Set in the picturesque yet high tech environs of Umeå, Music Tech Fest Scandi combined performance, hacking, technology and tasting, for a fabulous sensory and intellectual onslaught. The festival was based at the University Arts Campus equipped with a leading Design Institute, School of Architecture and Modern Art Museum, and that has design labs with 3D printers that can print things the size of a car.
In a town that created the internet sensation ‘Kung Fury’ film, that houses a new guitar museum stuffed with iconic instruments, and where the sun barely sets in Summer, this MTF was always going to be special. There was an infectious vibe of collaboration and exploration - pop into the MTF jam room and you might find Graham Massey and Matt Black jamming together. At close of play people would be swapping tips on the latest music gear they were helping crowdfund. You could even hear and feel your coffee being made, as part of a sound art installation.
Here’s a selection from the first day. For full video coverage head to Music Tech Fest’s YouTube channel.
The Kung Fury film is a worldwide phenomenon - a gloriously over-the-top action comedy starring everything from David Hasselhoff to dinosaurs. The title song True Survivor has even propelled The Hoff to number one in the UK vinyl charts. The crowd-funded movie started out in Umeå, and was written and directed by David Sandberg who also stars. MTF kicked off with the producer Kristina Bergenwall Sandeberg talking about how they created this mini epic, and several of the actors and funders were in the audience.
Kristina Bergenwall Sandeberg
MusicBricks - R-IoT board
It may be small, but it packs a punch! Emmanuel Flety & Frederic Bevilacqua from the ISMM sound music interaction team at Ircam in France revealed their exciting new super small programmable micro sensor board - there are just a few prototypes in existence which they were making available to the hackers at MTF.
This was part of the new MusicBricks scheme to give hackers the latest tech tools and then support their inventions and help bring them to market. MusicBricks are a compendium of both physical and virtual interfaces and APIs, that allow creators, developers and digital content makers easy access to core building blocks of music.
The R-IoT sensor module embeds a 9-axis sensor with accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers, and you can get 3D acceleration, 3-axis angular velocity and absolute orientation over WiFi.
Abbey Road Red
Iconic Abbey Road Studios in London have got a new open innovation and incubator scheme going called Abbey Road Red. Jon Eades who runs it, explained how he is talent-spotting some of the most exciting people and innovations in music tech, and he was a big presence throughout MTF Scandi. Abbey Road is the home of many musical firsts - first mixing desk, first stereo recording - and wants to keep pioneering. Jon has been inviting music technologists in to the Studios to present their work.
Jon Eades, Abbey Road Red
Ultrasonic Audio specialise in directional audio - they can ‘beam’ sounds to a very precise area. When they demo’d their latest model of Acouspade directional speaker, the beaming was so precise it was like someone talking in your ear, and was exciting and disorientating all at the same time. The speaker ‘preserves silence’ where the sound is not needed. CEO Miha Ciglar was at the controls, and the technology has uses ranging from exhibitions to retail and concert sound.
Jonas Kjellberg from Gestrument had the audience making music in no time at all, just by moving around. Gestrument is a highly-rated app developed in Stockholm that you use by swiping and is a gesture based instrument/controller that is used by professional musicians and is simple for beginners to use too. You can set up your musical style or use presets to delve into different genres and to find the ”musical DNA” of songs and artists. It allows you to define your scales, rhythms and instruments. The developers have also created a scale editor called ScaleGen that you can work in and then import the results into Gestrument.
Playground - iPad app
Hermutt Lobby collective showed the iPad app Playground which lets you use building block type shapes as tools to make music by swiping and tapping in ‘scenes’ of music by artists. We heard some incredible bass sounds during the performance.
Playground is in closed Beta version at the moment but you can sign up to try it out here. Herrmutt Lobby is a group of electronic musicians and programmers based in Verviers in Belgium and they make patches, devices and an iPad MIDI controller builder called ‘Beatsurfing’.
Innovative Swedish company Teenage Engineering is known for its cool and compact synths, and when it brought out its Pocket Operator mini synth range earlier this year with Cheap Monday, comprising a drum synth, melody synth and bass synth, they went down a storm. We had a quick go on a delectable PO-12 drum version and were quickly making great rhythms.
Teenage Engineering , Pocket Operator
We then watched Jon Jönsson from the Teenage Engineering perform a blinding demo, swiftly building rhythms and melody.
Hakan Lidbo is the Swedish producer, musician and inventor behind the Yellofier - a fantastic music-making app created with Boris Blank from Yello that is a Kitmonsters favourite. His presentation, which took us through many of his exciting creative projects, was an eye-opener and included sending specially-composed music into space, and the Big Beat drum machine - at 10m wide and 3m tall probably the largest in the world. He also talked about his experiment with monkeys from six different species, giving them synths to play at Stockholm Zoo. We loved watching some of the footage - the experiment concluded that monkeys didn’t have any synth talent!
Balandino di Donato - Sound Spatialisation Using Gesture Control
Balandino di Donato is based at Birmingham City University and is developing gSPAT - Live Sound Spatialisation Using Gesture Control. He has created an interactive system able to map gestural data to spatialisation parameters and uses the Myo armband. He performed electronic music using the armband and also ‘grabbed’ live sounds remotely with the armband and repeated them, without touching his computer or an interface. It looked like magic!
Ecce Cello - David Fernandez
Take one man, a cello and music tech and you get an engrossing performance that ended up being one of the festival’s award winners chosen by Graham Massey. David Fernandez’ epic Ecce Cello incorporates live looping with iPhone and iPad along with cello playing and a fair bit of humour. He explores the relationship between classical music, technology and the body and also uses video-mapping in his work.
Ecce Cello - David Fernandez
Reeps One - Cymatic beatboxing
Beatboxer Reeps One gave a brilliant performance, but the story he told leading up to it was compelling. He talked about how he got started, and how he composes. Reeps One is known for his dubstep sounds and also his artwork. In an experiment at University College, London, his brain was scanned while he was performing and compared with that of a novice beatboxer. He expected a huge area to ‘light up’ but the experiment proved that all the experience he had had meant Reeps used two brain areas as he had more control, but the novice used far more. Brain waves and neuroscience were a recurring theme throughout MTF with people harnessing and developing them in different ways. Reeps also performs using live Cymatics to create dynamic audio-visual installations.
Chirp also featured in Day One - it’s an app that’s like a sonic barcode and it transfers data between devices. We spoke to the founder Patrick Bergel and iOS developer Manabu Shimada, and look at it in more detail here.