Music Hack Day Scotland

Hackers, musicians, developers, bloggers and more, crowded into the Dissection Room at Summerhall on the 24th of August to take part in Music Hack Day Scotland, an international event that brings together creative minds to produce new and innovative musical things.

The event opened up with talks from Edinburgh artist and app developer Yann Seznec, highlands-based band and musical inventors Found, Marco Donnarumma the creator of the Xth Sense musical instrument, audio data chirruping, and pioneering electronic musician Matthew Herbert. There was an unusual theme of sampling pigs, and a large focus on challenging and inspiring the audience. We went away brimming with ideas, and after a short break we had some presentations from groups providing tools and software to help us realise those ideas. Groups like Raspberry Pi (Eben Upton was here!), MusicBrainz, Songkick, LastFM, Spotify, Deezer, and Edinburgh’s very own Musemantik were on hand with cool tools. There was also a big bucket of electronics gear liberated from the Lucky Frame vaults for us to solder on to. We made our way downstairs and got cracking.

All through the night, there were bleeps, shouts, and the sound of the lift going upstairs on coffee runs. I’m not going to lie, I went home and got a good few hours’ sleep. This is the first MHD to arrive in my home town, and I was going to take advantage of the creature comforts!

Here is a video of the hacking by Julien Pearly:

The new day began with a fire alarm. Fortunately no-one broke rule zero, and we were allowed back indoors to hack with vigour. By five o’clock we were all tired, but our hacks were done. We left the hacking area and presented our new creations.

There was a great focus on producing things to create something unusual and expressive,
like the Drum Hack for enabling people to play drums using their eyes or feet. Will, its creator, is a teacher who was inspired to create something for people with physical disabilities, and built it from a toy drum kit. There were also some great uses of existing streaming music and music data; the Lyric Pictionary game, which fetches lyrics from any song and lets you guess the missing words, was one startlingly entertaining addition. The BagpipeHack by Magnus was a pleasingly Scottish presence, allowing lone pipers to rehearse and share their music with like-minded cat-stranglers across the internet. The audience came together to share in the Massively Multiplayer sequencer. You can find them all at the Music Hack Day wiki.

All in all, it was a great hack day which captured the creative energies of a hundred ingeneous minds from all around the world. Everyone was friendly, supportive, and driven by a desire to create marvellous things.

As a closing note, and a small slice of spam, there is a regular music night at the Hacklab every third Friday of the month. If you were at Music Hack Day and now want to polish your music hack, or if you feel inspired to start a music hack of your own, come along on the 21st of September and join us for an evening of making noise and things that make noise. James and I will be working on getting the mighty Ducktar finished, and may even perform the Iron Maiden classic “Fear of the Duck.”

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