Squarepusher to release Music for Robots

Electronic artist Squarepusher is to release a new EP featuring compositions played by a band of robots.

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 17 Feb 2014
  • min read
Electronic artist Squarepusher is to release a new EP featuring compositions played by a band of robots.

According to his record label Warp, the experimental music maker worked with Z-Machines, a robotic group created by Japanese scientists.

Led by musical producer, Kenjiro Matsuo, the roboticists developed a guitarist with 78 fingers and a drummer with 22 arms to help Squarepusher perform his compositions.

Commenting, Squarepusher, also known as Tom Jenkinson, said: ‘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.’

He added: '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.'

Squarepusher was one of a number of musicians invited to write music for the project.

Music for Robots will be released 7 April (8 in North America) digitally, on CD and vinyl. Watch a video of the robots performing, directed by award winning director Daito Manabe, below.