Sweet smooth sound of freshly built machinery

By Eileen Gutierrez |Staff Writer|

The live music industry may be in the middle of a robotic invasion.

It is now possible to go to a music concert where robots, instead of humans, perform and rock out with the crowd, but robots do. This new form of entertainment is made possible through a combination of robotics, human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, and embedded computing.

The California Institute of the Arts has created a vision called KarmetiK, which may completely change how we look at music. The endeavor is a mix between watching a deejay spin on the tables on one side of the stage, while right below are musical instruments drumming along at their own pace.

KarmetiK, a combination of the words ‘karma’ and ‘kinetic’, is lead by Dr. Ajay Kapur and consists of a small group of scholars whose aim is to push the technology and musical barriers. Lab members include artists, local and global musicians and consulting clients.
According to karmetik.com, The Machine Orchestra, “…brings together custom-built robotic musical instruments and human performers with modified instruments, unique musical interfaces, and hemispherical speaker-pods,”

Members of the band bring their own background and musical infusion to the band. As they create the beats, the machine-robots glide along to the created beats.

Kapur, the KarmetiK director, is also the director of the Music Technology program at CalArts. He is also instructor of Sonic Arts at the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University in Wellington.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Kapur credits German-American musician Trimpin as being the “godfather” of the project. Trimpin and Eric Singer, director of the New York-based League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots are credited as his influences.

The lab is also in the process in creating programs for Windows, Apple’s iPhone, and the Google Android.

The KarmetiK website states the organization is constantly exploring options to incorporate live musicians into the act. The music length is predetermined, in order for it to be kept fresh and innovative.
On their Facebook page, KarmetiK states they are, “…inspired by the west coast supernatural, KarmetiK Underground blends flavours of east and west to create an ethnically charged tapestry of high energy live dance grooves.”
On January 27, 2010, KarmetiK and CalArts performed together at the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s REDCAT performance hall. For the first time, humans, robots and machines performed together in a symphony.
During Summer 2010, KarmetiK performed at many different venues around California and even to New Zealand.
The notions of an “artificial” or “robotic” symphony may be unusual or even unheard of, yet it flows. Personally, I can imagine this musical symphony occurring at a hot club in Santa Monica, with people not even realizing the difference.
Although no live performances are scheduled for this year, KarmetiK symphonies can be seen on Youtube. A DVD is available through Amazon titled, “KarmetiK Machine Orchestra” for $15.
Today may not be the day robots, machines and artificial intelligence take over, but the future is right around the corner.



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