Composer and Swedish dance music maestro Håkan Libdo has been a constant source of experimentation. But his latest project yields zoo-like new adventurousness. Six species of monkeys are equipped with synthesizers to test the question of whether playing a synth is really playing music – or if it’s so simple, a monkey can do it.
Describing the project, there’s a bit of a defense of the complexity of the instrument:
“You just press a button and out comes music, right?” Well… you do press buttons, twist knobs and faders, but there are endless ways of doing this. That is why the synthesizer is one of the greatest example of human ingenuity and engineering — something that makes us different from the monkeys.
You obviously can’t just break into the monkey cage with some finds from eBay and try this yourself. Lest you think there was some animal cruelty involved, Skansen Aquarium in Stockholm was a collaborator in the film. Here’s a look at what happens – the Bliptronic is to me the clear winner as a monkey-playable instrument, and in the end, some keyboards just … lose.
It’s all a teaser – and a clever one – for Sweden’s Voltfestivalen, coming up June 9. Edited by Simon Carlgren, concept by Håkan Lidbo.
Of course, this doesn’t answer whether monkeys can be DJs… or Paris Hilton, for that matter. (She announced her debut DJ set date today and was, perhaps, met with more skepticism than these adorable zoo animals.)
Since the text goes by too fast, here are the complete details to please your inner synth – or primate – nerd.
Dwarf Monkey (Callithrix pygmaea)
Habitat: The Upper Amazonas. Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, north Bolivia and west Brazil.
Length: 13 cm, tail 19 cm.
Weight: 120 — 150 g
Age: 5-10 years.
Diet: Tree gum, fruit, insects and spiders.
World’s smallest monkey
Bleeptronic 5000 (Thinkgeek.com)
64 LED button matrix synthesizer.
Weight: 400 g
Dimensions: 15 x 15 cm.
Production year: 2010
Lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia rosalia)
Habitat: Close to river Sao Joao and in the Poco d´Anta nature reserve, south west of Rio de Janeiro.
Length: 34-40 cm, tail 26-38 cm
Weight: 630-710 g
Age: Up to 20 years
Diet: Fruit, flowers, insects, frogs, lizards and bird’s eggs.
One of world’s most rare monkeys.
TR-909 (Roland Corporation)
Analog, partially sample based drum machine
Dimensions: 48 x 10 x 30 cm
Weight: 4500 g
Production year: 1984
Hamadryas Baboon (Papio Hamadryas)
Habitat: North east Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Length: Max 76 cm, tail max 61 cm
Weight: Female 10-13 kg, male 17-25 kg.
Age: Up to 35 years
Diet: Grass, roots, fruit, seeds, insects, lizards and sometimes small mammals
Their red ass make them look sexy and also serves as a pillow
Casiotone CT-360 (Casio)
Incredibly crappy digital synthesizer
Dimensions: 59 x 24 x 9 cm
Weight: 4.2 kg
Production year: 1987
Ring Tailed Lemur (Lemur Catta)
Habitat: South west Madagaskar.
Length: 50 cm
Age: 25-30 years
Diet: 70% fruit, 30% leafs
Yamaha DX7 (Yamaha)
16 voice FM Digital Synthesizer
Dimensions: 101 x 10 x 33 cm
Weight: 14500 g
Production year: 1983
6 sine wave operators per voice, 32 Algorithms
Suricate (Suricata suricatta)
Habitat: Semi-deserts in southern Africa.
Length: 25 cm.
Weight: 900 g
Age: 10-15 years.
Diet: Insects, lizards, scorpions, small birds, eggs, rodents and other small mammals.
Suricates can survive bites from poisonous scorpions and snakes that would kill a human.
Mirage EPS16 (Ensonic)
Dimensions: 102 x 11 x 31 cm
Weight: 13000 g
Production year: 1988
8 note polyphonic, 8 bit, 32 khz sample rate, analog filters
Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
Habitat: Central America from Nicaragua and south to Venezuela, north east Brazil and nothern Peru.
Length: 58-70 cm.
Weight: 4-12 kg.
Age: 12 years, (up to 30 years in zoo).
Diet: Leaves, sprouts and fruit.
Sloths have the lowest and most varied body temperature of all mammals. It varies between 24° and 33°.
Yamaha SHS-10 (Yamaha)
Keytar FM synthesizer
Dimensions: 67 x 28 x 6 cm
Weight: 3.4 kg
Production year: 1987
Camera operators: Andreas Tilliander, Mats Almegård and Johan Östman. Concept by Håkan Lidbo.
Thanks to Bosse Johnsson and Jonas Wahlström at Skansenakvariet, Jörgen Berggren at Berggren Media, Jon Nensén and Daniel Sällstedt.
Voltfestivalen — The place to go to experience the best new electronic music and art
Skansenakvariet — The place to go to experience unique wildlife in Stockholm