The Warp artist's latest EP utilised a robotic "music-performing system."
Squarepusher has revealed details of his latest EP, which sees him use music-playing robots as instruments.
According to Warp Records, in 2013 "a team of young Japanese roboticists assembled with the challenge of creating a music-performing system that was beyond the capablities of even the most advanced musicians." Under the leadership of Kenjiro Matsuo, the project led to the creation of three robots called the Z-Machines. When Squarepusher, real name Tom Jenkinson, was invited to get involved, the lure of working with "a guitarist with 78 fingers and a drummer with 22 arms" was too hard to resist.
"In this project the main question I've tried to answer is ‘can these robots play music that is emotionally engaging?’" says Jenkinson. "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 robot was programmed with specifications that "permits certain possibilities and excludes others," Jenkinson adds. "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."
The result is a five-track EP called Music For Robots, which will be released in April on Jenkinson's long-time home, Warp. You can watch a brief video that further explains the project below:
01. Remote Amber
02. Sad Robot Goes Funny
03. World Three
05. You Endless
Warp Records will release Music For Robots on April 7th, 2014.