Squarepusher has long mixed electronic programming with organic instrumentation, and now he's giving us a unique new twist on this concept by collaborating with a band of robots for a new EP. Music for Robots, which is co-credited to the robotic group Z-Machines, is due out on April 8 through Warp.
The three Z-Machines robots were made by Japanese developers in the summer of 2013, and producer Kenjiro Matsuo approached Squarepusher to write music for the project. A press release explains, "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."
Squarepusher first wrote "Sad Robot Goes Funny" for the machines, and this went so well that it spawned a five-track EP. He explained the project with the following statement:
In this project the main question I've tried to answer is 'can these robots play music that is emotionally engaging?'
I have long admired the player piano works of Conlon Nancarrow and Gyorgy Ligeti. Part of the appeal of that music has to do with hearing a familiar instrument being 'played' in an unfamiliar fashion. For me there has always been something fascinating about the encounter of the unfamiliar with the familiar. I have long been an advocate of taking fresh approaches to existing instrumentation as much as I am an advocate of trying to develop new instruments, and being able to rethink the way in which, for example, an electric guitar can be used is very exciting.
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.
Scroll past the tracklist below to watch a video of the machines playing "Sad Robot Goes Funny." This was directed by Daito Manabe, and the latter half of the track emphasizes the inhuman possibilities of a robotic guitarist.
Music for Robots:
1. Remote Amber
2. Sad Robot Goes Funny
3. World Three
5. You Endless