The only real rule for NPR's annual Tiny Desk Contest is that there must be a desk somewhere in the video of your performance — and as you can see above, the Boston Typewriter Orchestra definitely understood the assignment. Wearing white button-ups and ties, the group transforms the bland life of an office drone into an epic percussive banger performed entirely on typewriters (with occasional embellishments from other office supplies).
Here's the group describes themselves:
A collective endeavor which engages in rhythmic typewriter manipulation combined with elements of performance, comedy and satire. BTO aims to entertain the masses while providing an outlet for the creative urges of its members. *BTO promises to protect customer confidentiality with the utmost vigilance while remaining irreverent at all times.
A recent article in The Boston Globe goes into a little more detail on the band's history, which dates back to 2004, when one of the group's founding members was using his typewriter at a bar. After a frustrated server asked him to please stop with all the banging, he sarcastically replied that he was busy conducting an invisible orchestra—and thus, an idea was born.
Now, nearly every Wednesday night, the group gathers in the third-floor of O'Grady's house in East Boston to rehearse — along with aplentiful supply of beer.
"I started out with it because I like typewriters and mechanical stuff, and I thought it was weird and twitchy and musical," said biologist Alex Holman, 44. "It ended up being a drinking club with a typewriter problem."
Usually, they perform once a month, appearing at museums, festivals, and private events — even "The Kelly Clarkson Show."
The group owns a collection of dozens of typewriters, each with a different timbre that suits different songs. The whole project reminds me of Elmer Rice's infamous 1923 play The Adding Machine, with its absurdist sci-fi take on the industrialization of offices (and which in turn was adapted into an Off Broadway musical that also employed the percussive rhythms of the adding machines into the score).
A symphony of typewriters? These machines are the offbeat instrument of choice for the Boston Typewriter Orchestra. [Kate Armanini / The Boston Globe]