Last weekend, Livid participated as a sponsor for the 2014 Music Hack Day, a hackathon where companies presented their platforms, and programmers and designers created teams to realize their ideas in the space of 24 hours. Generously hosted at the Github and Spotify headquarters in San Francisco, there was food, drink, recreation, and plenty of space to focus on making ideas come to life.
We were a bit out of place, as most participants are interested in the data of music to help create playlists, share tunes, discover music, and create web-based analogs/metaphors of how we already enjoy music. I say “out of place” because we at Livid are concerned with encouraging people to MAKE music, rather than CONSUME it! As someone with a lifelong love of vinyl and great friends who share music, I’m a bit skeptical of the value of a robot serving up your favorite hits. But enough of my ol’ man luddism…
I partnered with Chris Wilson of Google, who has been very hard at work on the Web Audio and Web MIDI standards. We’ve been interested in these developments because they allow you to control software instruments in a browser with a controller, which really opens up some interesting ways of distributing creative music apps to Livid customers. As of today, the Web Audio standard works in most recent browsers, which means you can build instruments that work natively in a browser. The Web MIDI standard is mostly a proposal at this time, and only works in the latest version of Chrome – Firefox coming soon, however! To see what other people thought of these things, we challenged people to use our controllers and the Web Audio and Web MIDI APIs to “make a cool instrument.”
Oddly, people seemed more enamored with ideas like DJ’ing with a Pebble smart watch or letting everyone at a party take over the DJ duties on their smartphones. Whatever, I guess we’re old-school and think you should use real equipment to DJ, and have a DJ, well, DJ! That said, there were still plenty of really neat ideas that people hacked together in a day, so here’s some highlights:
Neal Riley took me up on an offer of a loaner Base, and made the FreeSound Drum Machine in Cycling 74′s Max. This patch uses the search API of the FreeSound archive to search for sounds, load them into his app, and instantly drop them into a step sequencer using the Base. It’s a simple, but powerful idea for easily accessing a huge library of sound and simultaneously composing with it. The source code is on Neal Riley’s github site.
He didn’t use the Web Audio or Web MIDI APIs, but it’s a really great way of leveraging internet technologies with a controller.
The newly-minted “Mixcandy” group of Ching-Wei Chen, Micah Elizabeth Scott, and Francis B combined several forces to make the most impressive performance of the hack fest. Combining Scott’s super bright LED panel using her Fadecandy controller, Gracenote’s immense music database, and a <name withheld> controller, Mixcandy created a song remixer that visualizes the song based on the descriptions of the song parts from Gracenote. MIDI is handled natively in the browser using Web MIDI, and music is controlled using Web Audio. The source code is on the Mixcandy GitHub site.
I’ve done a bit of work to remap this app to the OhmRGB, and hope to have some video of the improvement soon!
Ray McClure has done a few installations and projects using Web Audio including a multi-player synthesizer, remote controlled from participants’ phones. For the hackathon, he extended his “nonstop.house” generative music player with some Eno-like notation for the pieces that are generated when the site is loaded. It’s a work in progress, so it’s not quite live, but you can see a video of his work-in-progress here:
(Ray is the same person who did the impressive 808 Rubik’s cube which generates samples of 808 drums on a virtual Rubik’s Cube)