Archive for category Music

SoundCloud => Echo Nest bridge service

On my way to Helsinki for the Music Hack Day I ran into Erik Michaels-Ober from SoundCloud. While sitting in the Frankfurt airport, we decided it would be pretty cool if it was super easy for developers to get the Echo Nest analysis for any SoundCloud track. So we put together a little prototype webservice that does just that. You give the web service a SoundCloud track ID, URN or URI and the service gives you back the corresponding Echo Nest Track ID that you can use to fetch the detailed Echo Nest analysis.

The service is deployed here: SCAnalyzer.  There’s a quick, dirty and ugly demo of the service here: SCAnalyzer Demo.  All the code is on github.



You have 24 hours to build the future of music


A Music Hack Day is unlike most other hackathons. There are no mega-prizes for the best hacks. There are no VCs wandering the hacker hallways trolling for the next startup. There are no briefs that describe the types of apps that you should build. Hackers don’t go to a Music Hack Day to win big prizes, or to launch their startup. Hackers go to Music Hack Days because they love music and they love to build stuff. At a Music Hack Day these passionate builders get to apply their talents to music, surrounded by like-minded peers and build their version of the future of music. The currency at a Music Hack Day is not money or VC attention, the currency is creativity.  The Music Hack Day prize is knowing that you’ve built something cool enough to delight other music hackers.

So what happens at a Music Hack Day? How does it all work? What kind of hacks do people build? Read on to see exactly what happened at the Boston Music Hack Day 2013, held this last weekend.

Boston Music Hack Day

This weekend, hundreds of folks who are passionate about music and technology got together in Cambridge MA for Boston Music Hack Day 2013.  The event was hosted at the Microsoft NERD - a wonderful facility that Microsoft makes available for all sorts of programmer events.  Registration started at 9AM and by 10AM hackers were breakfasted and ready to go.

The event started off with some opening remarks by your truly, describing how a Music Hack Day works and how to have a successful event (meet other people, learn new stuff, build something, make sure you finish it, demo it and have fun).

Build Something! - key advice for a Music Hack Day

Build Something! – key advice for a Music Hack Day

Hackers riveted by Paul Lamere's opening remarks

Hackers riveted by Paul Lamere’s opening remarks

Short technology presentations
Next up, organizations that had some sort of music technology such as an API or new gizmo that might be interesting to music hackers spent a few minutes talking about their technology. For many hackers, this was their first exposure to the music ecosystem – they don’t know what APIs are available for building apps so learning about music streaming APIs from companies like SoundCloud, Rdio and Spotify, and learning about all the music data available from APIs like The Echo Nest and the Free Music Archive is really important. 

Matt talks about the API

Matt talks about the API

There were a few interesting devices available for hackers at the event. Techogym brought a high tech treadmill with its own API hoping that music hackers would build music-related exercise apps.  Muzik brought a set of headphones that are instrumented with accelerometers and other sensors allowing for apps to adapt to the actions of the listener.

Hackers trying out the Techno Gym

Hackers trying out the Technogym

Project Pitches
Sometimes hackers come to a Music Hack Day with ideas ready to go. Sometimes hackers come with their skills but no ideas. At the Project Pitch session, hackers had a minute to pitch their idea or to offer their skills. About 20 hackers braved the front of the room describing their idea or their skill set. One hacker described his project as help me with my homework (and yes, this hacker did find a teammate and they ultimately built a nifty hardware hack that satisfied the homework requirement too).

The homework as hack demo

The homework as hack demo

Tech Deep Dives
Next up on the schedule were the Tech Deep dives. Organizations had a half-hour to give a deeper view of what their technology is capable of. Some hackers want to know more about how to do particular things with an API or technology. This is their opportunity to find out all about the nuts and bolts, to ask questions from the experts. The Tech Deep Dives are strictly optional – many hackers skip them and instead start forming teams, sharing ideas, initializing their repos and writing code.

Kevin does the Rdio API deep dive

Kevin does the Rdio API deep dive

Hack Time

After all the preliminaries are over it was finally time to start hacking.


Hackers formed teams, large and small.


The competition for the best vest was fierce:


They staked out a comfortable workspace in chairs …


Or on the floor …


There were some very creative hardware hacks:


Software hacks:


Plenty of good food


And lots of fun



Overnight Hacking
The Microsoft NERD was only available until 9PM – after that we moved over to hack/reduce – a wonderful hacking space a five minute walk away. There we were greeted by a perfect hacking space with lots of great wifi, great hacker lighting, and lots of beer.  Hacking continued all night. Some hackers did try to get some sleep (either at the hack, or back at home), but some hardcore hackers stayed the whole night.

By 9AM on Sunday morning, the hackers were back at the NERD, for lots of coffee, some breakfast and then more hacking.

Hacking ends

At 2:30, hacking was officially over, and teams submitted their projects to Hacker League. Sixty hacks were submitted.

Demo Session
By 3PM the 200 hackers had all gathered back into the big room joined by a hundred folks who had come just to see the demo session.  Hackers had two minutes to show their stuff. It is a hard demo to give. You are giving a demo of software that you’ve just finished building. It might have some bugs. The WiFi is a little flaky, you haven’t slept in 24 hours, your hands are shaking from too much coffee and too much nervousness, you have to type while holding a microphone and your laptop just won’t sync with the projector just right, and the audio isn’t coming out of the speakers, and the colors look all wrong on the screen. All in front of 300 people.  I’ve done it dozens of times and it still is a really scary demo to give. But it is incredibly exhilarating too – to take nothing but an idea and turn it into something that can amaze or amuse a room full of tech elite in 24 hours. It is quite a rush.

Here I am giving my demo, heart pounding, blood racing ...

Here I am giving my demo, heart pounding, blood racing …

There were two A/V setups so while one team was presenting, the next team was setting up. This allowed us to get through 60 demos in just over two hours. There was a very low incidence of demo fail. And only two inappropriate demos (one was a 2 minute powerpoint presentation with no tech built, the other was a 2 minute tech commercial for a product). I was worried that we might have a #titstare moment with one hack that seemed to contain questionable content but that hacker apparently decided not to present.

The  60 hacks represented a wide range of domains. There were games, music learning tools, programs designed to create, manipulate, remix and even destroy music. I’d love to cover them all, but there are just too many.

The full list is on hacker league. Here are some of my absolute favorites:

String TheoryA musical instrument and sound sculpture build from yearn and stretch sensors and powered by an Arduino.

 String Theory Submitted A musical instrument and sound sculpture build from yearn and stretch sensors and powered by an Arduino.

String Theory

The Lone Arrangera terminal app that allows you to easily rearrange your audio. By a father and son hacking team.


The Secret History of Music combs biographies, lyrics, and commentary from song meanings from two artists, combines them into one fictional artist, and uses Markov chain magic to generate a 50K novel about this new fictional band.

LED Soundsystemthis hack attempts to generate a light show synchronized to the music. It has a special place in my heart because the hacking team was working on the same problem I was working on for my abandoned hack – i.e. automatically finding the ‘drop’ in a song.  Unfortunately, this team had a demo fail – but they are smart guys and I expect to see good stuff from them at the next hack day.


eHarmonica – an electronic harmonica!


Enter the dragon - In today’s world, everyone deserves a spectacular entrance. And we intend to give it to them. Enter the Dragon uses bluetooth technology to detect when a user enters the room and plays their personalized entrance music.


Dadabots - Dadabots are bot accounts on creative websites that make procedural creations or remixes of other creations


ios SoundPuzzle - A simple iOS ear training game built programmatically from the free music archive and the echonest remix api.DSC_3290___Flickr_-_Photo_Sharing_

danceomatictotally awesome automatic choreography from an mp3 and a web based stick figure performance.

Jotunnslayer –  Never again listen to power metal without slaying ice giants. Die in battle. Earn your place in Valhalla.


Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death MetalPolitical representation via musical exploration


Echos – Choose your favorite song and shoot to the beat! Fight enemies that respond to and are controlled by the music! Listen closely and experience unparalleled power as you get into the groove! Enjoy addictive arcade-style game-play in this twist on a classic formula.


TweetTones - a native iOS application that generates synthesized music from tweets in real-time.


Short-Attention Span Playlist Scanner - Glenn made a radio scanner that find and plays just the choruses.


ionian Eclipse - A web-based multiplayer top-down space shooter with procedurally generated enemies and interactions driven by music events.


CFD is Colorful Fluid Dynamics: A HTML5 Music Visualizer and Spotify Plugin - A music visualizer written entirely in vanilla javascript/canvas that is based on computational fluid dynamics and a complex particle system.


ColorMeEver wondered what your music looked like? Now you can look at songs by your favorite artist with this super fun web app, powered by the Echo Nest.


How Repetitive -  measures how often audio segments repeat themselves within in a given song.


Jason’s music visualizer - an html/css visualizer on steroids.


And last, but by no means least, Jonathan’s awesome MIDI Digester that converts audio to MIDI and back, over and over to generate some very strange sounds. The very essence of the music.


There are so many excellent hacks, I’m sure I’ve missed many notables. Luckily, covered the event, so expect to see Eliot’s writups on all the best hacks on


At the end of the mega demo session, there’s a brief prize awarding ceremony where a half-dozen organizations give out modest prizes for hackers that made cool stuff using their tech.

Finally we adjourned to the local pub for some food, beer and hacking recaps.


Special thanks to the organizers of the event. The Music Hack Day would not happen without Elissa and Matt. They do all the hard work. Finding the venue, wrangling the sponsors and volunteers, making a mega Costco food run, dealing with the A/V, running the registration, selecting and hiring the caterers, designing t-shirts and so much more. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into planning the event, much more than meets the eye.  Elissa and Matt are the unsung heroes of Music Hack Day. We should make a music hack to sing their song.

Elissa and Matt. The Unsung Music Hack Day Heros

Elissa and Matt. The Unsung Music Hack Day Heros

Thanks also to the event sponsors: Rdio, Spotify, Microsoft, hack/reduce, Free Music Archive, SoundCloud, Mailchimp and The Echo Nest, and the many volunteers who came and helped us run the whole show.

Some of the awesome and unusually attractive volunteers at Music Hack Day Boston

Some of the awesome and unusually attractive volunteers at Music Hack Day Boston

More Music Hack Days
Interested in going to a Music Hack Day? Check out the Music Hack Day calendar for upcoming events. There’s one in Helsinki this weekend, and there’s one in London in just a few weeks. More events are rumored to be in the planning stages for 2014.

(Photos mostly by Michelle Ackerman, a few by me)

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PAPPA – Paul’s Awesome Party Playlisting App

For my Boston Music Hack Day hack I built Yet Another Party Playlisting App (YAPPA), because the world needed another party playlister – but really, I built it because I needed another hack, because 15 hours into the 24 hour hackathon I realized that my first hack just wasn’t going to work (more on that in another post). And so, with 9 hours left in the hack day, I thought I would try my hand at the party playlisting app.

The YAPPA is a frequently built app. In some sense one can look at the act of building a YAPPA as a hacking exercise. Just as a still life painter will practice by painting a bowl of fruit, or a pianist will practice scales, a music hacker can build their hacking muscle by creating a YAPPA.

The essential features of a YAPPA are straightforward – create a listening experience for a party based upon the tastes of the guests.  Allow guests to suggest music for the party, apply some rules to select music that satisfies all the guests, and keep the music flowing.

With those features in mind, I created my party playlisting app. The interface is dead simple – guests can add music to the party via the master web interface or text the artist and song from the mobile phones to the party phone number. Once the party has started, PAPPA will keep the music flowing.


The key technology of PAPPA is how it picks the music to play next. Most YAPPAs will try to schedule music based on fairness so that everyone’s music taste is considered. Some YAPPAs also use song attributes such as song hotttnesss, song energy and danceability to make sure that the music matches the vibe of the party. PAPPA takes a very different approach to scheduling music. That’s because PAPPA takes a very different approach to parties. PAPPA doesn’t like parties. PAPPA wants everyone to go home. So PAPPA takes all of these songs that have been carefully texted to the party phone number, along with all the artist and song suggestions submitted via the web and throws them away. It doesn’t care about the music taste of the guests at the party. In fact it despises their taste (and the guests as well). Instead, PAPPA selects and plays the absolute worst music it can find. It gives the listener an endless string of the most horrible (but popular) music. Here’s a sample (the first 3 songs are bait to lure in the unwitting party guests):

  1. Royals by Lorde
  2. Levels by Avicii
  3. Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke
  4. #Twerkit featuring Nicki Minaj by Busta Rhymes
  5. From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart by Britney Spears
  6. Amigas Cheetahs by The Cheetah Girls
  7. Do Ya Think I’m Sexy by Paris Hilton
  8. Incredible by Clique Girlz
  9. No Ordinary Love by Jennifer Love Hewitt
  10. Mexican Wrestler by Emma Roberts
  11. I Don’t Think About It by Emily Osment
  12. A La Nanita Nana by The Cheetah Girls
  13. Don”t Let Me Be The Last To Know by Britney Spears
  14. Wild featuring Big Sean by Jessie J
  15. Heartbeat (Album Version) by Paris Hilton
  16. Love The Way You Love Me by The Pussycat Dolls
  17. When You Told Me You Loved Me by Jessica Simpson
  18. Jericho by Hilary Duff
  19. Strip by Brooke Hogan
  20. Pero Me Acuerdo De Tí by Christina Aguilera
  21. Bang Bang by Joachim Garraud
  22. Right Now featuring David Guetta (Sick Individuals Dub) by Rihanna
  23. Wilde Piraten by The Cool Kids
  24. Friend Lover by Electrik Red
  25. Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me by D4L
  26. Who’s That Girl by Hilary Duff
  27. Get In There, Frank! by Fun
  28. Hold It Don”t Drop It by Jennifer Lopez
  29. Sweet Sixteen by Hilary Duff
  30. Live It Up featuring Pitbull by Jennifer Lopez
  31. Freckles by Natasha Bedingfield
  32. I Want You by Paris Hilton
  33. Hold It Close by Fun
  34. Magic by The Pussycat Dolls
  35. How To Lose A Girl by Mitchel Musso
  36. Fairy Tales by JoJo
  37. Slow It Down featuring Fabolous (Album Version (Explicit)) by The-Dream
  38. Mr. Hamudah by Charles Hamilton
  39. Promise by Vanessa Hudgens
  40. Metamorphosis by Hilary Duff

How does PAPPA find the worst music in the world?  It looks through all the data that The Echo Nest is collecting about how people experience music online to find the songs that have been banned frequently. When a music listener says “ban this song” they are making a pretty strong statement about the song – essentially saying, “I do not ever want to hear that song again in my life”.  PAPPA finds these songs that have the highest banned-to-play ratio (i.e. the songs that have been proportionally banned the most when play count is taken into consideration) and adds them to the playlist. The result being a playlist filled with the most reviled music – with songs by Paris Hilton, Jennifer Love Hewitt and the great Emma Roberts. The perfect playlist to send your guests home.

At this moment, lets pause and listen to the song Mexican Wrestler by Emma Roberts:

What happens to all those carefully crafted text messages of songs sent by the guests?  No, there’s no Twilio app catching all those messages, parsing out songs and adding them to a play queue to be scheduled. They just go to my phone. That’s so if people are not leaving the party fast enough, I can use all the phone numbers of the guests to start to text them back and tell them they should go home.


By the way, if you look at the songs that were texted to me during my two minute demo you’d realize how fruitless a YAPPA really is. There’s no possible way to make a party playlist that is going to satisfy everyone in the room. Tastes are too varied, and there’s always that guy who thinks he is clever by adding some Rick Astly to the party queue. Here’s what was texted to me during my two minute demo:

  1. Gregory Porter – be good
  2. Rebecca Black – It’s Friday
  3. Weird Al Yankovic – Fat
  4. Lady Gaga – Applause
  5. Weird Al Yankovic – Amish Paradise (from a different phone number from the other weird Al fan)
  6. Ghostbusters
  7. boss ass bitch
  8. Basement Jaxx raindrops
  9. John Mayer your body is a wonderland
  10. jay z holy grail
  11. Underworld spikee
  12. wake me up
  13. Britney Spears – Hit Me Baby One More Time
  14. Slayer War Ensemble
  15. Bieber baby
  16. KANYE
  17. Royksopp
  18. Ra Ra riot
  19. Rick Astley
  20. Mozart
  21. OSM
  22. Mikey Cyrus
  23. Hi paul
  24. Stevie wonder overjoyed

Imagine trying to build a party playlist based upon those 24 input songs. Admittedly, a hackathon demo session is not a real test case for a party playlister but I still think you’d end up with a terrible mix of songs that no smart algorithm, nor any smart human, could stitch together into a playlist that would be appropriate and pleasing for a party.  My guess is that if you did an A/B test for two parties, where one party played music based upon suggestions texted to a YAPPA and the other party played the top hotttest songs, the YAPPA party would always lose. I’d run this test, but that would mean I’d have to go to two parties. I hate parties, so this test will never happen. Its one of the flaws in our scientific method.

Who are the worst artists?
Looking at the PAPPA playlists I see a number of recurring artists – Britney Spears and Paris Hilton seem to be well represented. I thought it would be interesting to create a histogram of the top recurring artists in the most banned songs list.  Here’s the fascinating result:


One thing I find notable about this list is the predominance of female artists.  Females outnumber males by a substantial amount.  Here’s some pie:


80% of the most banned artists are female. A stunning result. There’s something going on here. Someone suggested that the act of banning a song is an aggressive act that may skew male, and many of these aggressively banning males don’t like to listen to female artists. More study is needed here. It may involve parties, so I’m out.

Wrapping it all up

I enjoyed creating my PAPPA YAPPA. Demoing it was really fun and the audience seemed to enjoy the twist ending.  The patterns in the data underlying the app are pretty interesting too. Why are so many banned songs by female artists?

If you are having your own party and want to use PAPPA to help enhance the party you can go to:


Just replace the phone number in the URL with your own and you are good to go.

PAPPA - Paul's Awesome Party Playlisting App - Ruining parties since 2013

PAPPA – Paul’s Awesome Party Playlisting App – Ruining parties since 2013

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The great YAPPA hole in the universe

SpartifyI’ve been to dozens of music hackathons and have seen many of hundreds of hacks demoed at those events.  I’ve seen all sorts of hacks – music remixing apps, music discovery apps, quirky music story telling apps and so on.  Some hacks seem to get re-hacked fairly frequently at a Music Hack Day. You can always count on seeing an app that plots an artist tour on a map, or an app that shows pictures of the artist while you listen to their music. But there’s one app that seems to get re-hacked over and over again. That’s the YAPPA – Yet Another Party Playlisting App.  It seems that at every Music Hack Day we see two, three or more versions of this app. Usually with some variations, but the core functionality is that it’s an app that controls the playlist to a party, where the people who come to the party can queue up songs, often via text message (thanks Twilio). The YAPPA will sort out the songs based on some fairness algorithm,  perhaps allowing guests to vote on songs  to make sure that everyone gets to hear music that they like, and so no one gets to hog the play queue. Sometimes the app shows some stats about the music at the party (i.e. how energetic, danceable or hottt the music was).

Why do we see so much YAPPA at a music hackathon?  It’s not like there’s a shortage of commercial apps that do the job. I suspect its because there’s no category killer yet. No one goes and builds a Pandora clone at a Music Hack Day. That’s because Pandora has that category of apps locked down. But there’s no dominate YAPPA out there yet. Most folks who come to Music Hack Days probably have never heard of any of the commercial YAPPAs and are unaware of the great body of YAPPA hacks that have built at Music Hack Days in the last 5 years. There’s a great YAPPA-shaped hole in the universe that needs to be filled. Until it is unequivocally filled by some awesome party playlister , hackers will continue to try to toss their shovelfuls of YAPPA dirt into the hole.

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Malmö Music Hack Weekend

Malmö_Music_Hack_Weekend_1st_-_3rd_November_Tickets__Malmö_-_EventbriteThis weekend a hundred hackers attended the Malmö Music Hack Weekend hosted by Minc Malmö. It was a great weekend. The inputs to the event were lots of great hackers, great food, flawless wifi, live DJs, bottomless popcorn and lots of very comfortable hacking spots. The outputs were a set of creative music hacks that give us a glimpse of what the future of music will be like.


The Hack Weekend was held here at Minc Malmö

There were a number of really good hacks, built by a great group of  hackers.

The Beater team

The Beater team

Some of my favorite Echo Nest -based hacks were:

Beater – a context-aware MIDI.js based step sequencer. This awesome hack was The Echo Nest prize winner. It uses The Echo Nest API to identify the beats in a song and then allows you to add your own beat-aligned sequences on top of the song. Quite well done.



Eliot Van Buskirk of was on hand covering the event.  Be sure to read all of his coverage of the hacks.

Eliot awarding The Echo Nest prize to the Beater team

Eliot awarding The Echo Nest prize to the Beater team


Mixiea highly visual dynamic remixing app that allows you to create your mixes by connecting different songs together in a network. Mixie automatically selects different sections of songs and assembles them into a seamless mix. A very well put together hack.

The Mixie Demo

The Mixie Demo

Echotap – a mobile web app that lets you play a song ‘drum-hero’ style. You have to tap or shake your phone in time to the music to hear it. When you stop, the song stops. When you speed up or slow down, so does the song.


Echotap Demo

Owegoo – A new feature for the Owegoo travel platform that helps you plan your next vacation based upon when and where your favorite artists are playing.

SBK – A rethinking of music journalism that goes directly to the music fan.  This demo showed how fan-oriented music content such as reviews, articles, playlists, RSS feeds and DJ sets could be integrated into a monetizable online magazine. By Kixet.


SBK Demo

PartySaver – a party playlist app that displays artist images and song info of the currently playing song on all of the screens in the house.

Dogstep – this was my hack. It takes any song and re-renders it with a pack of barking, snarling, grunting, yipping and whining dogs.


All together about 20 hacks were demoed. Other nifty hacks include:

Careless Whistler – login into a web page by whistling your password

SynCloud - Synchronizes the playback of SoundCloud streams on multiple devices

StopDance – perhaps my favorite hack overall, StopDance is a game where all the players dance along to music. When the music stops, you have to stop dancing. If you don’t you are out. Last one still on the dance floor wins. StopDance automates the whole process, it plays the music, stops it at random times, and most importantly, using a web-cam watches the players and identifies the players who didn’t stop dancing fast enough.

The winner of the grand prize was LiveCloud  a live coding music creation tool that allows a programmer-musician to create music by connecting and manipulating the different sound sources and sinks.

LiveCloud demo

The food at the event was top notch. High quality and healthy food!


It was great to meet the folks from Neo4j at the event. They brought a whole lot of energy to the event, and showed off some of the really neat things you can do with a graph database. And they gave me this awesome t-shirt. How cool is that?!


I had a great time at the Malmö Music Hack Weekend.  Special thanks to Maisa and Alex for organizing everything. They did a great job running a flawless event. Well done!


Maisa Dabus 

Alex Esser

Alex Esser

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Fixing my Mavericks woes

When Mavericks was released last week, I updated my MacBook Pro (17″ Late 2011 vintage). The install went just fine, and I had no problems except that the UI seemed a bit laggy. Navigation in Vim seemed just a bit slower as did switching workspaces, but no big deal. Xcode was unusably slow, but I thought that was due to the recent Xcode update. All in all I was pleased with the upgrade  until …

Friday evening I went over to the #TuftsHACK to talk about The Echo Nest API. This was my first time on Mavericks giving a Keynote presentation with an external display. My Echo Nest API talk has audio, video and lots of links to external web sites like the Infinite Jukebox. I had upgraded to the latest keynote this week, so before the talk I made sure that my slides survived the keynote upgrade. My talk was going just fine until I hit the first web demo. When I switched over to  Chrome the browser appeared to be hung and wouldn’t accept any of my input. When I returned to the keynote presentation, I could no longer go to full screen – instead I received an error message telling me that I didn’t have enough VRAM to go full screen and that I should try to adjust the resolution. WTF? It is great fun standing in front of 100 impatient college students trying to debug a 10 minute talk.  I ended up rebooting my computer and trying it all again … with the same error. Finally I gave up and limped out showing a few web demos from Thor’s computer. Really though, it was total Demo Fail.

I spent a few hours online this weekend seeing if anyone else was having similar difficulties without luck.  When I tried to fire up TF2 (the only game worth playing), I got nothing but an icon in my taskbar showing me that it was really trying to start, but couldn’t. That was the last straw.  I buckled down and carefully read Siracusa’s Mavericks review looking for new tech in Mavericks, especially tech related to the video system as suspects for my woes.  

One new feature is that Mavericks now treats each attached display as a separate domain for full-screen windows. This lookedpromising in that both Keynote and TF2 are apps that  create full-screen windows. This feature can be disabled in Settings -> Mission control:


After I did this, I had to logout and re-login – but since then, the laggy-ness is gone, TF2 works like a champ, Xcode is zippy again, and so far, no problems with full screen keynote (but I need to test this more to be sure).

Bottom line – if you are having trouble with full screen display apps, or Xcode performance, or are getting errors about not having enough VRAM, try disabling the ‘displays have separate spaces’ feature in Mavericks.

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Passive-aggressive playlisting

On Friday evening at the Tufts hack I made a little Python script that makes playlists with an acrostic messages embedded in them. I enjoyed the hack so much that I spent a few hours turning it into a web app. This means that you don’t have to be a Pythonista to generate your own acrostic playlists.

The app, called Acrostic Playlist Maker, lets you select from a handful of genres and type in your ‘secret’ message.


When you hit the button it will generate a playlist where the first letter of each song in the playlist spells out the message.


You can listen to the music in the playlist by clicking on any song, and you can save the playlist back to Rdio.


Anyone who works in music tech has probably been called upon to ‘do the music’ at some social event. Now with the Acrostic Playlist Maker you can can make those playlists, while secretly expressing how you really feel.

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Making acrostic playlists

I’m at the Tufts Hackathon showing off the Echo Nest API for the very smart students.  I’m not going to be here for the whole hackathon, so I don’t have time for a proper hack, but I thought I should write something.  Since I just pushed out a new Python library for The Echo Nest this week (Pyen), I thought I’d write a simple python hack that uses it.

The hack is an acrostic playlist maker. You give it a genre and a secret message and it will create a playlist where the secret message is embedded in the playlist as an acrostic.  Here’s an example:

% python ‘dubstep’ ‘Skrillex Rules’

Setting Sun by Caspa
Kemancheh by Moving Ninja
Rainy Dayz by Kromestar
I Need Air by Magnetic Man
Little More Oil Featuring Sister Nancy by DJ /rupture
Low Pressure Zone by Clubroot
El Rythmo de Este Sound by Coki
Xingfu Lu by Kode9

Rutten by Skream
Under Water High Rise (feat. DJ Kiva) by DJ /rupture
Lift Me Up by Rusko
Embryo by Clubroot
Summer Rain by 2000F

Here are some more examples:

Like Me by Girlicious
I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston
Survivor by Destiny’s Child
True Love by P!nk
Ever Ever After by Jordan Pruitt
Never Gonna Happen by Colette Carr

Try by P!nk
Opposites Attract by Paula Abdul

Falling by Brooke Hogan
I’M Gonna Miss You Forever by Aaron Carter
Fixing My Hair by Priscilla Renea
That’s How I Beat Shaq by Aaron Carter
Hurt by Christina Aguilera

Halo by Beyoncé
A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) by Fergie
Raise Your Glass by P!nk
Mirrors by Justin Timberlake
Only Girl (In The World) by Rihanna
Nothing In This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again by Hayden Panettiere
You’re Not The One by Sky Ferreira

Here’s a heavy metal playlist:

Mothra by Anvil
A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh by Celtic Frost
Refuse/Resist by Sepultura
Blue Sky by Wolfsbane
Lord Of The Flies by Rage
Excalibur by Grave Digger
Cry My Name by Bloodbath
Attitude by Sepultura
King Of The Kill by Annihilator
Eaten (2008 Digital Remaster) by Bloodbath

Alison Hell by Annihilator
Last Man Standing by HammerFall
Steelhammer by U.D.O.
Outnumbering The Day by Bloodbath

The Last In Line by Dio
Hades Rising by Bloodbath
Evil by Mercyful Fate

Give Me Your Soul by King Diamond
Anthem by Iced Earth
Metal On Metal by Anvil
Enemies Of Reality (re-mixed & re-mastered) by Nevermore

Some experimental music

Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow by Frank Zappa
On Suicide by Art Bears

No.1 Against the Rush by Liars
Optical Black by Thighpaulsandra
Third Stream Boogaloo by Derek Bailey

Lock Your Door by Lydia Lunch
In A Manner Of Speaking by Tuxedomoon
So Far by Faust
The Seer Returns by Swans
Electric To Me Turn by Bruce Haack
Numb Erone by The Residents

Triumph by This Heat
Oh Yeah by Can

Krautrock (2006 Digital Remaster) by Faust
Always Returning (2005 Digital Remaster) by Brian Eno
Twilight Furniture by This Heat
Your Hidden Dreams by White Noise

Persuasion by Throbbing Gristle
Evan’s Drive To Mombasa by Lounge Lizards
Remember Waht’s In There by Lounge Lizards
Radio Prague by This Heat
Yellow Brick Road by Captain Beefheart

Here’s the code:


Well, that’s my mini-hack. 73 lines of Python and one blog post.

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The Ultimate List of Music APIs

I’ve started to build the ultimate list of music APIs. My goal for the list is for it to be a one-stop spot to find the best music apis. Currently 65 APIs are listed across 10 categories. Check out the list here: Music APIs


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Music Hack Day NYC


Music Hack Day NYC has just wrapped up, and what a great weekend it was!. Hosted at Spotify’s spiffy new headquarters in midtown, Music Hack Day NYC was the place to be if you are passionate music, technology and building stuff. During all night Friday and all day Saturday, hundreds of hackers used music APIs from companies like The Echo Nest, Soundcloud, Gracenote, Rdio and of course Spotify, to build next generation music apps.


It was a really fun event. The Spotify headquarters are perfect for hacking. Flawless and apparently limitless wifi/bandwidth, awesome A/V setup, and great sound for an unending social hacking playlist.


Over the course of about 20 hours of hacking, 36 hacks were built and demoed.  There was quite a range of inventive hacks. Some of my favorites:

The crowd favorite was Oscar Celma’s extremely clever EERFY – He solved the Music Industry Problem in 24 hours by turning it upside down with EERFY:

Another favorite was Leo and Jason’s halfstep –  a chrome extension that motivates you to move more. How? If you only moved 20% of your movement goal yesterday, then halfstep will also let you listen to first 20% of any songs today. Check out the screencast of their hack.


There were lots of great Echo Nest hacks including the Echo Nest prize winner partyOutlook by Matt Egan. PartyOutlook is a CocoaLibSpotify powered iPad jukebox that accepts tracks via the Twillio API and displays real-time information about the life of the party using Echo Nest song data. Allows an administrator to pause and play music, as well as skip tracks.


Another really neat Echo Nest hack was TuneTravelr created by Chris Evans and Joshua Boggs. Tune Travelr  is a web app that  takes cities and locales a well as a time period and returns a  playlist of songs that were hot at the time. It uses the Echo Nest data to leverage some analytic querying, before pipping the results into Rdio’s web API for playback.


MoodVenue used The Echo Nest API to help find out what’s going on tonight based on your mood and location.


Repetition faceoff
Artists fight to the death, using only the sheer repetitive force of their music! By Brian McFee. Brian used the Echo Nest analysis data to build a custom metric for repetition for any song and used that to score songs by the artist for the face-off.


Cheese Tray
A novel use of The Echo Nest API was Cheese Tray - A  Spotify app that takes selects randomly from among your Spotify playlists and analyzes it. It then adds to that playlist a song that best represents the average attributes of the playlist, as given by The Echo Nest API. Then, via SMS through the Twilio service, it sends a command to your Android device that changes its background to the album artwork for that average song.

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Songs About
Uses wikipedia articles titled ‘List of songs about…” to generate Spotify/Rdio playlists about different subjects/places. Songs about used The Echo Nest’s Rosetta Stone to get the song IDs for playing in Spotify and Rdio.


Awesome Chart Explorer

This is my hack. A visualization that lets you explore and listen to 50 years of Billboard charts.

Upload a song, ccRex’ll fetch Creative Commons music to match using Echo Nest song attributes to determine the best match.


Other nifty Echo Nest hacks:

  • opporTUNEcontext dependent playlisting based upon weather, activity, location, time of day and your favorite genresopporTUNE____Music_Hack_Day_NYC_2013____Hacker_League
  • crowdPlay – an SMS enabled party playlisterCrowdPlay_-2
  • BPM Reader –  an app that updates a playlist in real-time based on user keyboard input correlated to BPM. Tap in your beat, and generate a playlist of songs with that
  • Moody callsGet a phone call with a song that matches your moodMoodyCalls
  • Spotify V. Rdio -Pitting the two music platforms against each other using your listening history
  • Perl client for the Echo Nest – Ajax built a library that provides support for nearly all of The Echo Nest API features.

All in all, it was a great event with lots of awesome, innovative hacks and lots of smart people. A good time was had by all.  Thanks to Spotify and @mager for organizing the event. Well Done!


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