Drumming on the Ceiling

AE Interviews Eric Singer
June 17, 2005

LEMUR (League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots) has emerged as an interesting group of technology-inclined artists, inventing instruments that are typically controlled from afar. Drumming on the Ceiling, presented by 3-Legged Dog, is an example. We asked Eric Singer, LEMUR's founder and leading spirit, to talk about robots.

AE What is a robot?

ES That's a subjective question. For us, "robot" is a convenient tag to identify an aspect of our work, but it has been a double-edged sword. Many people think of your typical sci-fi humanoid cyborg, which our machines are definitely not. Our robots are mechanical musical instruments - we think of them as robots that are instruments, as opposed to robots that play instruments.

Two of the instruments in Drumming on the Ceiling

AE How do you explain your interest in robots?

ES My interest in creating robotic musical instruments is to provide a new form of musical expression. While our instruments can play in ways that humans can't, and conversely, humans can play in ways that robots can't, the point to me is that their playing styles are fundamentally different. This opens up a new world of musical possibilities for composers, instrumentalists and installation artists that use the instruments.

AE What is LEMUR and how did it happen?

ES LEMUR - League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots - is a group of artists and technologists dedicated to creating robotic musical instruments. I formed the group in 2000 as a natural extension of my previous work. In the past, I had done a lot of work creating new types of electronic musical instruments and controllers. These are instruments played by humans, which send data into a computer to create synthesized music. I thought it would be interesting to reverse the equation - i.e. send data out of a computer to play physical instruments. This led to the idea of robotic musical instruments.

AE Where do you see the future of robots going?

ES There is a large and growing interest in the use of robotics in art these days. As the technology becomes cheaper, more available and easier to use, more and more artists are making forays into the field. Personally, I'm doing my part to further this by lecturing, giving workshops and creating technology (such as my MidiTron interface) that make it easier for people to create robotic art.

© 2005