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).
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
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