Robot Band Covers [Marilyn Manson]

[James] built himself a robotic band from obsolete computer parts. The band needed something to play, and [Marilyn Manson]’s Beautiful People fit the bill. While it’s not the Rock-fire Explosion, having the [James]’ band cover [Marilyn Manson] is nearly as terrifying.

[James]’ original plan was to cover Mad World, but the stepper motors were drowning out the music for that song. While trying fix the cello problem the servos started acting up and reminded him of a certain song. While it’s not faithful to the original, we really like the arrangement on this version.

We saw the EOL band cover Rock Lobster when it made its rounds on the blogs earlier this year. The [Marilyn Manson] build is very similar to the previous one – we can see the same HP Scanjet 3C scanners and guitar and solenoid setup used from the previous project. Although [James] didn’t use the TI99/4a for the lead vocals this time, it’s still a very, very cool project.


25 thoughts on “Robot Band Covers [Marilyn Manson]

  1. I still prefer the string quartet arrangement performed I believe by String Vindaloo. shows singles available as from the Vitamin String Quartet, but the album I have which matches the album art from is suppose to be a various artist album with String Vindaloo as the performers. Whatever.

  2. So, if the members of the band (the robots) are simply playing the music they are programmed to play, then it’s not really any different from a musician who compiles music digitally: one creative person and a sophisticated instrument or set of instruments. But, this evokes the term band because we see different instruments. So, do the human who play the instruments add anything? Many musicians have already discovered that the humans playing the instruments are fairly replaceable. If the job of a human is simply to translate the score sheet into sound, then there is no difference between robot and human players except maybe the illusion that the person playing the bass guitar/drums/vocals is doing something impressive (being creative).

  3. @andrew

    If your view of music is that it is nothing more than sounds set to a particular timing scheme, then you would be correct.

    However, I don’t think a robot (at least not yet) can use intuitiveness to adjust the nuance of the instrument play. It does not have feeling, or soul, and can not communicate such to humans. So don’t cont on machines to replace real musicians any time soon.

  4. the only thing that keeps a robot from replacing humans is appearances. most of the nuances you talk of are things expected to be avoided. you are expected to play exactly the same every time. now when you play live people expect a show, run around shoot pyrotechnics etc, and there is a psychological effect of having a person as it allows you to invent meaning where none may be, to feel the music give you insight into the player but usually the player is just hitting notes on time.

    now if its TOO perfect people notice, its like in computer modeling when you make a perfect sphere or a perfect mirror, it looks fake. but if you add random dents or scratches or imperfections then it looks more real. so having the robot randomly miss a note or deliver it a fraction of a second late or early could give the impression of being real while not being real.

    also this mechanism addresses a problem which exists with most synth, that being the notes arent real, they are generated and usually generated EXACTLY the same EVERY time, it becomes noticeable. adding randomness to the notes can make them seem more real.

    i dont think robots will REPLACE humans in music, but they may have a place along side them. there may be a time when robotic bands hold concerts with pyrotechnics and laser light shows (not too long ago the synthetic diva miku put on a live concert in japan, of course japan is more robot friendly than western countries)

    personally i enjoyed the performance, i love seeing instruments play themselves. and the scanner head making noise that matched the song was pretty nice coincidence.

  5. I’ve never known of a robot to get really into the music and play a 10 minute improvised guitar solo in the middle of a song that normally doesn’t have one. I guess you could program a robot with a set of guitar solos and then have it play them randomly, but I doubt it would be the same. Some of my favorite music comes from instruments being played in ways they weren’t intended (playing guitars using the vibrations from the amp, semi-controlled feedback…). This kind of stuff requires a feedback loop with a brain that understands what it should sound like and can intuitively move the guitar around to modify the sounds. Robots are a very long way from accomplishing that, however, when it comes to Pop and other types of music that are engineered by a marketing group with a very specific and repeatable formula, robots are actually perfect for this.

  6. @DoktorJ
    Can a robotic instrument randomly play a solo where there normally isn’t one? No. Would you be able to tell if the random solo was actually pre-planned? No, because a solo was played when you weren’t expecting one.

    Can a hand full of stepper motors, servos, and actuators connected to a PC effectively play a guitar using the vibrations of an amp? Probably, given enough time for trial and error a relatively simple robot could be programmed to do such a thing. Could a robot built with a world tour budget play using an amp’s vibrations? Absolutely.

    99% of what happens on stage has been rehearsed and performed before. Even the random solos and zany tricks. In order to ensure a smooth set, a band is much like a sports team. Each member knows what the others will be doing at any given time. The other 1 percent is unintentional, and even that can be mimicked by robots.

    We don’t see robots on tour because (for most people) it’d be as entertaining as listening to a CD, or maybe watching a taped human performance, with 5,000 strangers. Also, nobody would spend $90 to see a few instruments play themselves.

  7. @DoktorJ: Playing or (even composing original) music by machines is far less uncommon than you might think. Programs like featured in the article do exist, and “Emily” is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Which is NOT to say that they are self-aware ore even aware of the effect / contents of music they play/compose – that would probably be strong AI territory and we’re (officially) nowhere near that. Even then, differences in how AI and us experience the world might make their works meaningless for us. Or quite the opposite, it might be the rare common point. We won’t know until we get there.

    The point really is that:
    – machines as of today are quite capable of simulating / replaying pretty much anything you can think of asking them to, including “spontaneity” if their programming provides for that – up to “improvising” their own original music.
    – machines would be quite capable of putting up a show matching (and likely far exceeding) anything humans are capable of, simply by virtue of being different than what we got used to and not being bound by limits of a human body. It would be a very different kind of show, certainly, but if providing entertainment is the point, they would do just fine (clue: I’m not talking about “animusic”-style static self-playing instruments here, and even those are already somewhat entertaining…)

  8. @Austin

    Your f***ed! Lol. You must listen to techno.

    Don’t get me wrong, the robot band is sweet, but

    “the only thing that keeps a robot from replacing humans is appearances”


  9. @andrew, that’s where REAL music comes into play. Real musicians don’t transcribe the sheet music literally, but add their own unique touch. That’s even more noticeable for improvisational music like jazz, where you don’t just play sheet music, but instead flow with the harmonic arrangement with the rest of the musicians.

    Now THAT’S a creative effort, not just playing the same song over and over again, and, IMHO that makes jazz (and improvisational harmonically-complex music, which I don’t know any besides jazz) the real creative effort of music. The next level.

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