Ever wondered what it would be like to watch an instrument play itself? Sure, everyone is familiar with the player piano, but what about other instruments? Just ask Jason Long. His vision of a robotic musical ensemble started with a drum set and bass (see the video), but with his presentation at NIME came the opportunity for a new instrument – the “Robotic Taishogoto”. In the vein of a NIME artist who created a display of moving violins, Jason explored how traditional instruments fit into the concept of NIME – in his case, a traditional Japanese instrument.
Having had the chance to spend some time with Jason at the conference and discuss his work, I found him to be quite the inventor. A musician at heart with an engineer’s curiosity, he certainly embodied the spirit behind NIME – that is, one which unites presenters and inventors from all kinds of backgrounds in a common love of all things musical and, perhaps, some things whimsical.
What’s more, he didn’t just haphazardly throw levers and motors at his robotic Taishogoto – rather, he focused on the physics and mechanics behind how a human would play it. After all, “the human element” is arguably the most critical in any musical performance – especially a robotic one – because of the connection it creates between the music and the listener.
Read more about Jason’s Robotic Taishogoto in his paper, including his plans for improved sound. And be sure to keep an eye out for his future work with other instruments.