The human ear selects the most relevant sounds in a space, then attempts to make sense out of the noise. Media artist ::vtol::, a.k.a., Dimitry Morozov, does something similar with a robot that records sound from its surrounding space. Selecting sounds on the basis of volume, the robot collages samples together into a composition that plays itself in the order the sounds were recorded. Morozov explains that the robot, named collector, eliminates instances of silence while also compressing the time between the sampled sounds.
“The voices, music, city sounds and other random noise are shaped into complex algorithmic compositions, which can be played after it has collected enough of them,” says Morozov. “It is a kind of reality re-mixer—by simply removing the silence and pauses between loud sounds and words, it creates the sense of very rhythmical and organised aural experience, which sounds very musical to me.”
Morozov’s collector is a machine on a tripod equipped with a rotating stereo microphone. This microphone, driven by an Arduino Uno and a servo motor, turns toward the space’s loudest sounds and begins recording. In order to trigger playback, the robot has to collect 100 samples. Once gathered, it plays the remixed compositions on a loop through speakers for one minute. After one minute elapses, the robot erases the composition and begins a new search for sounds to sample.
Collector isn’t exactly musical, though there are some rather rhythmic moments as seen in ::vtol::’s video (below). What the robot does is more in the realm of the electroacoustic compositions typical of musique concrète composers. So, noisy and sonically interesting, but music that isn’t harmonically or melodically pleasing.
::vtol::’s collector is currently on at Center MARS in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Click here to see more of ::vtol::’s work.