Posts Tagged music hack day

The Future of Mood in Music

One of my favorite hacks from Music Hack Day London is Mood Knobs.  It is a Spotify App that generates Echo Nest playlists by mood. Turn some cool virtual analog knobs to generate playlists.

Mood Knobs

The developers have put the source in github. W00t.  Check it all out here: The Future of Mood in Music.

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Bohemian Rhapsichord – a Music Hack Day Hack

It is Music Hack Day Boston this weekend. I worked with my daughter Jennie (of Jennie’s Ultimate Roadtrip fame) to build a music hack. This year we wanted to build a hack that actually made music. And so we built Bohemian Rhapsichord.

Bohemian Rhapsichord is a web app that turns the song Bohemian Rhapsody into a musical instrument.  It uses TheEcho Nest analyzer to break the song into segments of quasi-stable musical events. It then shows these as an array of colored tiles (where the colors are based on timbre) that you can interact with like a musical instrument.

If you click on a tile, you play that portion of the song (or hold down shift or control and play tiles just by mousing over them).  You can bind different segments to keys letting you play the ‘instrument’ with your keyboard too (See the FAQ for all the details).   You can re-sort the tiles based on a few criteria (sequential order, by loudness, duration or by similarity to the last played note).  It is a fun way to make music based on one of the best songs in the world.

The app makes use of the very new (and not always the most stable) web audio API. Currently, the only browser that I know that supports the web audio API is Chrome.    The app is online so give it a try:  Bohemian Rhapsichord

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Bipolar Radio

I just finished my  hack for Music Hack Day SF. It is called Bipolar Radio.   It is your standard Pandora-style artist radio but with a twist. Type in an artist, and you’ll get an endless stream of music by similar artists.   When you need to hear a high energy song, just click on the yellow happy face and you’ll instantly hear a high energy song by the currently playing artist.  Similarly, if you’d like to chill out, just click on the green face and you’ll instantly hear a low energy song that should help you relax a bit.

The hack uses the Echo Nest song data to help find the high and low energy songs. I use a combination of loudness, energy, danceability, and tempo to sort and filter the songs by an artist into the high and low energy buckets.  I’m taking advantage of the new Rdio / Echo Nest integration to get Rdio IDs so I can play them in Rdio’s nifty player.

Give it a whirl and let me know what you think:   Bipolar Radio



Fans Forever and Ever

One of my very very favorite hacks from this weekend’s Music Hack Day is Greg Sabo’s  Fans Forever And Ever.  “Fans Forever and Ever” automatically generates a (sometimes rather creepy) fan page for an artist. It works by taking an artist’s cultural data from The Echo Nest API as well as song lyrics from musiXmatch.  The fictional fan that creates the page has a randomly created  set of personality traits drawn from a pool of crazy.  I especially like the Geocities look and the borderline-psychotic poetry:

Give me country music!

Here’s a poem I wrote:

I fill myself with the pop sound

The concert changed my life
I hope I do a good job
die, die

…because death is the only solution
I put it on my iPod
I’ll just put on some female
such music
HEAVEN is the only place for Taylor Swift
My friends don’t understand female artist
There is only one life that I want to take

I live for the music.
what should I wear as I commit murder

“Forever & Always” gets me every time

it’s a shame to make it go quick
I don’t care what they say
I have a collection of saws
Never ever say I’m not a true Taylor Swift fan

‘Fans Forever and Ever’  makes sure you remember to keep the ‘fan’ in ‘fanatic’.

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“We will hack!”

Music Hack Day NYC 2011 is done!  What a weekend it was!  175 Hackers built 72 kick ass hacks in 24 hours.  Much thanks to General Assembly for hosting the weekend in their wonderful ‘urban campus’.  The facilities were top notch, wireless and network were flawless and the people from General Assembly were incredibly accommodating.

Music Hack Day presentations at General Assembly

John Britton from Twilio and NYHacker brought the whole event together lining up the venue, and great set of sponsors. (Oh, and Twilio is really cool – fantastic API for hacking on phones).

John Britton (channeling Roger Daltry) thanks the sponsors

The event would not have happened without Elissa and and sweatsedo army  that did everything that needed to get done – from setting up 200 folding chairs, registering the hackers,  serving beer, to taking out the trash. Thanks to Elissa, Matthew, Meghan, Janelle and DJ Sohn for working around the clock to make this all happen!

The sweatsedo army and their Commander

There are some great reporting on the Music Hack Day already appearing on line:

Be sure to check out Thomas Bonte’s excellent Flickr photostream of the event.

Compulsory photo of official Music Hack Day model Matt Ogle with his fans

Final thanks to Dave Haynes for kicking off the Music Hack Day  and diligently shepherding the movement over the last two years.  Music Hack Day is now an unstoppable force!

Dave and Jason

Eric and the SoundCloud gang put together the Music Hack Day Rap – just listen to the energy in the crowd (and this is after sitting through nearly 3 hours and 72 demos):

I had a great time at the event – can’t wait to do it again next year!


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Great Caesars’ Ghost!

The Echo Nest now has an official Editor in Chief.  Eliot Van Buskirk has joined the Echo Nest staff.  He’s writing about music apps at  He already has a whole bunch of great writeups about Music Hack Day Boston and all of the projects that have come out of it.  Check it out:

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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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