The last time we caught up with media artist Moritz Simon Geist was in 2012 when he revealed his extra large take on Roland's TR-808 drum machine, the wall-filling MR-808. Since then he's been working on his Sonic Robots project, again merging his passions for making music and robotics to create bots that play techno. Next month, four tracks will be released where the music is played entirely by these Geist-built robots.
Geist says his dedication to electronic music evolution comes from becoming bored with music synthesizers, modular synths, samplers and computers. His robotic techno setup comprises four main parts – electronics, mechanical actuators, acoustic components and some form of amplification.
MIDI is used to control the robot music makers. The MIDI source is fed through to a PCB packing ATMEGA and MOSFET and then on to the actuator, and maybe a light or two. And volume is controlled by mapping the MIDI velocity to "the length of the electric impulse for a motor or solenoid."
Rather than have a large and heavy rig to set up each time he wanted his robots to create music, like the pneumatics seen in impressive systems like Compressorhead, Geist opted for small motors, solenoids, servos and stepper motors.
Those actuators need to hit something that sounds good, and Geist has spent a lot of time researching just the right sounds for his setup – including various metals, glass, tuned strings and old computer hard drives. The robot karimba, for example, features spring steel tongues, piezo microphones, a 3D-printed holder and solenoids.
And finally, the amplification part of the equation sees contact microphones pick up the sounds from the robot players, routed via a High-Z piezo input to an amplifier.
He started recording the debut techno album almost 2 years ago, but the project has only recently been completed with production assistance from electronic musicians Mouse on Mars, and Geist has formed his own label for the release – SRR (Sonic Robots Record).
A 4-track EP entitled The Material Turn is due out on Oct 12 as a vinyl and digital release, which will be followed by a full-length album called Robotic Electronic Music on Nov 16 on vinyl, CD and digital.
You can see the fruits of Geist's labors in the video below or meet the man and machines on tour.
Source: Sonic Robots
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more