Machines Play Instruments to Create ‘Robot Orchestra’

    25 March, 2018

    Two musicians from Germany are using robotic equipment to add sounds to their performances.

    The two-man band performs with a robot that can play several musical instruments at the same time. The robot can sound like a guitar, keyboard, drum or other percussion instrument.

    When performing, members of the band provide many of the sounds, but others are controlled by a computer. Once connected to wires and set up, instruments such as a xylophone, drum or cymbal can play on their own.

    Another instrument was created from a long, self-turning wooden stick that sits on top of a microphone stand. The stick contains long strings. They are tied on each end. The strings are connected to a small wooden ball. As the stick turns, the ball hits a block on the floor, creating a sound.

    The two-man band, called Joasihno, recently performed at the South by Southwest Conference and Music Festival in Austin, Texas. They describe their electronic sound as "psychedelic machine" music.

    "Actually, we call it a psychedelic robot orchestra," said Cico Beck, one of the creators of the group. "It's a combination of acoustic instruments, but also very trashy robot instruments," he added.

    The computer can react to changes to voltage signals, so the robots are controlled by an electrical current, Beck explained.

    Cico Beck and Nico Siereg were drummers in an indie rock band prior to this experimental band called Joasihno, a robot band.
    Cico Beck and Nico Siereg were drummers in an indie rock band prior to this experimental band called Joasihno, a robot band.

    The group's other member, Nico Siereg, says playing in an experimental band with robots is not the same as playing in a traditional one. "It's a little bit different because you also have in mind that there are machines playing around you, so there's no reaction from them," he said.

    But Siereg said that in some ways, the robots actually help him improve his performance. Since the self-playing instruments are programmed, he sometimes feels freer to center on what he is playing, and at times to even improvise.

    The musician says he can imagine similar technology having a greater influence on many different kinds of music in the future. "Technology is like a very important tool that even, very often, it's also a very important part of inspiration," he said. But he also expressed hope that "real music won't die."

    In addition to performing recently in Texas, Joashihno has been busy putting on shows in Europe and in Canada. The band hopes its high-tech music "experiment" will keep reaching new people and pleasing the ears of its fans.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Elizabeth Lee reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    percussion n. musical instruments that you play by hitting or shaking

    string n. a thin rope used for tying things

    psychedelic adj. suggesting the effects of psychedelic drugs by having bright colors or creating strange sounds.

    orchestra n. large group of musicians who play different instruments together

    acoustic adj. musical instrument not having its sound changed by electrical devices

    trashyadj. very low in quality

    voltage n. the force of a current that is measured in volts

    improvise v. to speak or perform without preparation

    inspiration n. make someone feel that they want to do something and can do it