a live performance or does he/she just checks the emails? Apart from that I like the idea of introducing more “error” into the music. A drum beaten by a mechanic robot arm can never be as predictable as a computer generated sound. Consequently, the mechanic character of the installation MR-808 introduces fallibility into the performance

The Robot Techniques

Mr-808; Toms. Foto: Jürgen Lösel

For the installation MR-808 eleven sound of the 808 were replaced by mechanical actuators and physical tone-makers. I designed all instruments in reference to the famous sounds of the TR-808. A huge number of experiments were carried out since 2011 and a varity of instruments have been built. The instruments include: Snare, Bass drum, Hi-Hat, Carabassa, Clave, Ride, Clap, Tom (3x) and Cowbell.
Motors and solenoids were used as actuators, which are triggered by a power electronic device and an Arduino Microcontroller. The musical control is realized with MIDI, the latency and the lighting control system are implemented in MAX / MSP. You can read more about the details of the techniques here.

Robot Vision

What would Asimov say? The vision is to have a decent electronic pop-band where no sound is generated inside a computer, but where robots play the structures humans are not able to. We want the haptics, the error and the visual behavior of machines playing the beats and notes! We want a crowded and dirty stage with cables, machinery and lights all over, pulsating like a single heart. Drums are the base of music, with the „MR-808“ we created an awesome drum machine to start with.


Mr-808: Clave;Foto: Jürgen Lösel


MR808 Performance Cynetart Dresden Hellerau 2012. Fotos: David Campesino


Photos: Jürgen Lösel, David Campesino


Read on

The technical background of our robots explained. Circuits, mechanics and robot porn! Its‘ pop, it’s electro, it’s experimental: Listen to music featuring the MR-808 and other Rrrobots with the Artists Moritz Simon Geist and SCIENCE FICTION CHILDREN Contact the Rrrobots

13 Responses to MR-808

  1. […] Find out more about the background and its nerdy technical features […]

  2. Jeremy Cook sagt:

    Really nice work! Like the lighting effects!

  3. Yann sagt:

    Love it!

  4. Kai sagt:

    Fancy stuff!

  5. julianh sagt:

    Very cool stuff !

    Are you planng to tour with this device? Any contact with some renowned band?

  6. matt sagt:

    abs love it! esp the manekin hand on the clave, classic. Pat Metheny has a whole robot band that he uses to jam with, check this out:

  7. […] drum machine TR-808 – with robots playing the drum sounds by Moritz Simon Geist. — Read on: Artist Blog, Livedates: — Instruments used: MR-808 – […]

  8. […] height=”166″ iframe=”true” /] (Drums made with the mechanic Robot MR-808, bass sound partly from a relais bass) The Arduinoboy has 4 monophonic and one polyphonic voices […]

  9. […] The drum robot installation MR-808 is a mechanical replica of the infamous 1980s drum machine TR-808. You can read more about here […]

  10. […] in Nantes, France. Together with @barfton I presented an interactive version of the drum robot MR-808, so that the audience is able to control the drum robot by themselves. And we really learned a lot: […]

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