Electro-mechanical drum machine


Take a look at the photograph above. Either that is an amazingly small lamp and a standard drum machine, or it is a normal lamp and a really, really amazing drum machine. I am pleased to confirm that it is the latter. This is the MR-808, one of the most amazing DIY musical instruments we have seen to date. Here is what it does:

The MR-808 was created by Dresden-based electronic musician and instrument hacker Moritz Simon Geist as a way of “highlighting the origin of the sounds” in his electronic music. The design is based on the iconic Roland TR-808 drum machine, and the sounds are based on original factory sounds from that pioneering tool of electronic music. However, in the room-sized MR-808 these sounds are recreated using real instruments, which Moritz plays using a combination of Ableton Live software, Arduino-powered servos and mechanical beaters (full details here).

TR-808The original Roland TR-808 drum machine

The general structure and playing method of the MR-808 reminds us of Felix’s machines, although where the latter appeared as organic and uncompromising works of visual art the MR-808 seems far more usable as a self-contained performance instrument. And that is exactly how Moritz uses it, performing on the machine with his band Science Fiction Children. Here the MR-808 features in their song ‘Rise of the Machines’:

“I see hacking – in this case music hacking – as a form of anti-passiveness, through which I think the individual can have an impact on his or her environment, status and state of mind. I like the idea of the individual forming its surrounding rather than consuming passively.” – Moritz Simon Geist

Moritz Simon Geist

Follow Moritz’s adventures at the man-machine frontier on his website, Sonic Robots

If you’d like to try playing something like this yourself, via the internet, check out the Google Chrome Web Lab

Similar Amazing Stuff

Check out the latest Amazing Videos...