Italian Composer Writes Music for Robotic Orchestra

Koolmorf Widesen is recording an album with the fifty piece Logos robotic orchestra.

Leonardo Barbadoro records music under the name Koolmorf Widesen, and the performers in his orchestra are robots. He says that electronic instruments and computer approximations have been trying to replicate music for a hundred years, but the fact that the attempts are using digital sounds instead of the actual instruments takes something away from the finished product. Working with Godfried-Willem Raes and the Logos Foundation in Ghent Belgium, Leonardo is running a crowdfunding campaign for his new album.

Barbadoro says that using robots to play the music preserves the fidelity of the sound and robotic precision can sometimes bring out different possibilities for a performance. Using all of the robots in the same space also allows for the same acoustic impact, sometimes lost when a performer uses electronic estimations.

The Logos collection of robotic instruments contains organs, percussion, strings, wind instruments and a broad ‘other’ category. Each automaton’s page contains a detailed discussion of the base instrument, the control system, and the musical theory and inputs required to build certain notes. My favorite robotic instruments are the ones that can take on a humanoid shape with a little imagination, like the mobile flugelhorn called Bug. Bug’s page contains technical specs and a design and build diary. It’s incredible to see the amount of hours and materials that went into Bug’s construction, with considerations all the way down to the crate that will store and transport Bug, and a to-do list with fixes and upgrades that Godfried-Willem hopes to someday perform.

Watching the Kickstarter video and the longer video at the Logos page is fascinating not just for the robotics involved, but also to see the different places that robots can activate instruments to produce proper sounds. Raes is also a great character to read about, with a long list of publications over his fifty years with robotics and music, and his extensive work in gesture recognition as a method to control instruments. The discussion of simulated music vs physically played notes reminds me of the constant work we do to make sure that simulated results correlate with actual test results in the field. The Kickstarter campaign ends on July 18 and Barbadoro hopes that his album will be released in February 2019.