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Robotics Technology

Clarinet Wins Robotic Orchestra Competition 94

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the long-ways-from-virtuoso-still dept.
Sasha writes "The Australian designed robotic clarinet beat out Dutch and Finnish entries this year at the robotic orchestra competition. The researchers don't expect to replace human musicians, but are instead interested in what makes the difference between playing music well and playing music poorly. There is also a video available of the performance."
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Clarinet Wins Robotic Orchestra Competition

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  • by dave_the_dodo (974542) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:27PM (#23879365) Journal
    I, for one, welcome our new clarinet playing overlords.
    • Re:Has to be said (Score:5, Insightful)

      by negRo_slim (636783) <mils_oRgen@hotmail.com> on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:38PM (#23879515)
      I, for one, will continue to enjoy the imperfections introduced by humans when playing instruments. I find artificially generated music (I'm looking at you techno) to sound rather bland and boring. But then again different strokes fo different folks!
      • The runner-up (Score:5, Interesting)

        by janek78 (861508) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:42PM (#23879557) Homepage
        A video of the second place winning guitar picking robot [teamdare.mine.nu] from the Netherlands. Sounds good to me. :)
      • Re:Has to be said (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:46PM (#23879615)

        Aah, but what you failed to mention is that those are not imperfections at all but rather emphasis and meaning. Why should sustained notes not change pitch, what's wrong with a little unexpected (but not unwelcome) syncopation? Nothing. That's humanity creating music.
         
        On the other hand, having the ability to have an infinite sustained note or a perfect beat or pitch is invaluable in creating music, like techno, even if you intend on changing the beat and whatnot.

      • Re:Has to be said (Score:5, Interesting)

        by againjj (1132651) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:48PM (#23879641)
        Which actually is (part of) the point of John Cage's 4'33" [wikipedia.org]. Basically, music is more that what is written on the sheet, it is also everything else's impact on the performance of what is written.
        • by againjj (1132651)
          Troll? I was pointing out that the GP is correct in noting that non-score effects add something to music performance, and that the contributions of non-score effects have actually been recognized by Cage, a rather influential musician, in his most famous work. I do not understand how that is a "Troll" while the original statement is now modded "Insightful".
      • by maxume (22995)

        Do you dislike electric guitar?

        Where does the line between twiddling the knobs on an amplifier and twiddling the knobs on a synthesizer get drawn?

        • Re:Has to be said (Score:4, Insightful)

          by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Friday June 20, 2008 @05:11PM (#23879929)
          I think he was referring to drum machine type music. Stuff like FL Studio where you're tracking the song out and the entire thing is all perfectly timed using identical sounds. In other words - it's created by a person but essentially being played with machine-like precision.
          • by maxume (22995)

            Yeah, I got that, my point was more that the line between technology and musician is blurred all over the place. After all, anyone doing something more than singing is enhancing their body somehow or another, why judge doing it digitally differently than doing it with a hollow tube?

          • by fishbowl (7759)

            >Stuff like FL Studio

            I use FLStudio to do classical piano and flute.
            Don't blame the tools please.

      • Re:Has to be said (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pjt33 (739471) on Friday June 20, 2008 @05:45PM (#23880263)
        "Played by a robot" doesn't mean "robotic" in the sense of "the same every time". It would be perfectly possible to add e.g. normally distributed variation in hold time of a note. There could well be a psychology research grant waiting to be filed to investigate whether it's possible to generate imperfect music in such a way that even "experts" (broadsheet critics, for example) can't distinguish between the computer and a human playing the same piece.
        • We have this already - it's called a CD player. ;-)

          • by Locomorto (925016)

            I know! I had to buy a really expensive CD player to get rid of all that jitter. I guess those hundred dollar players are not so bad when your listening to techno. However I once tried to listen to Strauss of one and at first I thought I had forgotten to put green marker around the edge of the CD. Fortunately I realised that I just needed to buy a Cambridge Azur 840C (only $2300! What a bargain) and a Benchmark DAC1 (Only $1690! I almost fell out of my chair). Of course, I then realised I only had enough mo

      • by timeOday (582209)

        I, for one, will continue to enjoy the imperfections introduced by humans when playing instruments.
        No reason those can't be simulated as well.
      • by radarsat1 (786772)

        Different strokes [mcgill.ca], indeed.

      • by Petrushka (815171)

        the imperfections introduced by humans

        After listening to the playing in the video, I really think you've got that the wrong way round ...

      • by JMcEttrick (33410)

        The imperfections are not what makes music played by a human being better - it's the capacity for expression, which machines are not capable of. A computer can't express it's musical will to an audience, not having a will in the first place, just a certain type of technical ability.

      • by inamorty (1227366)
        I dare you not to find this [youtube.com] interesting. Certainly not a 'whistle to on the bus' type of tune but mesmerising none the less. Then again I should probably get off your lawn.
    • I, for one, welcome our robot-played overture [wikipedia.org].

    • by tubapro12 (896596)
      Reminds me of the robot that played flute, WF-4R [youtube.com], except WF-4R is anthropomorphic.
    • by Atario (673917)

      Meh. Call me when they've perfected the robotic skin flute player.

  • by bersl2 (689221) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:38PM (#23879501) Journal

    Actually, the answer is yes [cio.com.au].

  • Doomoo ari-datou.. Missu-ta Roh-baa-tou..

  • by camperdave (969942) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:38PM (#23879507) Journal
    Look on the bright side. They could have made a robotic bagpipe player.
  • Captured by robots has a whole band of robots [capturedbyrobots.com] that play their own instruments.
  • Can it play 92 cents below the lowest octave of E-Flat?

  • by Dhar (19056) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:45PM (#23879603) Homepage

    After the performance, the clarinet was overheard saying, "All your brass are belong to us."

    -g.

    • Heh, your post reminded me of this [silentcoder.co.za] and this [silentcoder.co.za] .

      Disclaimer: yes I am the person responsible for that crime against humanity but those strips were done a long time ago - they just fitted the occasion frighteningly well..
  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:56PM (#23879747) Journal

    Well, I prefer this one :-)

    http://vimeo.com/1109226 [vimeo.com]

  • by againjj (1132651) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:57PM (#23879763)
    Here is the contest website [artemisia-...iation.org] and a longer article [computerworld.com.au].
  • I played clarinet for a dozen years - it's not very fair in some ways, simply because the clarinet is one of the most basic instruments in an orchestra, where a musician has the least influence on the actual sound/tonal quality beyond a certain level. Even some percussion instruments give you more ability to influence the sound of a note.

    • by magarity (164372)

      Join a banjo orchestra with your clarinet and you'll be a god of instrumental flexibility.

      • by VoxMagis (1036530)

        Really? Now THAT I find interesting.

        Thanks, I appreciate learning that.

      • by julesh (229690)

        Join a banjo orchestra with your clarinet and you'll be a god of instrumental flexibility.

        This surprises me somewhat. I'll admit never playing a banjo, but I've played quite a few other stringed instruments, and almost all of them give you three different degrees of freedom you can freely adjust as a player: velocity at which you strike the string (affecting amplitude and intonation), position along the string you strike it at (which affects intonation) and precise pitch (in the case of a fretted instrumen

  • This blows.

  • by heroine (1220) on Friday June 20, 2008 @07:04PM (#23880931) Homepage

    Robotic pianos have been around for over 100 years & they've never sounded as good as a human. After all this time they finally moved on to other instruments.

    • by Qhartb (1311541)
      I disagree. I would be just as happy listening to a recording of a Bosendorfer computer grand piano playing playing itself as I would one of a pianist playing it. I don't think I could tell the difference, even though I have a good ear and play piano myself.
    • by iwein (561027)

      ...; they've never sounded as good as a human. After all this time they finally moved on to other instruments.
      And again not sounding as good as human, but they sure are fast. Fastest. Flight of the Bumblebee. Ever.
      (please reply with links to faster performances, I have some time to kill)
  • by MusicAcoustics (1311525) on Friday June 20, 2008 @08:19PM (#23881469)
    A colleague told me of this discussion and suggested that I give a brief explanation of the motivation for this project. I'm from the Music Acoustics Group at UNSW. We maintain a large web site http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/ [unsw.edu.au] for the benefit of musicians, students and interested others. It has more details on the robot. The introduction on our site is aimed at a good high school student, but if you go deep enough it leads to our technical research papers. - Most of the time, we study real musical instruments, real musicians, the voice and the ear. Some of this is sponsored by companies (instrument makers, a medical device company, a museum), but much of it is curiosity research. - For us, the robot project complements one of our areas in which we study real musicians and how they play. We want to know, in some detail, why a real musician plays better and makes a better sound than a beginner. (Curiosity research, but with an obvious application in music teaching and sometimes instrument design.) - The robot is a tool for testing our understanding of the clarinet-player system. The current version is very primitive: it was put together in a hurry for the competition. But in the next year or so we shall use it to understand a range of questions: * Why does a clarinet reed squeak? How can you stop it? * What are the important parameters in a good sound? * How important are tongue position, soft palate, glottis? What are the best combinations? * How important is lip damping, and how does it depend on the reed? * What are the important parameters in fine pitch control? * What are the important parameters in expressive performance? * What is necessary to convey warmth? * What is necessary to follow a conductor? - To some of these, of course, we already have answers from our previous research. But we want to have more confidence in those answers. - So for the Music Acoustics Lab, this robot is a very useful tool. It was also a good project for two undergraduate students (Paul and Jean) in physics: a project that required a range of experimental and analytical techniques. The other groups in the robot team have different motivations. - For Mechanical Engineering, this robot was an interesting challenge. It was a good undergraduate student project for Kim: a range of questions to answer and difficulties to overcome. - It was also an interesting challenge for Mark, a Computer Engineering student Mark. In fact all of the students involved were highly motivated, worked well, learned a lot -- and had a good time. For university staff, this alone would justify the project. - For NICTA (a national research centre in ICT), the contest was a formal challenge. A good way of displaying expertise and applications in embedded systems, and a good way of inspiring students. (John Judge is from NICTA). - The team details and some more discussion is at http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/clarinetrobot.html [unsw.edu.au] Music Acoustics.
    • A colleague told me of this discussion and suggested that I give a brief explanation of the motivation for this project. I'm from the Music Acoustics Group at UNSW. We maintain a large web site [unsw.edu.au] for the benefit of musicians, students and interested others. It has more details on the robot. The introduction on our site is aimed at a good high school student, but if you go deep enough it leads to our technical research papers.

      Most of the time, we study real musical instruments, real musicians, the voice and

  • but can it play Crysis?
  • my favorite.... the robotic drummer: http://www.graffagnino.net/wwwpeart/ [graffagnino.net] well... i guess I am a little biased :)
  • Since the present discussion includes issues about what is good/bad/possible/etc., this leads to the question of whether there is a way to *model* music - to shed light on issues like these, in a systematic way.

    Our OMSModel project has been a very successful way to model music - individual works, and individual performances. OMS doesn't look at notes, rather it focuses on how music stimulates or affects a listener. It provides detailed analysis; it can provide numeric ratings (the lowest/highest rankings we

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