"A composer's dream : a fail-safe orchestra at one's fingertips obeying ever so gently to his every command : a timeless sounding orchestra, both futuristic and slightly dada, conjuring ancient traditions in its surprisingly sensuous music. This is, in a nutshell what Pierre Bastien's
"Mecanium" is all about" -Michel F. Côté.
Watch him in action Live at Faster than Sound
or enjoy a track from his album Mecanoid - Avid Diva.
Michel continues: "A daydream of sorts that he has successfully pursued since 1976. The musicians of his orchestra are machines. And the idea behind it is simple, efficient and poetic : to have traditional instruments (Chinese lute, Morrocan bendir, Javanese saron, koto, violin, sanza, etc.) played by a mechanical instrument made of meccano pieces and recycled turntable motors. These hybrid and self-playing sound sculptures perform a series of short pieces, charming and hypnotic. "
His mechanical installations employ a diversity of objects:
"Fans and tracing paper, drums, blowers, thumb piano and vocal. In collaboration with Robert Wyatt.
" or "This ensemble is based on the same principle as Mecanium. But instead of music instruments, the robots make daily life objects sounding - a teapot, a comb, some toothbrushes, a saw, an ashtray, some scissors, a letter-scale and a hammer. "
Bastien noted in an interview
with The Wire,
"I like to combine a cello or a viola with a godje from Niger and a Javanese rabab: enthuses French musician and instrument builder Pierre Bastien. "It's like in a city, where all the different cultures blend with one another: you get a richer palette of sounds." He also "like[s] the idea of plucking objects from their original context and putting them to new uses," he says, "it's the same principle as sampling."
is nothing new. From traditional orchestrions
to Pat Metheny's take on them
or even a banjo version
, the concept has been around for quite a while. We've even managed to make mechanical birdsong. (previously.)
Far from merely being a novelty, many serious composers and musicians have experimented with mechanical music. See György Ligeti's Hungarian Rock
. Conlon Nancarrow
also composed many works for player piano. (previously.)
It is, however, nice to see a living musician make eminently listenable mechanical music
that doesn't take itself too seriously.