In new Nigel Stanford music video, real-world robots revolt

Musician Nigel Stanford doesn’t just play alongside his bandmates for his new album “Automatica.” He programmed them.

Stanford spent a month in his garage teaching mechanical arms to work piano keys, wield guitar picks and drumsticks and press percussion foot pedals. He taught them well. The bots are so confident, that by the end of the new video for the album’s title song, they rebel against their human collaborator, tossing and smashing their instruments and firing lasers to bring down the warehouse where they’re rocking the electronica. 

Pete Townshend would be proud. 


GIF by Leslie Katz/CNET

Stanford, a lifelong musician born and raised in New Zealand, has long been fascinated by the intersection of music and science. The robots in the video come from Kuka Robotics, a Germany-based manufacturer of industrial robotic systems. But he insisted on doing all the engineering himself.

“I think it’s important to come at the scientific aspects from the perspective of a musician,” says Stanford, whose music has been used by NASA and the European Space Agency.

The mad-scientist musician gained a following after a video featuring a song from his 2014 album “Solar Echoes” went viral. That futuristic electro-rock video, “Cymatics,” has been viewed more than 13.5 million times on YouTube and many millions more on Facebook. 

The new album from Sony Music Masterworks features 13 songs and can be downloaded for $9.95 (roughly £7, AU$12.50) from Stanford’s site, or on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music and Google Play. 

Flesh and blood musicians might be pondering a revolt of their own right about now. In a world where machines play rock, star in operas and conduct famous tenors, Nigel’s new video, titled “Automatica 4k: Robots vs. Music” suggests the head-banging robots might just win.   

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