Monkeys + Synths

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Monkeys + Synthesizers is a project where six different species of monkeys and other animals have been presented with different synthesizers. Do monkeys like music and do they enjoy creating music? Here is the film that was made for Voltfestivalen, Sweden’s finest festival for electronic music and art:

Humans are the only species on earth that actually compose music. Most birds and some mammals make beautiful sounds, but primarily to scare others away – or to attract one of their own. The project explores if other primates can make music.

In the 60s, the Chimpanzee named Congo became famous when he painted abstract paintings that received pretty good reviews by art critics. He had a distinctive style in some sort of abstract expressionistic tradition. He liked red a lot but didn’t he like blue. Today, some of his paintings are worth up to 20.000 €.

Since the synthesizers have been invented, the musicians have been asked “Is this really making music? You just press a button and out comes the music, right? Well… you do press buttons, twist knobs and faders, but there are endless ways of doing this. That is why the synthesizer probably is the greatest musical instrument in history. This is a great example of human ingenuity and engineering – something that makes us different from the monkeys.

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The Monkey+Synth project on SVT Rapport:

On the Right This Minute Show:

On Sonic Talk:

On yet another web show:

Below are some facts about the participants.

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
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Bleeptronic 5000 (Thinkgeek.com)
64 LED button matrix synthesizer.
Origin: USA
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.
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TR-909 (Roland Corporation)
Analog, partially sample based drum machine
Origin: Japan
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
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Casiotone CT-360 (Casio)
Incredibly crappy digital synthesizer
Origin: Japan
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
Weight:
Age: 25-30 years
Diet: 70% fruit, 30% leafs
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Yamaha DX7 (Yamaha)
16 voice FM Digital Synthesizer
Origin: Japan
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.
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Mirage EPS16 (Ensonic)
Sampler Workstation
Origin: USA
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°.
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Yamaha SHS-10 (Yamaha)
Keytar FM synthesizer
Origin: Japan
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