Sound of music... from a machine

STARS in their Eyes could be the title for a unique concert next week when musical machines are unleashed to an audience eager to hear improvisation in the widest possible meaning of the word.

One of those due to perform at the Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork is Han-earl Park’s robot-like io 0.0.1 beta++, a machine made from plumbing parts, kitchenware, missile switches, speakers and a microphone stand.

The tutor at University College Cork’s school of music has been developing the machine, which he prefers to call an automaton rather than a robot, since he received an Arts Council grant in 2007. The music it plays is generated from software Han-earl has developed and he likens its sound to something between a saxophone and an oboe.

Although it doesn’t necessarily play in key with accompaniment and can be a bit unpredictable, he rejects suggestions it does not sound melodic.

“It all depends on your definition of melody. A little bit like humans, the machine has good and bad days, but hopefully it will be a good day when we perform,” Han-earl said.

The show will feature a combination of solos and accompaniments from Mr Park and saxopohonists Bruce Coates and Franziska Schroeder.

Another UCC music school lecturer, John Godfrey, will demonstrate his musical improvisation machine, the iWife (standing for I Will Improvise For Everyone). It does not have a robotic form like the io 0.0.1 beta++ but operates on a similar technology.

The event is intended to demonstrate alternative modes of interfacing music and technology.

Mel Mercier, head of UCC’s music school, suggested a few more of the machines might be produced.

“Maybe we could create a new student category, instead of EU or non-EU, and class them as aliens. That way, we could charge inter-planetary fees, which I’m sure the university bosses would like,” Mr Mercier said.

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