The 9th-Century Islamic “Instrument Which Plays by Itself”, From Hyperallergic by Allison Meier on April 12, 2016

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In 2009, Tokyo’s Waseda University built a fedora-sporting flautist robot powered by cranked air. But this is only the most recent attempt at a mechanical, flute-playing musician. In the 9th century, the Banū Mūsā brothers in Baghdad wrote a treatise describing their “instrument which plays by itself.

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Cover of ‘Allah’s Automata’ (image courtesy Hatje Cantz) (click to enlarge)

Their innovative machine is described in Allah’s Automata: Artifacts of the Arabic-Islamic Renaissance (800-1200), recently published by Hatje Cantz. The book accompanies an exhibition of the same name, currently on view at the ZKM (Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe) in Germany, that includes a reconstruction of their instrument. While automata had their golden age in Europe from the 16th to 19th centuries — which saw the creation of such devices as the clock of Diana in her chariot that rolled across a table and shot an arrow — in the Islamic world their peak was from the 9th to 13th centuries. The most famous, also reconstructed for Allah’s Automata, is the 12th-century elephant water clock. The shapes of its various hydraulic elements could be interpreted as symbols of the international trade that facilitated its creation by Ismail al-Jazari, including an Indian elephant, Chinese dragons, and an Egyptian phoenix riding above a Muslim scholar who writes the time.

 

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ہم سب

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A Fine Balance ©

A blog about work, life and the pursuit of balance.

Shapes of Space

The shape of space to come

Sufi Events

"We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us." - Rumi

RoamingArtist's Blog

Artandtravel.com weblog

Pakistan Travel & Culture

Pakistan Travel & Tourism, culture, history and news articles.

History and Chronicles

INDIAN HISTORY

All About Asia

The Asian Diaries

Drawn&made

Hello, this is the creative blog of Mark & Heather, we're freelance designers.

ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

ASHA: Blast From The Past

The Blog of Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology [ASHA]

hmmlorientalia

Some remarks—often with photos!—about manuscripts and the languages, literature, scholarship, and history of Christian culture in the Middle East.

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