GamelaTron: The Robot Gamelan Orchestra

This is, I have to admit, pretty cool [hat tip to Marginal Revolution]. Here's more on the actual workings of the thing, complete with audio and video streaming.

What Zemi17 and LEMUR (the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots) have achieved is a great piece of installation art and I like the actual music a great deal. As longtime fan of Balinese gamelan (and a lot of the Western art music is has inspired), however, I find Gamelatron, well... a bit too clean. Unlike, say, Conlon Nancarrow's works for player piano, Gamelatron doesn't really seem to exploit the fact that it is a machine performance. Instead, its aesthetic is more like that of a traditional mechanical music box: A smooth, pretty emulation of traditional performance.

Gamelan played by human beings, by contrast, is first and foremost a collective, communal art form: A 'warts and all' aesthetic that suppresses egoistic virtuosity. So, I suppose, what's missing from Gamelatron is precisely what I most value about gamelan. What a Luddite thing to say...

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