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Sunday, February 12, 2012

This weekend was one well spent as I participated in Music Hack Day SF for the first time.

I initially partnered with Kelly Dunn, who has been working on a project to send OSC messages triggered by Sifteo cube user interaction events (more here: Siftosc).

From 2pm on, we toyed with the idea of creating an air drum setup, which treats the cubes as shakers or drum sticks, using Renoise's built-in OSC server. Ultimately this didn't pan out since we weren't able to trigger note events without preprogramming a beat into Renoise, but Kelly did get the shaker implementation working and went on to do a crazy hack where he used the Sifteo cubes to manipulate his monome controller .

I moved on to experimenting with PureData on iOS with libpd a good 3-4 hours later. I got a basic grid-based synth working, but was unhappy with the sound quality on the iPhone simulator, which is a known issue with libpd. I learned a lot about puredata and could have potentially demoed the app despite its annoying distortion issues, but since I didn't have a device to deploy to and it was still before midnight on the first day, I decided to start over with something else.

Looking for examples of manipulating microphone input on iOS, I found aurioTouch, a powerful demo app created by Apple to showcase audio processing with the microphone. I started tinkering with this but was starting to feel fatigued from wrangling libpd and wanted to move on from audio low level synthesis.

I took an hour break and decided to work on a zany, assuredly demo-able project.

Enter sideTrack. It's a Rube Goldberg-esque python script which leverages many different APIs to mutate an initial seed song many times over until it eventually plays a completely unpredictable song, while speaking the nonsensical phrases it uses to perform each search.

Similarly to how one might fall down a wikipedia hole, this python script uses random lyrics, geography, song titles and more to repeatedly mutate different searches into a track with a spotify url, which is finally played via AppleScript after exceeding a depth limit parameter.

It leverages APIs from MusiXMatch, EchoNest, Spotify, and google maps to mutate the songs at each depth level. It worked and the results were always surprising. I was grateful to receive generous prizes from spotify and 3scale.

Here's a screen cap of sideTrack:

Regardless of frustration from my numerous aborted project ideas, music hack day was a ton of fun. I met some very talented and passionate folks, and eagerly await the next music hackathon.

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