Robots find their rhythm

Jerusalem's Ma'abada is holding a week-long program with computers and robots that actually play music.

megabeat 88.298 (photo credit: )
megabeat 88.298
(photo credit: )
Jerusalem's Ma'abada is holding a week-long eye- and ear-opening program of events based on computers and robots which actually play music. The aptly named Mega Beat extravaganza will offer people of all ages the chance to see and hear how far technology has come in being able to replicate the sounds and textures human musicians make. The star of the event will undoubtedly be a robot that goes by the name of Haley, built by Dr. Gil Weinberg, an Israeli scientist who teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, USA. His two-armed percussive creation is capable of "listening" to music, analyzing it and playing it a range of scales and tempos along with human players. While understandably enthused about his invention Weinberg allays any fears that the high-tech golem is about to supplant its creator and human musicians. "We are a long long way from that," says Weinberg who will be on hand during the Mega Beat week to present workshops to university and school students and explain the mysteries of his creation. "The Japanese have, in fact, put together a robot that can play the flute, with different lip positions and fingering," continues Weinberg. "But we still can't achieve human suppleness and flexibility." Visitors to Mega Beat will be able to take a close look at a range of high-tech instruments made from unconventional materials and there will a concert held each evening with audience participation. The whole shebang closes on March 25 with a concert of several works, including Glimmer by American music technology specialist Jason Freeman. Contrary to the idea of robots and computers taking over our musical endeavor it is the audience that will control and embellish the performance of Glimmer. Each person who enters the auditorium will be given a sticklight which, when moved, activates light sensors on cameras which then relay the information to a computer that puts out the music. "The audience for Glimmer will, in fact, be the conductor of the work," Weinberg explains. "It allows people who don't know anything about composition to actually create music." You can check your technologically-assisted music making skills at the Ma'abada all next week. One wonders whether Mozart will be rolling in his grave or doing a subterranean jig. For more information call the Ma'abada on (02) 629-2001.