Thursday 22 October 2009

News: Cybraphon the emotional robot band nominated for BAFTA

I missed this news story the first time around so figured I would give this update the time it deserves.

The blog-reading emotional steam-punk robot band has been nominated for a Scottish BAFTA.

Cybraphon is the creation of the seemingly infinitely innovative glitch-folk nuts-cum-art collective FOUND. Ziggy, the band’s lead singer, calls it “an autonomous, emotional robot band”. Tommy, also from the collective, who presumably knows fewer big words, calls it “a musical cupboard with a personality that’s attached to the Internet”. Cybraphon is a gorgeous one-robot-band built with a combination of electronic components, atypical acoustic or obsolete instruments, some lights and various knick-knacks, all housed in an antique wardrobe. It can be programmed to play certain tunes, controlled via an attached MacBook, or just left to its own devices.

Cybraphon’s mood is shown on a dial on the top shelf, and ranges from desolation through gloom, contentment, and jubilation, right up to delirium. It plays one of many tunes programmed into it by FOUND when the infra-red motion detectors see it has an audience. The tune it plays depends on its mood.

The coup de grĂ¢ce is how it determines its mood. Cybraphon actually goes on the Internet, via the attached Mac, and looks up sites like Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Wordpress, even Flickr to see if people are talking about it online. If they are saying nice things, if it's getting lots of hits, or lots of people are adding it as a friend, Cybraphon gets happier. If they are saying nasty things, or aren’t talking at all, Cybraphon gets sad.

Cybraphon spent the Edinburgh Festival 2009 as an installation at the InSpace Gallery but has since been switched off. What makes it “art” is that it’s a comment on the moody, whiny indie bands and pop stars that are obsessed with their following, not their music, and are fuelled by ego rather than passion.

I can only imagine how excited Cybraphon will be when it is switched back on to discover it has been nominated for the ‘British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ Interactive award. It’s up against ‘The Lost Book’ and the British Music Experience museum at The O2 arena. Perhaps tough competition, but Cybraphon is just about the coolest concept I’ve come across in a long time.

Download its first EP from the Cybraphon website.
Myke Hall

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