Last winter my duo (the EAR Duo) commissioned a set of robotic musical instruments from EMMI (Expressive Machines Musical Instruments) that we could perform with and take on tour. In addition to all of the musical possibilities we were interested in, we also wanted the flexibility and portability to travel with the robots, therefore keeping them within airline regulations was a key component. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, we were able to fund the creation of these bots and begin performances across the North East United States and Europe.
Our residency at STEIM occurred just before the European portion of the tour. Our residency gave us the time to work out all of the bugs before going into performance mode as well as providing a space to rehearse with the robots. I should also mention that the EAR Duo at that time was located in Amsterdam while EMMI was based in the U.S., so we didn’t know the robots very well prior to our residency. As with any musical collaboration, we (the EAR Duo) needed time to get to know the robots and become comfortable playing and improvising together. STEIM provided the perfect meeting place for this.
Our robot friends together are called MARIE and they consist of AMI (Automated Monochord Instrument) and CARI (Cylindrical Aerophone Robotic Instrument). AMI is a string robot while CARI is a wind robot that sounds similar to a clarinet. Our premiere tour consisted of composed music by members of EMMI (Steve Kemper, Troy Rogers and Scott Barton), improvisations, and a classic EAR Duo tune “Dorian Reeds” by Terry Riley. All of the music utilizes AMI and CARI as well as acoustic saxophone and bassoon. We had essentially created a new ensemble and none of us new exactly what to expect. Thanks to our residency at STEIM, we were able to rehearse with the robots and really get to know their way of playing. It successfully prepared us for the concerts and gave us a better understanding of our newly created ensemble.
The day after our STEIM residency we traveled to Ghent, Belgium to put these new robots to the test. Here is a link to some footage from the concert: EAR Duo + MARIE at the Logos Foundation