Laurence Osborn

  • Duration

    15 mins

  • Year of composition


  • Number of performers


  • First performance

    Britten Sinfonia and Mahan Esfahani, conducted by Laurence Osborn, West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge

  • Commissioned by
    Britten Sinfonia


An automaton is a mechanical object designed to play the role of a human being. Unlike the robot or the computer, both of which attempt as best they can to disguise themselves as humans, an automaton keeps its artificiality on show. I've always found something endearing in this naive, mechanical representation of humanity. The sound of the harpsichord is perceptively inseparable from the mechanical means of its production: the instrument sounds like a machine because you can literally hear its mechanism in action. But it is also an instrument that enables an extraordinary degree of sensitivity, expression, and personality on behalf of the performer. When I hear the harpsichord, I feel like I am hearing a musical automaton: a sound that blurs the boundaries between the mechanical and the human.

The music in Automaton is sometimes human, sometimes mechanical, and sometimes both.

Full Scoring:

Solo Harpsichord

Flute doubling Piccolo
Clarinet doubling Bass Clarinet

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