Water Music

Karl Heinz Jeron • 2010

Robots  perform Händel’s  Water Music

Alla Hornpipe by Händel for a floating robot in a baby swimming pool

Tiny self developed robots improvise over themes from the Water Music by Georg Friedrich Händel. The Water Music is one of the greatest hits in Baroque music and consists of three suites. In 1717, Händel shook the London music scene when on a boat trip on the river Thames, he delighted the king with his 2nd Suite. “Our Händel”, as the English called their favourite composer at the time, had delivered another smash hit. One could rely on the Elton John of the Baroque age.

From the Daily Courant of July 19, 1717:
“On Wednesday evening, at about 8, the King took water at Whitehall in an open barge … many barges with persons of quality attended and went up the river towards Chelsea. A city company’s barge was employed for the music, wherein were 50 instruments of all sorts, who played all the way the finest symphonies, composed express for this occasion by Mr Hendel, which his Majesty liked so well, that he caused it to be played over three times ingoing and returning.”

The robot orchestra contemporarily reenacted the historical performance on a river boat. With electronic bleeps and baroque choreography the robot orchestra will revitalize the probably best known suite of the Water Music, Suite No. 2, in D Mayor. Following the permiere on the Thames, the concert took place on a boat. Some of the robots improvise within the scope of Händel‘s composition, with the help of Euler‘s music theory. Euler (1707-1783) is a contemporary of Händel.

The methods described in Leonhard Eulers essay “Tentamen novae theoriae musicae” from 1739 set up the foundation for the improviations of the robot orchestra. In his music theory Euler describes mathematical methods for concord and dissonance problems. Eulers music therory suits well here, because there the ratio of frequency intervals play a major role. The robot orchestra uses the musical score of the Petrucci Music Library.


The movement of the robots is directed by baroque dance scores.