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MMD > Archives > September 2003 > 2003.09.05 > 05Prev  Next

Are Mechanical Music Instruments "Robots"?
By Ingmar Krause

While I am lacking the definitions of robots here, I would say that
they at least have "robotic features".

Let's get straight down to the difficulties:  Does a key hitting on
a piano string count as "robotic"?  I would say no, as this is simply
mechanical and (usually) triggered by someone hitting a key on the

Does a stick that hits a drum, driven by a bellows on a spring, count
as "robotic"?  I would say yes, as this is, of course, also mechanical,
but (usually) triggered by some valve which itself is triggered by some
other sort of input-mechanism.

It is not me hitting with a drumstick (isn't that something to eat?)
onto the drum.  I have been replaced by a "robotic mechanism".  _But,_
back to the piano-string: I'm not hitting on that myself directly
either -- the key mechanism does.

Therefore I would have to come to the conclusion that the barriers
between these different things are very fuzzy, with one thing turning
into the other without being able to separate it in between.

For a long time we compared mechanical music to computers, not
roboters, but also here I'm coming slowly to a point where I find it
hard to argue: There are many "computer-like features" in mechanical
musical instruments.  You have: input, a media, a reader, a translator,
an interface and of course, output!


- It doesn't run any program, it simply translates one medium into
the other.

- It doesn't compute anything as such.

Is a mechanical music instrument therefore a computer or not?
If you figured it out, sure please do let me know.  ;-)

greetings by(e) InK - Ingmar Krause
Victoria, BC, Canada

P.S.: I do want to mention the so-called "robot orchestras" such as
made, as for instance, by Decap, Belgium.  While basically nothing much
else then an orchestrion for dance halls, it features all kinds of
instruments (harmonium, different types of percussion, but also of
course accordions and saxophones), mysteriously playing by themselves.

Will they still be allowed to call themselves like that, after we're
done with our philosophic catering?

What about the mechanical marionettes that, in the odd case, also might
play some sort of instrument:  Are they robots?

And so on, and so on...

(Message sent Sat 6 Sep 2003, 02:28:58 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Are, Instruments, Mechanical, Music, Robots

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