Scrapheap printer orchestra plays Bob Dylan

Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam, and listen to a MIDI-controlled orchestra made of 97 gadget relics play a classic folk tune.

An old Brother printer prints out the lyrics to "The Times They Are A-Changin.'" Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Bob Dylan famously sang that the times they are a-changin' -- but little did he know just how much. So much, in fact, that a MIDI-controlled orchestra made of old consumer electronics can now play one of his all-time classics.

Members of the orchestra. (Click to enlarge.) Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Chris Cairns of production company Partizan teamed with creative firm Isthisgood? to turn old Brother photocopiers, scanners, fax machines, printers, hard drives, and modems into a full-scale scrapheap symphony with a penchant for folk.

They soldered, reprogrammed, hacked, and rewired 97 printer relics destined for the landfill and even custom-designed their own circuitboard that could control all of the printers from one main computer.

The Brother Printer Orchestra, as it's called, was conceived to promote Brother's next-generation printer technology, which apparently prefers Adele to Dylan. "Because the old world of printing has come to an end," Brother says. "And this is their swansong."

Director Cairns says he drew inspiration from people like BD594, who reconfigured old computer parts to play The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun." Last year, BD594 also rigged an old HP flatbed scanner and a snare drum to play " Little Drummer Boy ."

The Brother video also bears a strong resemblance to an earlier student film, Big Ideas (don't get any)," made in 2008 by James Houston.

Have a listen to the Brother Printer Orchestra's rendition of "The Times They Are A-Changin,'" composed by Will Cohen, below. Personally, I think it lacks the scratching emotional urgency of Dylan's iconic anthem, but it does have some great dot-matrix whirs and whines.

(Via designboom)

Update, November 13 at 4:01 p.m. PT: The story has been updated to add a reference to the work of James Houston, who made a similar film that predates Brother's. The similarities have caused some controversy.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

 

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