When Scott Tooby and J. Sayuri, the fresh-faced duo behind the Musical Melodyians, present their project, a live action puppet show featuring 3D printed creatures in various states of song and dance, you can’t help but want them to succeed. They have spent a great deal of time thinking about, designing, and producing a series of pyramid shaped creatures, filming their videos, and creating an accompanying graphic novel (as well as maintaining what they call a ‘wicked social media presence’). In an interview with 3DPrint.com, Tooby explained the origin of the project:
“The first Melodyian robot (named Primid) was originally created as part of a larger transmedia project called The Musical Melodyians which is about musical aliens who eat music, create music, and travel through space to save the universe’s musics. It encompasses not only this robot but also a graphic novel, music, and videos about these aliens creatures.”
The story begins with the explosion of their native planet and their travels through space in an effort to save the universe’s musics – also their only source of food. The videos feature a variety of experimental sounds and unusual tonal combinations as the characters’ musical offerings as well as some dialog and storyline. The idea was born as the pair found themselves tired of musical mash-ups, remixes, and other “bull#@$” and worked to create something truly unique. As such, they recognize that it may not be immediately likable.
Having watched several of the videos, I have to say that it is good that they have come to this realization. While there is clearly a great deal of technical expertise that has gone into producing the creatures and their various media presences, and a very limited budget with which to do it, it is somewhat hard to stomach the acting and the music itself. In an effort to ensure it wasn’t my curmudgeonly old age that prevented me from viewing the videos, I roped my children (ages 10 & 7) into watching as well. If there were anything they had to add that would give a different perspective than that which I have stated, I would have been happy to share it.
Possibly, here, it is the process not the product that has the greatest value. The creators, who have a lively and entertaining way of writing and speaking about their work, have been kind enough to share the instructions for their aliens on Thingiverse. They have gone to great lengths to provide detailed instructions and are clearly interested both in sharing their work and in seeing others’ contributions and modifications. All of the parts on Thingiverse are 3D printed, and Tooby explains the workings of the robot (and promises a future Instructables submission to give further details):
“It’s an Arduino-based robot that can move around, flash LED lights, and is also a simple digital synthesizer that can emit musical tones. It is controlled wirelessly over Bluetooth via external MIDI signals. This might seem a bit strange, but it allows for it to be controlled by most any configurable MIDI controller software or hardware such as Lemur or a DAW. In this manner, I can also control multiple robots simultaneously and sequence their musical and movement choreography.”
“I don’t have a formal engineering or programming background,” Tooby said, “but I got very interested in the Maker movement and 3D printing several years ago when some of the first MakerBots were making their way into local makerspaces here in LA. I was inspired by the artistic potential I saw in this technology and this motivated me to find ways to integrate it into my own projects.”
I fully realize that that which is new is not always readily appreciated. Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ provoked riots when it was first performed in Russia in 1913 and is now recognized as one of the seminal works of modern music; it hard for people today to imagine the way in which the evils of Rock and Roll were viewed in the 1950s and yet now much of that music is considered easy listening. I am fully prepared to be proven wrong by time, maybe these creatures are an important step in some direction as yet unknown. If I live to see that day, I will recognize and freely admit my error in judgement.
Until then, I can only hope that these two young artists remain enthusiastic and willing to experiment, even if their products are not always popular, because doing something is always better than not. Failure is a vital part of pursuing greatness. Do you like these aliens’ musical makings? Let us know your thoughts in the Musical Melodyians forum thread over at 3DPB.com.