Fundraiser for MARIE, open music robots for touring musicians

Future STEIM residents the EAR Duo and EMMI (Expressive Machines Musical Instruments) are currently running a grassroots fundraising campaign to construct the next generation of music robots, nicknamed MARIE.

MARIE are a set of virtuosic and expressive music robots that are portable, reliable, user-friendly, and fit within the dimension/weight limits for international checked baggage. In other words, these are music robots for touring musicians. The hope of EMMI and the EAR Duo is that the usability and portability of MARIE and similar music robots will finally push this powerful technology out of research labs and onto stages around the world. Within this aim, the entire project will be publicly documented online and the source code and hardware diagrams all provided as public knowledge for other enterprising musicians and technicians to construct similar robots.

Construction costs for MARIE are funded through donations made on kickstarter.com, a highly successful fundraising website for artists. Donations can be made by following this link. The fundraising deadline is January 3rd, so please spread the word to your friends and colleagues!

MARIE is conceived as what EMMI describes as a Modular Electro-Acoustic Robotic Instrument System (MEARIS). The system is a bit like the design approach of a modular synth. As with modules in a modular synth, individual instruments (modules) in a MEARIS can be patched together with audio patch cords. Combination of modules allows for the modification of input signals to create more interesting and complex sounds.

But while a modular synthesizer provides a good initial point of reference for conceptualizing the modular nature of these robots, the capabilities and features of each module of MARIE go well beyond those of a modular synth. Unlike modular synth modules, which typically serve a single function (an oscillator, a VCF, a VCA, etc.), each module of MARIE (that is, each robot) is it’s own automated, tunable acoustic sound source, as well as it’s own automated, tunable acoustic filter. Each module features acoustic or electric amplification (the air column of CARI, a clarinet-based robot, or the onboard amp and speaker of AMI, a string-playing robot) and thus is its own rich sound source. Each AMI has it’s own on-board, automated analog effects unit, and both AMI’s and CARI’s have automated input mixers and output matrices. Plus, every parameter is MIDI controllable, ensuring reliable recall of parameter presets. Patching an AMI into a CARI, or vice versa, allows for the acoustic realization of instrument hybridizations–such as ‘plucked’ and ‘bowed’ air columns or ‘blown’ strings–which have until now only been accessible in the virtual realm of computational physical modeling. And unlike synth modules, the functioning of each MEARIS module is made readable and visible, both physically (the various actuators) and virtually (with LED’s and video), for a much more engaging performance.

The EAR Duo and EMMI will be presenting their work at STEIM during a residency in 2011, from April 10th – 13th.

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