Robot Drums are SO cool! This driver’s reaction and video of the first created by Quentin Thomas-Oliver shows what kind of impact seeing one live can have. YouTube video of Ponytrap’s robot drums If you head to Stateside Theater tonight, you get to see this mesmerizing baby, along with another larger one, LIVE! But these robot drums aren’t the only cool thing about the show.
In addition to awesome robot drums, Austin-based band Ponytrap will present an unique combination of visual elements, music, narration, and various uses of media. The show, Promethean Waltz, will be a truly engaging experience for audiences who are encouraged to bring their own percussion to become part of the show. “In a really direct way, the show is about us building the robots” Hilary Thomas-Oliver expresses. Beyond that, “the theme is around the search for home and belonging.” Whether it’s “that search for each other in a relationship, a search for what feels like home musically and creatively, the search for your tribe,” the concept of home represents many facets to Hilary and her husband, the mastermind behind the concept, Quentin Thomas-Oliver.
Quentin discusses how the robot drums came to be.
“I had tried for years to find human drummers, but I never could really just find the right match. There’s some really funny time signatures. It’s complicated enough [that some drummers just couldn’t quite do it the way I wanted it] but it’s not so complicated that people who really like playing complicated things are really that into doing it. It’s a weird middle ground. I just wanted the thing I wanted.” So Quentin decided to make a machine. At that point, it came down to determining how to solve the big problems.
“When I first started trying to figure it out, I talked to all the smart people I know, and nearly everybody said use MIDI and use pneumatics, and you can achieve all that stuff with that. Then I realized after a couple of days or weeks of trying to make that happen, I don’t know anything about MIDI. I don’t know anything about pneumatics. I know how to rebuild cars, and I know how music works. So after trying to do it ‘the right way,’ I was like, I can get a lot of power out of a car battery, and I know how those parts work, at least enough to get started.” So they hit Autozone, Home Depot, and Radio Shack to get parts to build the robots.
“We wrote software so they can actually read music, which I think is one of the coolest things, so I could write it the way I can understand it. It’s all written notation and then our software turns that into beats. I figured out exactly how the beats worked. I got the lights to blink in time.” Making the arms proved the greatest challenge, but it was a necessary part of the robot. Quentin recalls, “The moving arms were really important to me. I wanted it to be really physical. [Giving it two arms] was on purpose. That’s human enough that you could relate to it.” Making them was a seemingly “never-ending series of burning out motors. I never started an actual fire, but it took a long time to figure out how to make it.”
After spending about 4 years perfecting the first robot, it only took about three months to create the second, show-stopping creation audiences will get to see during Promethean Waltz. “I spent a lot of time just staring at the wall. The biggest part of this project was really just designing it. That’s because of all the stuff I learned doing [the first one].”
You won’t want to miss out on this one of a kind show. Hilary explains “there’s a really interesting interplay between what parts of the show you get through media and what you get through the live performance. We’re hoping that the people in the audience will participate and sort of take it all the way full circle.” Combining some really cool narration delivered by the talented Charles Peter Keichline, captivating and intriguing visuals from Recspec‘s Laurel Barickman, unique music, and robot drums, Promethean Waltz is sure to be a worthwhile experience. For tickets or more information go here. Promethian Waltz