Ping Balls + Robot + You = Music : The Bryant Park Project Video: Making music with ping-pong balls, the Internet and you.
NPR logo Ping Balls + Robot + You = Music

Ping Balls + Robot + You = Music

Created by MIT alums Dan Paluska and Jeff Lieberman, Absolut Quartet is a "large-scale electromechanical sculpture," which takes simple pieces of user-created music over the Internet and turns them into complex melodies. The machine itself is actually a combination of three very analog instruments — a marimba played by flying rubber balls, a rubber and glass apparatus that simulates the "finger on the wine glass" trick, and a "drum kit" of percussive instruments played by robotic arms.

The online user first provides a melody theme, which plays over a speaker near the machine. The machine interprets the melody and then comes up with its own version, which it starts playing. It also matches the user-generated melody with a composition from its algorithmic music library. As the machine plays, the user can interact and inspire the machine to play in different ways. The result is a complex, robotically generated song, co-produced by man and machine — and performed live by the Quartet. (You can try it on Absolut Machines.)

Watch Alison and Rachel speak with the creators and play with the Quartet: