Posts Tagged boston
Music Hack Day Boston 2011 is in the can. But what a weekend it was. 250 hackers from all over New England and the world gathered at the Microsoft NERD in Cambridge MA for a weekend of hacking on music. Over the course of the weekend, fueled by coffee, red bull, pizza and beer, we created 56 extremely creative music hacks that we demoed in a 3 hour music demo extravaganza at the end of the day on Sunday.
Music Hack Day Boston is held at the Microsoft NERD in Cambridge MA. This is a perfect hacking space – with a large presentation room for talks and demos, along with lots of smaller rooms and nooks and crannies for hackers to camp out .
Hackers started showing up at 9AM on Saturday morning and by 10AM hundreds of hackers were gathered and ready to get started.
After some intelligent and insightful opening remarks by the MC, about 20 companies and organizations gave 5 minute lightening workshops about their technology.
There were a few new (to Music Hack Day) companies giving workshops: Discogs announced Version 2 of their API at the Music Hack Day; Shoudio – the location based audio platform. Peachnote – and API for accessing symbolic music ngram data; EMI who were making a large set of music and data available for hackers as part of their OpenEMI initiative; the Free Music Archive showed their API to give access to 40,000 creative commons licensed songs and WinAmp – showed their developer APIs and network.
After lunch, hacking began in earnest. Some organizations held in-depth workshops giving a deeper dive in to their technologies. Hacking continued in to the evening after shifting to the over night hacking space at The Echo Nest.
Hackers were ensconced in their nests while one floor below there was a rager DJ’d by Ali Shaheed Muhammad (one third of A Tribe called Quest).
Thanks to the gods of time, we were granted one extra hour over night to use to hack or to sleep. Nevertheless, there were many bleary eyes on Sunday morning as hackers arrived back at the NERD to finish their hacks.
Finally at 2:30 PM at 25+ hours of hacking, we were ready to show our hacks.There was an incredibly diverse set of hacks including new musical instruments, new social web sites, new ways to explore for music. The hacks spanned from the serious to the whimsical. Here are some of my favorites.
Free Music Archive Radio – this hack uses the Echo Nest and the Creative Commons licensed music of the Free Music Archive to create interesting playlists for use anywhere.
Mustachiness - Can you turn music into a mustache? The answer is yes. This hack uses sophisticated moustache caching technology to create the largest catalog of musical mustaches in history.
Bohemian Rhapsichord - Turning a popular song into a musical instrument. This is my hack. It lets you play Bohemian Rhapsody like you’ve never played it before.
Snuggle - I want you to snuggle this. Synchronize animated GIFs to jams of the future. These guys get the prize for most entertaining patter during their demo.
Drinkify - Never listen to music alone again – This app has gone viral. Han, Lindsay and Matt built an app to scratch their own itch. Drinkify automatically generates the perfect cocktail recipe to accompany any music.
Peachnote Musescore and Noteflight search - searching by melody in the two social music score communities.
bitbin - Create and share short 8-bit tunes
The Videolizer - music visualizer that syncs dancing videos to any song. Tristan’s awesome hack – he built a video time stretcher allowing you to synchronize any video that has a soundtrack to a song. The demos are fantastic.
The Echo Nest Prize Winners
Two hacks received the Echo Nest prizes:
unity-echonest - An echonest + freemusicarchive dynamic soundtrack plugin for Unity3D projects. This was a magical demo. David Nunez created a Unity3D plugin that dynamically generates in game soundtracks using the Echo Nest playlist API and music from the Free Music Archive. Wow!
MidiSyncer - sync midi to echo nest songs. Art Kerns built An iPhone app that lets you choose a song from your iTunes library, retrieves detailed beat analysis information from Echo Nest for the song, and then translates that beat info to MIDI clock as the song plays. This lets you sync up an electronic music instrument such as a drum machine or groovebox to a song that’s playing on your iPhone. So wow! Play a song on your iPod and have a drum machine play in sync with it. Fantastic!
Some really awesome hardware hacks.
Neurofeedback - Electroencephalogram + strobe goggles + Twilio Chat Bot + Max/MSP patches which control Shephard-risset rhythms and binaural beats
SpeckleSounds - Super-sensitive 3D Sound Control w/ Lasers! Yes, with lasers.
Kinect BeatWheel - Control a quantized looping sample with your arm
There were a few awesome hacks that were cursed by the demo demi gods. Great ideas, great hacks, frustrating (for the hacker) demos. Here are some of the best demo fail hacks .
Kinetic - Kinetic Typography driven by user selected music and text. This was a really cool hack that was plagued by a podium display issue leading to a demi-demo-fail. But the Olin team regrouped and posted a video of the app.
BetterTaste - improve your Spotify image – this was an awesome idea – use a man-in-the-middle proxy to intercept those embarassing scrobbles. Unfortunately Arkadiy had a network disconnect that lead to a demo fail.
Tracker - Connect your turntable to the digital world. Automatically identifies tracks, saves mp3s, and scrobbles plays, while displaying a beautiful UI that’s visible from across the room, or across the web. Perhaps the most elaborate of the demos – with a real Hi Fi setup including a turntable. But something wasn’t clicking, so Abe had to tell us about it instead of showing it.
Carousel - tell the story behind your pictures – it was a display fail – but luckily Johannes had a colleague who had his back and re-gave the demo. That’s what hacker friends are for.
This was a fantastic weekend. Thanks to Thomas Bonte of MuseScore for taking these super images. Special thanks to the awesome Echo Nest crew lead by Elissa for putting together this event, staffing it and making it run like clockwork. It couldn’t have happened without her. I was particularly proud of The Echo Nest this week. We created some awesome hacks, threw a killer party, and showed how to build the future of music while having a great time. What a place to work!
If you are going to the Music Hack Day Boston this weekend, you may want to consider creating an hack based on the Echo Nest APIs. The Echo Nest is offering a prize for the best hack that is built based upon Echo Nest technology. The prize is the much coveted Echo Nest Sweatsedo. The softness, the coolness and the ‘blueness’ of this casual attire is unsurpassed by the clothing offered by any other music technology company. However, we realize that not everyone can wear the sweatsedo with proper style. For those, who are not cool enough to wear the Echo Nest sweatsedo, they can opt for the alternate prize of $1,000 cash. So your choice is for a prize is a Kind of Blue, or a Kind of Green.
But, wait! There’s more. Since we are unveiling two new APIs at Music Hack Day weekend, we are going to offer not one, but two prizes, one to each of the two best hacks that use the Echo Nest APIs. If you create one of the two best hacks that use the Echo Nest, you will get to chose from the ‘Kind of Blue’ or the ‘Kind of Green’ prize. So get hacking!
There will be some opportunities for organized hardware hacking at this weekend’s Music Hack Day Boston in the form of afternoon workshops. All the details are on the Music Hack Day Workshops page. Here’s just a teaser to wet your appetite.
Electric Eels Workshop by Noah Vawter with Justin from Burnkit 2600. This project introduces a mobile platform for melodic and percussive electronic music instruments. It encourages playing them more like traditional instruments- electrical energy is produced on a note-by-note basis 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.
Pen Plotter & Chiplotle workshop - While not exactly hardware hacking, it is definitely old school. 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!
Programmable Audio Effects in a Sketch Environment with LeafLabs’ Maple – by Okie Williams. In this 2 hour workshop you will learn how you can use Maple with a little extra circuitry (op-amps, resistors, capacitors) to program your own audio effects in an Arduino-like sketch environment and focus mainly on programming effects instead of hardware.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1:00PM Lunch time – lunch is free – but don’t let it stop you from hacking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
10:00 PM Hacking Continues at the Echo Nest
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.
Overnight hacking is where all the magic happens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6:00PM – After all is done, we will find a local pub to get some refreshment.
It is sure to be a good time.
This picture represents the perfection of the Music Hack Day. Here I am sitting at my computer, in a dark room, totally focused on building my hack, while I sit next to the music technology superstar Matt Ogle of Last.fm. In front of me is a beer, a red bull and a glass of Ben Fields‘ private stock. What could be better than this! (Well, I suppose sitting on my right, just out of view could be Zooey Deschanel, that might be better). If you want to find yourself in such a position, then consider signing up for one of the upcoming Music Hack Days. There’s one in Barcelona on October 2,3 and there’s one in Boston on October 16, 17. Registrations are going fast, so sign up early to guarantee that you’ll have a seat.
I’ve almost recovered from the Boston Music Hack Day. Here’s a retrospective of posts, tweets video and images about the event. First, lots of people have written about their experiences at the hack day. Here’s a sampling:
- It Rocked! – Anthony Volodkin’s write up.
- Brian Whitman on Music Hack Day
- Circuit Bending for Sound’s sake – focuses on the hardware hacks
- Save the Robot – Boston Music Hackday: Links round-up -
- Hacking Crush: Music Hack Day Boston
- The future of music application development: trimutiny
- Zed equals zee: the art of the noise
- Dysonsound – debating the future of music
- Dave Haynes: Music Hack Day Boston (the snowball grows)
- Ben Ward : Yahoo! Developer Network Blog
- François Maillet’s blog which includes one of my favorite hackday photos:
- Music Hack Day: ‘A Dungeons & Dragons conference for music geeks’
- Francis wins iPhone category at Boston Music Hack Day
- Things I learned about organizing a hack day
- Grant Cerny’s post
Ian Hogarth from Songkick:
Bodega Girls at the Echo Nestival
Lots of friendly tweets too.
Boston Music Hack Day is in the can. I learned a lot over the last few days about what happens when you have 200+ programmers gather for a weekend. Here’s some of the things I want to remember for next time:
- Plan for no-shows - when the event is free, there will be some people who sign up, but then, for whatever reason will not show up. We had lots of people on the waiting list that could have attended if we had anticipated the no-shows.
- Buy Less Food - When people are up all night coding, they tend to skip breakfast. We had breakfast for 250 on Sunday, we probably only needed breakfast for 100.
- Late-night hacking with beer and music can be quite productive
- Have dueling projectors – when you have 35 demos to show, plug in time can add a half hour to a 2 hour demo session. (By the way, thanks to the good Samaritan ubergeek who volunteered to help the presenters get the video (someone tell me who it was)).
- Work with awesome people – Working Jon and Dave was great, but there was also an incredible behind-the-scenes team making the Hack Day possible. We had an awesome set of volunteers who gave their weekend to making the hack day possible. Here are some of them:
See the guy in the back with the cap? That’s Matthew Santiago – he was a non-stop hack day machine – from moving food for 300, organizing registration, handling and chauffeuring the Echo Nestival talent. He worked from 7AM Saturday morning to 7PM Sunday evening with about an hour of sleep.
The secret weapon of the hack day was Elissa – Director of Stuff at the Echo Nest- she managed so many details from booking the Echo Nestival, renting vans, carting food, finding volunteers, photoshopping badges, getting tee-shirts made, dealing with press, photographers, CEOs, and Founders, ordering tables and chairs for the Hack nest, wrangling sponsors, picking menus, ordering food, getting swag, making extra bathroom keys, hand delivering the excess food to the local homeless shelter and so much more. Elissa quietly managed all of the big and little details that I never would have thought of. If you attended the hack day, be sure to give her some twitter love.
I learned a lot over the weekend about events and organizing. I hope I get to be involved in more hack days in the future so I can use my new knowledge.
Photos by Dave Haynes
I’ll be giving a workshop on the Echo Nest API at the Boston Music Hack Day. Here are the slides – but you should really come to the workshop if you can – the slides don’t have all the music, video or presenter awesomeness that you’ll get at the live workshop. Hope to see you there.
Workshops! The core activity for the music hack day weekend is hacking. But before we dive into the hard core hacking the weekend starts with a set of music tech workshops where hackers can learn about the latest in music technologies – it’s a way for the hacker to add more tools to their toolbox. On Saturday morning we will be conducting around 25 workshops running in 5 sessions of 5 parallel tracks. Anyone interested in the music+technology space will likely find something interesting – music recommendation, concert/event data, music meta-data, iPhone programming, electronic instrument construction, Playdar, NPR – everything from how to author a song for the Rock Band Network to the Yahoo! query language. If you are going to the Hack Day, you may want to do a little bit of planning to help you decide which of the workshops you’ll want to attend, so check out the workshop schedule.