Watch this sonic inventor jam with a band of homemade robots

Moritz Simon Geist sees his “Sonic Robots” not simply as an end in themselves, but a way to make new music and change how listeners engage with it.

The DIY robotics engineer and electronic music producer Moritz Simon Geist builds a variety of sound-generating “music robots” to produce what he sees as a more visual and organic form of techno. Today, Geist premiered the music video for “Entropy,” which showcases his robots creating a variety of rhythms, tonalities, and atmospheres. The song appears on his upcoming EP, The Mechanical Turn, which he produced alongside iconic German electronic duo Mouse On Mars.

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Using a MIDI keyboard to control his machines, Geist triggers his robots in sequential fashion, like a conductor of a techno orchestra—one where human players are replaced by homemade automata. The hypnotic performance is “played live, recorded, and then mixed at the studio, like a normal band playing live at the studio,” he writes in an email.

Geist’s robots—from his pneumatic hi hat to robotic drone guitar—generate sounds in different ways, but they generally follow the same MIDI control process. For one of his robots, Geist reimagines the kalimba, which is played by plucking tines to create notes and chords, using five electromagnetic motors and metal tines that the robots pluck to create notes. As he explains in a behind-the-scenes video, piezo contact microphones capture the sounds and route them to a mixer for compressing and equalization before outputting it all to speakers.

“Robots are kind of a futuristic way to think about music and reflect on it, but also comment on it,” he told Fast Company last month. “As a human, I want to see things in multiple ways. I want to have a visual complement, a sound complement, and smell—I want everything. I am a multisensory being, and I want art and music to be multisensory. With robots and objects I’m getting a little closer to this idea.”

The goal is to record the next album live, all at once. “I’m a bit dogmatic—there shouldn’t be too much editing,” he said. “The idea is that you can really use this in the real world and not have too much influence from digital processing.”

Read moreTo upgrade techno, this engineer plays his own robots

About the author

DJ Pangburn is a writer and editor with bylines at Vice, Motherboard, Creators, Dazed & Confused and The Quietus. He's also a pataphysician, psychogeographer and filmmaker.

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