Guide to Computing for Expressive Music Performance

pp 235-255


Anthropomorphic Musical Robots Designed to Produce Physically Embodied Expressive Performances of Music

  • Jorge SolisAffiliated withDepartment of Physics & Electrical Engineering, Karlstad UniversityResearch Institute for Advanced Science and Engineering, Waseda University Email author 
  • , Atsuo TakanishiAffiliated withDepartment of Modern Mechanical Engineering & Humanoid Robotics Institute, Waseda University

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The recent technological advances in robot technology, musical information retrieval, artificial intelligence, and so forth, may enable anthropomorphic robots to roughly emulate the physical dynamics and motor dexterity of humans while playing musical instruments. In particular, research on musical robots provides opportunity to study several aspects outside of robotics, including understanding human motor control from an engineering point of view, understanding how humans generate expressive music performances, and finding new methods for interactive musical expression. Research into computer systems for expressive music performance has been more frequent during the recent decades; such systems are usually being designed to convert a musical score into an expressive musical performance typically including time, sound, and timbre deviations from a deadpan realization of the score and then reproducing this for a MIDI-enabled instrument. However, the lack of a physical response (embodiment) limits the unique experience of the live performance found in human performances. New research paradigms can be conceived from research on musical robots which focuses on the production of a live performance by mechanical means. However, there are still several technical issues to be solved – enabling musical robots to analyze and synthesize musical sounds as musicians do, to understand and reason about music, and to adapt behaviors accordingly. In this chapter, an overview on the current research trends on wind-instrument-playing musical robots will be given by detailing some examples. In particular, the development of an anthropomorphic flutist robot will be presented by describing its mechanical design, the implementation of intelligent control strategies, and the analysis of a number of musical parameters which enable the robot to play an instrument with expressiveness.