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 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
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.
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.
Photos: Jürgen Lösel, David Campesino