Monthly Music Hackathon is back with its annual New Musical Instrument Hackathon. On June 11, at Spotify’s New York City offices, the event kicks off at noon with talks from DJs, robotics engineers, sound artists, composers and clarinet makers on their work.
Then the hacking begins: create whatever you want related to music, new instruments, etc. Original art, research, apps, and any other kind of project are all fair games. Programming and technical skills are not required. Concerts & hack demonstrations will start at 8:00 p.m. There will also be workshops on hardware hacking, gestural music and interactive dance.
Some speakers and workshop organizers took the time to answer a few questions about their work, new instruments, and how their work informs their music. Jessica Segall will talk about bees, music and piano soundboards. Steve Kemper and Scott Barton will talk about their musical robots. Thomas Carroll will discuss the making of clarinets, historical and more. Matt Ostrowski will discuss his current work with old rotary phones.
People talk a lot about musicianship when it comes to new instruments and interfaces. What do you think of this word? Does it inform your violin maker at all?
Steve Kemper: When people talk about “musicianship” in terms of new instruments and interfaces, there always seems to be an implicit (or explicit) comparison to traditional acoustic instruments. Instrument designers are often criticized because a performer cannot learn and master new instruments in the same way as a traditional instrument. Linked to the question of musicality are ideas of virtuosity and expression – that for a new instrument to be successful, there has to be a path to mastering that Paganini instrument. In addition, the instrument must be able to convey the subtleties of human emotion from the performer to the listener. The design of robotic instruments has led me to question the traditional understanding of practice and mastery. Since robotic instruments do not have a human performer, musicality is the result of design and programming. Virtuosity and expression are also fundamentally different for robotic instruments. Musical gestures that are difficult for a human to play, such as fast arpeggios, can be easily performed by a robotic instrument. The subtle variations in timing and dynamics that make up a musical phrase are much more difficult to program. My own compositions for robotic instruments avoid duplicating the musical abilities of human performers and focus on the mechanical nature of these instruments.
Matthew Ostrowski: When I started improvising with analog electronics in the 1980s, I took the very firm position that I was not a musician. I had relatively little experience in traditional instrumental performance, and in the punk-rock spirit of the time, I rejected the label, along with what I thought were outdated and elitist ideas of virtuosity. However, over the course of three or four years, I found that the concerts and performances that I found most satisfying were precisely those in which I exercised my “virtuosity” most intensely, using my listening skills and of play at / at their highest level. to create exciting and dynamic sound experiences.
In my opinion, musicality is not about how fast you can play a set of notes, but rather how you can sculpt time – how a performer can distract, appease, and even frustrate an audience’s attention to. lead him to unexpected places at the intersection of sound and their own mind.
This process is, however, always mediated by the body, and electronic methods of sound production are not really designed to really take into account the body. I started working with alternative controllers because the music I want to hear and make seems best served by techniques that engage my body as directly as possible. For me, the whole reason for working with alternative controllers is to serve the end of musicality – the channeling of energy in real time between the sound producer, the body and the audience.
What do you think of DIY instruments, sensors and controllers? Is it important to craft or customize every part of your gear?
Jessica Segall: The process of creating any new form involves a learning curve and there are aspects that need to be customized. In my job, this may mean taking a conventional and proven skill such as CVC or beekeeping and applying it to a different outcome such as freezing paints or placing bees in a piano. There is a long period of research and testing in my work before a project is completed and during that time I consult with others on the technological aspects of the projects. But the DIY element, handmade in my work is very important. My work offers functional models of survival and cohabitation with the natural world in a speculative future where autonomy is necessary. I need to know that the work is doable by non-experts, does not rely on exploitative labor practices and makes women’s work visible.
What factors do you pay the most attention to when creating a new instrument (or new work of sound art)?
Thomas Carroll: When I set out to copy an original instrument from a museum collection or design one from a historical model, I first look at the playing characteristics of the original and try to quantify game characteristics in terms of measurements and dimensions. I do this first for several reasons. Firstly, I consider myself first as a performer and second as a luthier, so if an instrument is not playing or is not in playing condition, I have to take that into account in the design and consider why it is not playing and what could have been done through the years. Second, focusing on the dimensions first and the sound second is anathema to the eventual function of the instrument itself, once completed; I try to put sound and music before everything else. Finally, I think that knowing which parts of an instrument influence sound in specific ways is extremely important to the design of the instrument itself, and discovering that aspect of the instrument is an important part of the overall measurement process. I take measurements to the nearest tenth (in some cases, hundredths) of a millimeter, making sure to account for warping and shrinking of the bore due to use. The bore is the most critical part of a wind instrument to measure and, of course, the measurement most likely to change over time, as the repeated expansion and contraction due to saliva and air hot distort the original measurements. For large 18th and 19th century clarinet makers, I have pierce ratings based on averages of many copies of a single maker, and this is what I use when building one. However, the most important factor for me is the overall sound. I’m looking for a specific 18th century aesthetic that reflects the sound produced on the original instrument with the added “safety” of a brand new “freshly made” instrument, and of course the act of measuring and copying a clarinet. 200 years old is a study in itself, it is the combination of the knowledge of how to play on instruments and make them convincing as musical tools and the knowledge of how to accurately recreate the dimensions and the game features that fascinate me the most.
What do you think of the audience’s experience watching you play your instruments?
Scott Barton: One of the main reasons I make music with robots is the visual and performative aspect of the machines. The movements of robotic artists allow audiences to understand the causality of sound production (in a way that music on tape sometimes does not) and to make associations with other dynamic body types. The materials, components and structure of a machine provide a visual aesthetic experience that comments on aspects of our culture. For example, non-anthropomorphic designs express a desire to explore the uniqueness of the machine (rather than human emulation). Locating modular percussion robots in the woods (as we did in Drum Circle) begs questions about the relationship between technology and what is “natural”.
Hackathon on new musical instruments
Saturday 11 June 2016
Noon to 10 p.m.
45 W 18th St, 7th Floor
New York, New York 10011
To free. All are welcome: RSVP
About the Monthly Music Hackathon
Monthly Music Hackathon is a unique event series that brings together New York’s diverse music communities to explore music from all angles. Once a month, a whole day is devoted to a subject related to music, such as algorithmic composition, lyrics, hip hop, musical games, etc. This is an opportunity for you to learn about a new topic from experts, participate in hands-on workshops, work on your own project for a whole day, practice the full life cycle of a creative project and get feedback on your work from people with diverse perspectives. Monthly Music Hackathon is free, open to everyone, welcoming people of all levels and disciplines, non-competitive, does not allow for advertising or recruitment, and is organized by passionate volunteers. For more information, visit our blog, Twitter, and facebook pages.