Squarepusher is doing a modern take on Brian Eno's Music For Airports with a new EP called Music For Robots. It could also be called Music By Robots in a tongue-in-cheek way -- it was created in collaboration with a team of three robots led by a team of Japanese roboticists. The group is called Z-Machines, and they're led by Kenjiro Matsuo.
Matsuo approached Squarepusher last summer to collaborate on a project he was doing to pair Japanese composers with the robots to create music, and he also extended an invite to Squarepusher. As the press release states: "the opportunity to explore the compositional possibilities of a guitarist with 78 fingers and a drummer with 22 arms was a temptation impossible to ignore."
It worked out so well that Squarepusher talked to Matsuo about the idea of a whole EP. Music for Robots is the result. I guess this should be no surprise, in a time when Google is buying robotic companies, drones are on the commercial horizon with the likes of Amazon and operating systems are increasingly taking on the form of artificial intelligence with the likes of Siri. But is there a human element to tall of this?
Squarepusher was asking the same question on Music For Robots, saying "In this project the main question I’ve tried to answer is ‘can these robots play music that is emotionally engaging?"
He went to on to say the "part of the appeal of that music has to do with hearing a familiar instrument being 'played' in an unfamiliar fashion." So he set out to create that vibe to play out as an experiment on the EP.
“Each of the robotic devices involved in the performance of this music has its own specification which permits certain possibilities and excludes others - the robot guitar player for example can play much faster than a human ever could, but there is no amplitude control. In the same way that you do when you write music for a human performer, these attributes have to be borne in mind - and a particular range of musical possibilities corresponds to those attributes. Consequently, in this project familiar instruments are used in ways which till now have been impossible.”
Music For Robots has a release date of Apr. 8 on Warp Records. Check out the video below for the song "Sad Robot Goes Funny."