NotomotoN Unstrung

NotomotoN Unstrung
an improvisation
for robotic percussion, 
Radiodrum, and mandolins

(co-created with Andrew Schloss)

Duration: 12' 

Instrumentation:  Radiodrum-controlled robotic percussion ("NotomotoN", created by Ajay Kapur) and one player playing mandolin, mando-cello and mandolin-banjo

"NotomotoN Unstrung" blends improvisation, musical robotics, and live DSP, combining the NotomotoN, an autonomous 10-armed robotic instrument, with the Radio Drum, an instrument that tracks musical gestures in three dimensions, in duo with a mandolinist. The focus is to combine acoustic sound, both performed directly and remotely via robotic actuators, with electronic processing of that sound.

The NotomotoN (designed by Ajay Kapur) consists of a two-headed drum with ten remotely-controllable beaters. We chose to remove six of the beaters and mount them on frame drums of various sizes, separated in space.

This allows the percussionist to have 20-foot-long arms; the instruments no longer have to be within arm's reach, allowing a spatial dimension to emerge acoustically. The drums are then mic'ed and the sound processed via computer, under control of the Radio Drum.

Complementing this electronic/mechanical percussion ensemble is a mandolinist who also plays mando-cello and mandolin banjo, with the sound from these instruments processed along with the drums. The signal processing algorithms include one based on a four-channel reverberation topology, modified to be a sort of physical model of inter-connected pipes. Limiters were included at junction points so that the structure can be driven hard and with virtually no loss coefficients without causing distortion. The Radio Drum controls the various delay lengths, the degree of loss in the system, the degree of low pass filtering in the feedback path, and other parameters.

The mandolinist is in a situation with a certain amount of tension, as he is seemingly in competition with the robotic super-human abilities of the mechanical beaters. Yet, as with the other collaborative works we have done, we search for musical effects that seem uniquely suited to the peculiarities of the technology we are exploring.