Music Tech Fest from Paris to Sweden

Music Tech Fest is back, from 29-31 May in Umeå, Sweden. With the latest in music tech, plus performance, a hack camp and jam sessions, it’s another don’t miss event. Artists already confirmed include Scanner, Laura Kriefman with Guerilla Dance Project, and Kenneth Alewine’s Performing Melancholia, a visual music experiment with an automaton. Exciting new band merch technologies, sound artists, instruments and digital platforms are all featured too, and tickets are free. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from Music Tech Fest Paris to give you a feel for what to expect.

Myriam Bleau - by Andrew Dubber

IRCAM, Pompidou Centre

Music Tech Fest Paris took place at IRCAM at the Pompidou Centre. The Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music, is one of the world’s largest public research centres dedicated to both musical expression and scientific research. The main auditorium boasts quadrophonic sound that made the performances really come alive.

With presentations ranging from new instruments and platforms to apps and ‘studio-less’ radio, and performances that included dance, new electronic music and precision audio beams, there were plenty of exciting things to experience.

Lossy and Strangers Are People Too - by Andrew Dubber

Lossy and Strangers Are People Too created a mesmerising and moving electronic audio visual collaboration, and French beatboxer Ezra performed with the Organic Orchestra’s interactive leather glove that can control sound and light.

Ezra - by Andrew Dubber

Myriam Bleau

Canada’s Myriam Bleau put on a stunning show, which made our Top Ten gigs of 2014. Her beats and sample-laden Soft Revolvers set was great electronic music but also incited wonder at how she made the sounds. The sleek and beautiful technology Myriam uses, consists of four light-up spinning tops that she designed and built. This very physical as well as audio and visual spectacular made our jaws drop and with its performance meets DJ feel, would be equally at home in a venue, nightclub or theatre. Here’s a taste of Myriam’s work.

Trax It - ID-ing music

Music Tech Fest is also about tech for the wider music industry, whether that is new sync licensing platforms, music discovery apps or gig-swapping websites.

It was great to see a Beta version of Trax It, which identifies tracks in mixes, and produces names and links for the tunes. It is designed to make the tracking of public performance royalties easier and more accurate for rights holders, whether it is online, on TV or radio stations. Electronic artists often miss out when their work is used in mixes and we were told that bad and missing royalties data loses the electronic music industry 125 million Euros a year.

Trax It demo - by Kitmonsters

Beaming sound - Ultrasonic Audio

Miha Ciglar from Ultrasonic Audio demonstrated a stunning device for precision ‘beaming’ of audio to a certain location, opening up huge possibilities for performance and more. It’s a hyper-directional sound system and it caused quite a stir with people flocking to see the technology after the presentation.

Miha Ciglar - by Andrew Dubber

Phonotonic - an instrument you can catch

The Phonotonic demo was a delight. It’s a multi-sided music device you can throw or even put in your socks! You can control the beat, melody, and sound effects just by moving around. The Phonotonic tracks the way you move, talks to its app using bluetooth, and turns these movements into music in real time. You can split melody and rhythm on two Phonotonics or even take the sensor and place it somewhere unusual, like those socks.

Phonotonic - by Andrew Dubber

MOD Duo - loads of effects pedals in one box

Sometimes guitar players can feel a bit left out of developments in music tech - so we loved seeing the MOD Duo, a multipurpose pedal that puts hundreds of music pedals into one powerful little box. It’s a digital pedalboard and you download your effects directly from the MOD’s interface. You can create your pedal chain by dragging and dropping effects online and you don’t need to run it through a computer as it is a live sound processor. You can plug different kinds of instruments into it too. Could this mean the end of the heavy pedalboard?

Mod Duo - by Andrew Dubber

Hack in the hat

There was plenty happening on the hacking front. London-based GHack were running a web audio API hack workshop for women to make a soundmap of Centre Pompidou, and there was also a well-equipped hack camp nerve centre where teams got busy with a variety of other challenges. Gear included Arduino kits and Leap Motion Controllers supplied by RS Components, and there were plenty of tips from MTF’s Hacker-in-chief Adam John Williams..

MTF GHack - by Andrew Dubber

During the 24-hour hacking session, DJ Barry’s Lounge called in to entertain the hackers with his unique 7” vinyl collection. The soldering irons were passed round through the night and teams pooled their skills to come up with some very fine hacks indeed.

Here’s Matan Berkowitz with a winning ‘Fashion Wearables’ Sennheiser challenge: a musical hat he created with Cyril Laurier and Marina Kushnir.

Adam John Williams, Marina Kushnir, Cyril Laurier, Matan Berkowitz, MTF Director Michela Magas - by Andrew Dubber

The hat uses EEG data from the wearer to create music, and the hat effects the music depending on the direction and movement of the wearer’s head.

Wearable human synthesizer

The RS Components ‘Internet of Music Things’ hack award went to a team of hackers for their “Wearable Axoloti Human Synthesizer”.

Johannes Taelman, Sara Morris - by Andrew Dubber

Axoloti, which was also demonstrated at MTF, is a platform created in Belgium by Johannes Taelman, that lets you create your own digital synthesizer, effects unit, groovebox or stomp-box. It recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Sara Morris, Etienne Gigand, Stacey Hsueh, Johannes Taelman, Karl Panek - by Andrew Dubber

Gunk Jam - geek punk all-stars close the fest

The final day of Music Tech Fest Paris closed with a gloriously vibrant geek punk Gunk Jam featuring some of the hacks and apps in action, as well as some unusual instruments found close to IRCAM. The jam featured haunting and ethereal sounds from a mini bamboo saxophone bought nearby, electronic beats and keys, a hang drum, a circuit bent VTech Alphabet machine from Bogus Noise, Arduino-based mini synth made in the hack camp, and more. The hang player - [Javier Murugarren] - was spotted outside the venue and invited in to jam.

Music Tech Fest Gunk Jam - by Andrew Dubber

The multi-national cast of jammers was a mix of performers and MTF team members: Rania Kim (Portrait), Barney Spigel, Dean McCarthy, Kat Five, Obi Blanche, Rani Dar, Adam John Williams, Ricardo Emil and Javier Murugarren.

Music Tech Fest Gunk Jam - by Andrew Dubber

Music Tech Fest Scandinavia

For more information on Music Tech Fest Scandinavia 29-31 May click here. Free tickets are available via eventbrite.

The programme includes: performances and live demonstrations of music tech, a 24-hour hackathon competition in music technology and instrument invention, an Innovation camp for kids, a Jam Camp where every one can play, innovations in music and technology, presentations, demonstrations and test-it-yourself, and an Academic symposium on 1st June.

MTF Scandinavia is designed to be an international meeting place for musicians, hackers, artists, creatives, music lovers and nerds. Sweden is the world’s largest music exporter per capita, and the event takes place at Sliperiet which is a newly opened innovation centre at Umeå University Arts Campus.