Apr 17, 2014
A LEGO Robot That Plays House Music

Childhood nostalgia and robots meet electronic music in Alex Allmont’s LEGO-built, automated “performer” of ambient acid beats.

The machine cranks out downtempo house and techno using a single motor to manipulate LEGO-built gears and levers that cue sequencers, turn knobs, and fire off drum patterns with moderate variation using an analog random number generator.

The melodies are based on a sequencer that emulates a classic acid house synthesizer, the Roland TB-303. The percussion is made using an old prototype of Allmont’s, named Clunky Drummer, which mimics another classic Roland, the TR-808 drum machine.

Allmont achieves sonic variation by using an analog random number generator built with LEGO basketballs (seen above) dropped through a peg system, sort of like a very old pinball machine, prompting Play House to “compose” one of multiple possible patterns based on the result.

The piece was made possible by Oxford Contemporary Music to be featured in their annual AudioGraft experimental music and sound art festival, a collaboration with the Sound Art Research Unit at Brookes University.

Allmont covers the entire production timeline and technical details of Play House in a post on Makezine, if this has only served to whet your appetite.

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