What happens at a Music Hack Day?

So what is a Music Hack Day really like?  Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things that will happen at the Music Hack Day.

9AM – 10AM Saturday morning – Registration – hackers start to arrive between 9AM and 10AM for registration.


Welcome to the Microsoft NERD


You get your badge, wander around the venue (which is graciously provided by Microsoft) have a muffin and a cup of coffee and meet up with old friends and / or make new friends.


Smiling faces greet you at MHD Registration



Informal hacking space at the NERD


This is a good time to start scoping around for hacking partners if you think you might need some help building a hack.  If you want to get a head start in connecting with other hackers consider posting to the Ideas page on the Music Hack Day Boston Wiki.


Group hacking



Meet interesting people at Music Hack Day



10AM – Opening remarks – someone will walk you through the weekend, and give you an idea of what to expect, and tell you all the important info like where the bathrooms are.


Dave Haynes kicks of Music Hack Day London


10:15 – Lightning pitches – a big part of the Music Hack Day is the sharing of knowledge about various music-related technologies, whether it’s an API, a library, technique, hardware gizmo.  During the lightning pitches, everyone who has a technology that they’d like to talk about gives a 60 second description of their technology.


Getting ready for the lightning rounds


11:00 Morning Workshops – The morning workshops are 15 to 20 minute overviews of a particular technology.  There may be be 10 to 20 workshops run in a two hour period.  Depending on the number workshop, there may be more than one track, so pay attention during the lightning pitches to figure out which workshops you’d like to attend.


Waiting for the workshops to start


Some companies offer prizes to the best hack that uses their technology.  If you want to try to win something cool like a concert tickets, an iPad, or some cash, pay attention to the workshops to see who is giving out prizes.


The Echo Nest workshop



The Songkick workshop


1:00PM Lunch time – lunch is free – but don’t let it stop you from hacking.


Eat or hack?


2:00PM Hacking commences – after lunch – formal hacking begins. You have 24 hours to build something cool that is related to music. Hacking will finish up at 2:30PM on Sunday.


Hacking commences


2:00PM Afternoon workshops – In the afternoon, there are some in-depth workshops where you can learn how to build or do something.  The workshops (as with everything at the Music Hack Day), is optional, you can chose to attend a workshop or find a quiet spot and work on your hack.   Some of the workshops may be scheduled on an ad hoc basis (anyone can put on a workshop, just post a note on the ‘workshops board’).  There are 3 hardware oriented workshops, at the Boston Music Hack Day that will give you an opportunity to build or interact with hardware (a rare thing for many of us software types).

Pen plotter & Chiplotle workshop Douglas Repetto and Brian Whitman will show you how to plot your beautiful music visualizations or whatever else on quite possibly the sexiest of all paper output mechanisms — early 1980s HPGL pen plotters! You’ll learn how to use Chiplotle, a Python bridge for live HPGL drawing control, and we’ll have a a few plotters on hand for everyone to use.  Plus, there will be plotters available for hacking after the workshop.

More info:

Electric Eels Workshop

“Electric Eels” workshop – by Noah Vawter – This project introduces a mobile platform for electronic music instruments.  It encouragesplaying them more like traditional instruments.  The new techniques this project introduces extend the role of electricity generation – Electrical energy for every note comes from its players’ movements.

Atari Punk Console workshop


Jimmie Rodgers will lead a workshop on building Atari Punk Consoles. The Atari Punk Console is a simple synthesizer with a wide range of sounds. It is so named because the sounds generated are similar to those of the early Atari consoles. In this workshop you will learn the basics of the timing circuits used to make these crazy sounds. You will also learn how to solder, and how to change the the sounds with your fingers as the contact, or even using light to make a simple light Theremin.


Jimmie's workshop


All parts and tools included in the costs. Additional parts will be available, so you will be able to customize your APC with lights, touch contacts, photo resistors, etc. You are encouraged to find a fun case for your APC and bring it (cigar box, mint tin, Mr. Potato Head other plastic toy, etc), anything hollow that can hold a deck of cards would do. If you do not have a case, then Altoid tins will be available at the workshop.


Hardware hacking


6PM – Dinner – At 6PM the pizzas arrive. Get a slice or two and some soda (the beer comes later), and get back to your hack.  Remember, eating and sleeping is for the weak


Eating is for the weak


9:30 PM – Leg stretching time. – Hacking continues until around 9:30 PM when the Microsoft NERD will close. At that point hacking shifts to the Echo Nest (a few  T stops away).


Onto the T to get to the Echo Nest


10:00 PM Hacking Continues at the Echo Nest


The Echo Nest offices


The venue for overnight hacking is at the Echo Nest in Davis Square – 4 stops away on the T from the main venue.  At the Echo Nest there will be some beer, some live music provided by Javelin, and plenty of comfortable hacking space for the hardcore hackers.


Late night hacking


Overnight hacking is where all the magic happens.


Overnight hacking in London



Overnight hacking at the Echo Nest


8AM Sunday Morning – On Sunday morning, hacking finishes up at the Echo Nest and will return to the Microsoft NERD at 9AM, where you’ll find some more coffee and light breakfast.  Hacking continues thorough lunch.


Remember, eating is for the weak.


2:30 PM Hacking finishes. By 2:30 PM you should have information about your hack posted to the wiki.  Only hacks included on the wiki by 2:30 PM will be included in the final presentations.


Last minute hacking


3:00 PM – Final Demos – This is the time to show your stuff!  Once all the hacks are complete, everyone will move to the big room for the hack demos. We’ll be joined by about 100 non-hackers who are here to see all the demos.   During the demo time, everyone who managed to get a hack listed onto the hacks wiki by 2:30 will get 2 minutes to present their hack.


Giving a demo - Flight of the bumble bee on guitar


There will be people from the music industry, the press, and the tech world in attendance so it doesn’t hurt to try to make your 2 minutes in the spotlight memorable.    We should have two projectors setup so each hack presenter should have 2 minutes to setup and then 2 minutes to present.


Demoing the big piano



Ben demos the roomba recon



Giving good demo is fun


We will be ruthless with the timing. When your 2 minutes are up,  we’ll start the next demo, so make sure you get to the point quickly

5:00 PM  – final awards – At 5PM the panel of judges will gather to pick the winners of the prizes, and present the awards.  But of course, everyone is a winner.


Announcing the prize winners


6:00PM – After all is done, we will find a local pub to get some refreshment.


Time for a beer


It is sure to be a good time.

Photos from flickr photographers:  Elizabeth Thomsen,  Dave Haynes, Thomas Bonte, Ben Reyes, Brad Searles, aroscoe, habber,  David Noël, imelda, James Wheare, narq,

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