Playing with machines

The guitarist with 78 fingers

Molly Wood May 5, 2014
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Playing with machines

The guitarist with 78 fingers

Molly Wood May 5, 2014
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, is known for pushing the limits of electronic music.

His latest EP goes beyond electronic sounds and into the territory of electronic musicians: robots that play instruments.

He first encountered the musical machinery last year when Japanese researchers introduced him to the Z-Machine robots: a 78-fingered guitarist, a percussionist utilizing 22 drums, and a lightning speed keyboardist. Jenkinson was immediately impressed by the robots’ capabilities.

He also discovered that in spite of their incredible abilities, they are not limitless. In fact, Jenkinson even had fun playing with pushing the guitar robot too far:

“There are elements in the recording where I’ve actually deliberately pushed it too far, because you can then start to get these very strange, random, idiosyncratic…barrage of noise that I find really fascinating and quite interesting.”

Ultimately, though, Jenkinson wanted to find out if robot musicians could make emotional music. While he is reluctant to say whether or not he succeeded, he’s fairly certain that the album went a long way in providing an answer:

“I find technology fascinating in it’s own right, but my criteria for releasing a piece of music is that it has something above and beyond that. It has an element which can’t be written down, it can’t be quantified.”

Find out more about “Music for Robots” here, or purchase the EP here.


Listen to a Spotify playlist built by Ben Johnson featuring artists from our Playing With Machines series, and others: 

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.