Nigel Stanford's sensational new robot video


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The robots are taking over – at least in the latest video by New Zealand musician Nigel Stanford. He is set to release his new album, along with the single "Automatica," on September 15. And the machines in the video aren't the only robots he's worked with.

  • Author: Simon E. Fuchs
  • Photos: Nigel Stanford
  • Video: Nigel Stanford

At the beginning of the video, it looks as though Nigel Stanford is operating the robots, but they learn quickly, and in the end, it's they that control the music and instruments. Sparks fly, guitars are smashed and piano keys fly around the room. "The video is rock 'n' roll," says Stanford. He believes in the future of robots, and if it were up to him, artificial intelligence will rule the music industry 20 years from now.

„What he hasn't forgotten is the clear sound of Sennheiser headphones. He was proud to own a pair.“

The producer and musician is blurring the lines between man and machine. The New Zealander's video art is an innovative way of making music visible. His new album brings together vocals, electronic music and live instruments.

"I like science fiction," Stanford says when asked about his views on technology. "Parts of the album were written using artificial intelligence." Of course, not all his songwriter and producer friends are thrilled with this development. People in the studios are already worried that creative work will increasingly be done by robots. But Stanford doesn't see such a bleak future. He says he's certain "new jobs will be created at the same time.

Stanford's "Automatica" and "Cymatics" videos offer a glimpse of the future. They push boundaries and take new approaches. "Cymatics" has been viewed 9 million times on YouTube and 45 million times on Facebook. Since the beginning of his career, the musician has always relied on well-known brands for his musical instruments, microphones and headphones. "I took the first money I saved to buy a pair of Sennheiser headphones for 300 New Zealand dollars," he recalls. He says he can no longer remember today what model they were. But what he hasn't forgotten is the headphones' clear sound. He was proud to own them.

Even today, a few years on, he still relies on Sennheiser. In the video for the song "Cymatics," he uses MOMENTUM headphones and the HD 800 from Sennheiser. "I need headphones that can reproduce the full frequency," he says. Based on his positive experience with the brand, he stuck with Sennheiser technology for "Automatica." In his second video, he also used the HD 800 headphone as well as the MD 441 microphone for the drums and the MD 421 II for the guitar and bass.

It's already obvious from the first video for "Cymatics" that Stanford is in control of the four elements. He demonstrates in six experiments what sound can look like. Sparks from a Tesla coil twitch through the air to the music, flames flicker to the sound, water morphs to the tune of the bass drum and sand dances on a "Chladni plate" as a keyboard is played.

„I need headphones that can reproduce the full frequency.“

Stanford even goes a step further in "Automatica," the second video. Instead of playing with the natural elements, he ventures a peek at the future, trying to grasp the technology of tomorrow. Orange robotic arms softly, but also very precisely, strum the strings of a guitar and rapidly play the keys of a keyboard.

The video shoot was more costly than the first. "In the video, it looks as though we had at least 12 robots," he says. "But the truth is that we only had three." Tremendous precision was required so that the effect could be created in postproduction of a whole band of robots. Stanford and a team of 40 people spent five days filming in New York. "I like getting my hands dirty," he says. His maxim for this shoot, as before, was that only the best of the best would suffice. Stanford and his team lit an entire warehouse and the cameras were operated by computers. Stanford himself was in charge of the robots and played the human leading role in the video.

„This video was first made possible by the cooperation with Sennheiser, says Stanford.“

Given his precision and dedication, it was clear to him that he would need to work with partners who have the same high standards. "This video was first made possible by the cooperation with Sennheiser," says Stanford. "I only had the idea – but they had the contacts at Kuka, the German robot-maker, and the technology." He says he's grateful that Sennheiser has always been there to provide a helping hand with his musical and artistic work. "They've supported me very much throughout the entire process."

Stanford recorded the music for "Automatica" and other songs on his new album in New York. There, he worked with Sennheiser's MD 421 II and e609 microphones to record a few guitar movements and vocals. "It's important to use the best microphone available on the market for each instrument in order to guarantee perfect sound," says Stanford. He describes himself as being a "perfectionist."

„It's important to use the best microphone available on the market for each instrument in order to guarantee perfect sound“

His love of technology is contagious. At the end of the Skype interview, his small son crawls over to him on the sofa. In his hand, he holds a Lego truck that he's made himself. He wants to show his dad his creation before going to bed. "Remember when daddy practiced with the orange robots in the garage?" Stanford asks. "Yeah, they were great," his son says.