The Late Movies: Robots in Music

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Composers are notorious for their antisocial streak, and musicians are notorious for their lazy streak"¦ so why not skip the turtlenecks, rehearsals, per diems, unions, living out of a van, all the drug problems -- and let the Toasters deal with it? Here are ten videos that just might answer the question.

League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots (LEMUR), founded by Eric Singer, have built a four-necked self-playing instrument called Guitar Bot. In this video, it performs The EmergencyBot TV Theme.

Just when you thought Jazz was safe from the robot invasion, guitarist Pat Metheny has built an entire orchestra called The Orchestrion.

In 2009, Dr. Zoltan Øbelisk recorded the first-ever man vs. machine drum battle. In this video, his Drumkit From Hell programming duels against drum virtuoso, Marco Minnemann.

In the late '80s, Frank Zappa (the man who asked, "Does humor belong in music?") outsmarted us all, quit playing with humans altogether, and retreated to his basement with a half-million-dollar contraption called The Synclavier. In this interview, he explains why.

Captured! By Robots is a band from San Francisco, led by a human inventor named JBOT, who was"¦ well, the name says it all. Here, they perform Don't Stop Believin' by Journey.

And who says robots can't surf? Look out, Dick Dale"¦

The Mighty Wurlitzer is a theater organ originally designed to accompany silent movies. The multiple keyboards trigger real percussion, woodwinds, brass"¦ an entire self-contained orchestra. But here's the best part"¦ it can also be programmed via standard midi. Don't tell Danny Elfman.

Toyota has taught their own robots to play violin"¦

And on occasion, a mean baritone horn solo.

Animusic, a company founded by Wayne Lytle, doesn't only make fake music, but fake robots to go along with it. In this video, a Yamaha Piano plays along with an animated band.

Don't let Lieutenant Commander Data fool you. At this rate, we know which superior beings will figure out how to whistle long before the 24th century. It can't be that hard, right?

Carl King lives in Los Angeles and has never owned a car. His upcoming book on creative careers will be published by MWP in 2011. You can read about his latest existential crisis over at carlkingcreative.com.

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June 8, 2010 - 6:00pm
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