Weird Music Gadget Week Continues! Engadget and the New York Times are chatting about the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots' GuitarBot,
so I thought I'd add my take. GuitarBot is perhaps best described in
sound as an automated, electrified shamisen; it has a very Japanese
sound and shudders and shakes fabulously as it plays. Half guitar, half
robot, half psuedo-Japanese instrument — three halves, what's not to
love? GuitarBot is MIDI-controlled, so composers who have written for
it (like my friend Joshua Fried) have tended to create a MIDI sequence or Max patch to perform.
How does something like this work? How can you build your own robots to
play along with your computer? Your best resource is the Physical Computing
site, which has since become a great book, as well. GuitarBot grew
organically out of the kind of robotic controls described there: think
pulleys and solenoids. LEMUR has a number of other musical robots beyond GuitarBot (though GuitarBot
is the perennial favorite); check out their site, as well. (Not to be confused with Lemur, the touchscreen controller — what is it with lemurs, anyway?) Lots of
fascinating discussions about making-of, less of those boring "but what
does this mean for the future of the human race" questions.