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THE WHIRLYBOT, aka the ROBOCOPTER, is our newest robot, designed and built by Andy Cavatorta, Erik Nugent, and Bill Tremblay, in 2006. With seven tuned whirlies spinning at different speeds controlled by MIDI, the Whirlybot has a range of 2 octaves and sounds like a chorus of voices.

Watch video of the Whirlybot.


THE HELIPHON is a double-helix shaped robotic metallophone, built in 2004 by Leila Hasan, Alexandra Andriessen, and Giles Hall. It uses solenoids to hammer metal keys, and each key lights up as it plays.

Watch the Heliphon perform Evan Ziporyn's Belle Labs

THE BLOBOT is a dancing and pipe-playing robotic tetrahedron made of air cylinders, designed and built by Andy Cavatorta in 2005-06. View video of the Blobot under construction.


THE BEATBOT   is a robotic time-keeper, built in 2005 by Leila Hasan. It also uses solenoids to hit, in this case, a drummer's beatblock.


THE BOT(I)CELLO is a tree-shaped electric string robot that uses fans to pluck strings of changing lengths. It has three arms, each holding a electric guitar string on one end. The arms curl in and out like the petals of a flower, and as they move they change the pitch of the guitar string. It was designed by Christine Southworth, Yu-Cheng Hsu, and Jeff Lieberman, and built in 2005-06 by Ensemble Robot.

see the Bot(i)Cello in action!




Photo by Bill Southworth


For millennia humans have been manipulating objects to create patterns of sound. We now call this music, and our universal fascination with it over this time has prompted the appearance and continual growth of an incredibly large, diverse and intricate collection of methods for physically creating, arranging and layering sound waves in ways that please and provoke. Starting first with our own voices, we have evolved through hitting simple percussive instruments with a hand or stick to mastering complex acoustic systems, such as pianos, cellos or clarinets. This extended period of development has given these methods time to become both widespread and refined.

Over the past half-century and especially in the last two decades there has been an extensive and exciting shift in the focus of much experimental music research toward the use of electronics and computers. Unfortunately, in embracing the electronic medium, musicians have deserted the diversified collection of original acoustic sources and associated techniques that have emerged over millennia of human music making. These sources have been replaced by a universal sound wave constructor: the speaker. In this process of change, experimental electronic musicians have lost the rich natural textures and animated spectacle intrinsic in a live acoustic performance.

This project aims to help forge the missing link between the accumulated and time-tested body of techniques and structures of traditional acoustic musical mediums and the striking potential of current electronic musical control systems. Through intricate computer controlled sequencing and synchronization of robotic movements, “Ensemble Robot” will produce both simple and complex patterns of sound from a variety of traditionally inspired acoustic sources. These sound sources include strings, pipes, drums and wooden keys. In this way, the orchestra will create sounds that diverge from the usual clanking and banging people generally would connect with “robot music,” but importantly shall also steer clear of attempts to imitate humans. The resultant music will appear at various times to the audience both familiar and surprising, simultaneously mining the archive of substantiated instrument architectures and musical methods available to us today, as well as progressively pushing the boundaries beyond what has ever been explored or possible before.

Photo by Yu-Cheng Hsu

With "Ensemble Robot," we aspire not only to produce uniquely beautiful and intriguing music for a multitude of audiences in the New England region, but additionally to instruct and inspire would-be artists and engineers at schools, museums and other public forums throughout the Boston and greater New England area. We believe that "Ensemble Robot" will serve to bring together the often-independent artist and engineer communities and stimulate cross-discipline dialogue.





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Very special thanks to the LEF Foundation for their generosity and support!