What is Music Hacking? We’ve asked ChatGPT

Much is said about OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool, the conversational AI search engine. You can ask it to write an FM synthesiser embedded in a web page, or a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Donal Trump. 

We were curious about its understanding of Music Hacking. We were not disappointed by the result!

Prompt on ChatGPT

“Music hacking is the practice of using technology to manipulate or create music in innovative ways. This can include using software to remix existing songs, creating new music from scratch using synthesizers and other electronic instruments, or even using unconventional devices such as hacked game controllers to make music.

One of the key principles of music hacking is the idea of open source and collaboration. Many music hackers share their creations and techniques with others, and often work together to build upon each other’s ideas. This has led to the creation of a vibrant online community of music hackers, who share their work and provide feedback and support to each other.

One of the most popular tools for music hacking is the digital audio workstation (DAW), which allows users to record, edit, and produce music using a computer. DAWs often come with a wide range of virtual instruments and effects, making them ideal for creating electronic music. Another popular technique in music hacking is the use of chiptunes, which are songs created using the sound chips of old video game consoles. By using emulators or actual hardware, music hackers can create nostalgic, 8-bit style tunes that have become popular in their own right.

 

Music hacking has also been used to create experimental and avant-garde music. By using unconventional methods and technologies, music hackers are able to push the boundaries of what is considered “music” and create unique and interesting sounds.

Overall, music hacking is a fascinating and growing field that is constantly evolving. Whether you’re a seasoned musician looking to try something new, or just a curious technologist, there are many ways to get involved and explore the world of music hacking. So, if you have a passion for music and technology, why not give it a try?”

A web-based synth

write javascript code for an FM synthesiser inside an html page

The initial response was missing the buttons to start/stop the synth, and the controls to change the modulation and frequency, so we asked :

write fully functional javascript code for an fm synthesiser inside an html page

What’s amazing is that it picked up the new requirements and added the UI code. We haven’t tested the code, but let us know on Discord if it works!

				
					<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<body>

<!-- Create a start/stop button for the synthesizer -->
<button id="startStop">Start</button>

<!-- Create faders for the modGain and modOsc values -->
<label for="modGain">Modulation Gain:</label>
<input type="range" id="modGain" min="0" max="10" step="0.1" value="1">
<label for="modOsc">Modulation Frequency:</label>
<input type="range" id="modOsc" min="0" max="1000" step="1" value="220">

<script>
  // Create an audio context
  var audioCtx = new AudioContext();

  // Create sine wave oscillators for the carrier and modulator
  var carOsc = audioCtx.createOscillator();
  var modOsc = audioCtx.createOscillator();

  // Set the frequencies of the oscillators
  carOsc.frequency.value = 440;
  modOsc.frequency.value = 220;

  // Set the modulation index of the modulator
  var modGain = audioCtx.createGain();
  modGain.gain.value = 1;

  // Use the output of the modulator to modulate the frequency of the carrier
  modOsc.connect(modGain);
  modGain.connect(carOsc.frequency);

  // Set the gain of the carrier oscillator
  var carGain = audioCtx.createGain();
  carGain.gain.value = 0.5;

  // Connect the oscillators to the DAC
  carOsc.connect(carGain);
  carGain.connect(audioCtx.destination);

  // Function to start/stop the synthesizer
  function toggleSynthesizer() {
    if (carOsc.state === "running") {
      carOsc.stop();
      modOsc.stop();
      startStop.innerHTML = "Start";
    } else {
      carOsc.start();
      modOsc.start();
      startStop.innerHTML = "Stop";
    }
  }

  // Function to update the modGain and modOsc values from the faders
  function updateValues() {
    modGain.gain.value = modGainFader.value;
    modOsc.frequency.value = modOscFader.value;
  }

  // Get the UI elements
  var startStop = document.querySelector("#startStop");
  var modGainFader = document.querySelector("#modGain");
  var modOscFader = document.querySelector("#modOsc");

  // Set the event listeners for the UI elements
  startStop.addEventListener("click", toggleSynthesizer);
  modGainFader.addEventListener("input", updateValues);
  modOscFader.addEventListener("input", updateValues);

  // Start the oscillators
  carOsc.start();
  modOsc.start();
</script>

</body>
</

				
			

AI for Music and Visual Art

In its current, sophisticated form, Artificial Intelligence Art uses the vast quantity of images and knowledge available to recreate scenes that have never existed, using only a prompt that describes the scene.

 

In the examples below, we created images using prompts like “futuristic learner of music technology in a distant galaxy, in the style of Jackson Pollock” using DALL-E or Stable Diffusion. 

Stable Diffusion

Dream Studio is Stable Diffusion’s AI Art web app tool. It’s free to generate a limited number of images, and very simple to get started.

DALL-E

As of yesterday (28th September) you can use DALL-E 2 like you would Dream Studio, without a waiting list. 

 

Some other ML powered tools and resources

  • Midjourney, image AI generator
  • RunwayML, video editing
  • Descript, text based video editing – we use it and love it)
  • Two Minute Papers, YouTube channel, exploring developments in the fields of AI
  • Dreambootha GitHub implementation of Google’s Dreambooth with Stable Diffusion
  • Jasper (not sure what they do, but they advertise a lot)
  • We’ll add more here, let us know on Discord your favourite ones. 

 

What about copyright?

There are still issues of ownership that need to be addressed. AI Art generators use materials available on the web to train their models, which might include copyright work. While it is perfectly fine to prompt a drawing in the style of a famous painter, it is less clear what will happen for copyrighted materials. 

In the example above, we’ve used the prompt “futuristic apple logo” in DALL-E and Dream Studio. DALL-E went significantly further away from the original Apple logo than Stable Diffusion. At this point, it seems that we would get into trouble if we claimed that the Stable Diffusion render of the apple logo was our own. Read more about legal issues on Silicon Republic.

What’s the technology behind this?

Essentially, Machine Learning is the glue that binds the images, the interpretation of the text and the render together. AI Generators have trained their software to recognise millions of images (a reported 650m in the case of DALL-E – OpenAI PDF), and analysed painters, trends and styles (such as pop art or comics). 

Google is credited with the first AI Generator, DeepDream, with its recognisable Van Gogh renderings featuring bizarre eyes and animals blending into the picture. They’ve published several papers on the technology, including ongoing work with Imagen, whose generator isn’t available yet, but claims to have the highest photo realistic definition. 

What about Generative Music? 

Generative Music has been a research topic for quite some time, and Machine Learning is already making its way into commercial plug-ins and applications. It doesn’t feel quite as a breakthrough than AI Generators of images though. 

The example video above, Daddy’s Car, is the outcome of a research project by Sony led by François Pachet (who’s now a Research Director at Spotify). The melody for the parts and vocals of the song was entirely created by training a model on the Beatles catalogue, such that the song resembles something like the Beatles would have created. Lyrics were created on top of the music, and it was recorded in the studio by a band. 

Many of these techniques have now found their way into creative workflows, to create drum patterns, melodies, arpeggios and more. 

How to get started?

Many artists who teach here at Music Hackspace are using Machine Learning in their work, and we have a growing collection of courses to help you get started with generative music and AI Art. Browse below for a selection of courses on generative music and generative art. 

Music Hackspace meetups

The Meetups are live events usually hosted online on a Zoom call. Meetups are generally organised for group of users of a particular creative technology (e.g. Max or TouchDesigner), and within that technology, on a variety of creative topics (e.g. music visualisation or interactive art).


The meetups are community-led and promote good practices, creativity, diversity, ethical considerations, transparency and openness. This is in the spirit of how we and our partners view the community and want to engage with its participants.


The Meetups create regular opportunities for everyone to meet and engage with like minded artists. We encourage active participation, questions, answers, and collaborations.

Anyone can present at a Meetup! It is the role of the Meetup Host to find a few speakers to share their experience on a particular topic, and we’re always happy to put them in touch with our community, so if you are interested to present, do get in touch!
Presentations range from work-in-progress to retrospective on past works and deep insights into research topics. Many artists who are still exploring a topic or a project enjoy sharing their journey into a particular technology, to get feedback, or to raise questions. Some artists take the opportunity to reflect on a recent project and discuss its technical aspects with the community. Every approach is welcome, it’s all about a genuine desire to share experiences, inspire and be inspired by others approaches.

The Music Hackspace isn’t offering a fee for presenting. The Host receives a fee though. They are tasked with finding the speakers. preparing the event, running it on the day and managing Q & A. If you are interested in hosting a meetup on a topic that you’re passionate about and that we haven’t covered, do get in touch!


If you’d like to present, but feel that your ideas and experience should be monetised, we are happy to discuss the possibility of a paid workshop with us in which you will receive a royalty share.

Yes! We believe that Meetups are a great way to introduce technologies, gather feedback and provide users first-hand experience of new creative possibilities. Do get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss this for your products.

Membership FAQ

This tier is free! That’s right, you can become a member for free, access over 100 recorded courses, participate to monthly meetups, introduction classes sponsored by our partners, and chat with the community on Discord. This tier will stay free forever. 

This is a great way to get started, discover new technologies and register to events with one click. 

Members of the Getting Started tier get access for a year to all beginner and intermediate classes. This includes upcoming live classes (there is a minimum of 60 live classes in that tier every year), as well as 200 on-demand courses. 

Priced at roughly the cost of 3 live workshops, this tier is ideal for those who are looking to get familiar with a range of creative technologies. 

This tier gives you access to every live and on-demand course available on our site, from beginner to advanced. This includes over 120 live classes in the next 12 months, as well as over 250 on-demand classes. 

 

This tier is best suited for those who are committed to learning new technologies and dig deep into a range of creative options. We offer a $100/£100/€100 discount for folks who can’t afford it or are in education. 

Yes, a membership gives you access to upcoming live classes that are available in that membership tier, for the next 12 months. 

We thrive to teach the latest creative technologies, so you will see courses that no university has taught yet, and technologies that haven’t made it yet to YouTube. With that being said, we are committed to deliver new courses on the following topics:

  • Sound design and synthesis
  • Game Audio
  • Composition, orchestration, production
  • Interactive art
  • Generative music
  • Creative Coding
  • Live visuals, broadcasting and sound visualisation
  • Generative art / Machine learning
  • Technologies: Max, Ableton, Arduino, Live, ProTools, TouchDesigner, Notch, Python, Javascript, Processing, PureData, C++, MIDI 2.0, Teensy, Bela, FMOD, Wwise, Unity, Unreal Engine, SWAM, Spitfire, Arturia, Focusrite, Novation, Android, TidalCycles, SuperCollider, UJAM, JUCE, and more…

 

An upgrade option will be made available shortly, and should you wish to upgrade sooner, contact us via the chat tool in the bottom right corner. When upgrading, we will only charge you for the difference with the higher tier. 

The membership are charged annually

Terms of use

1. PAYMENT INFORMATION

To purchase a subscription to Music Hackspace, you must be 18 years old at the time of purchase and appropriately complete the registration form. As part of the enrolment process, you will be required to submit a valid credit card & mailing address.

You will be billed for the content you select during the registration process. Your enrolment to on-demand content entitles you to perpetual access unless indicated otherwise, and pending availability of the courses which we may remove from the website.

2. REFUNDS

We offer a full refund of live classes up to an hour before start. We offer refunds on on-demand classes where it is justified. Please contact Music Hackspace support department and request a refund. Music Hackspace Ltd will only process refund requests received within 30 days of the original billing date.

3. PRIVACY

All information supplied by you to musichackspace.org  is subject to our Privacy Policy.

4. LIMITATION ON LIABILITY

Music Hackspace is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunction of any network or lines, computer online systems, servers, or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of any e-mail or redemption to be received by Music Hackspace on account of technical problems or traffic congestion online or on the Internet or at any Web site, or any combination thereof including any injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from downloading any materials consistent with this agreement or subsequent use of Music Hackspace.

ANY ATTEMPT BY YOU TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEB SITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS OFFER MAY BE A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, MUSIC HACKSPACE WILL DISQUALIFY YOUR ATTEMPTED REDEMPTION AND RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES FROM YOU TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.

Welcoming Jenny Bulcraig, our new Community and Events Manager

We are delighted to welcome our newest Music Hackspace team member, Jenny Bulcraig, as our new Community and Events Manager!

Jenny is bringing a wealth of experience to the team, having worked nearly a decade in the music industry, as a musician under the moniker of Rookes, and five years in the music tech community with cutting edge tech brands like ROLI and Vochlea. She is also the co-founder of the NME-endorsed studio talent network 2% Rising, which specialises in resourcing and empowering women and gender minorities working as producers and audio engineers.

Alongside her music production work, Jenny will be working to build our community and coordinate our events as we move forward into a hybrid model that combines in person and online events. We’re very excited to be working with her, and believe her skills and energy will be a great addition to the team.

Be sure to say hi to her when she pops up on Discord!

Changes to our website

We’ve made some changes to our website, to make it simpler to access the courses you have registered to.
To access your courses, you will need to create a new password first. 

Create new password
What’s new?
New dashboard with all your courses in one place
New navigation and search for all courses
– Payment gateway migration from Shopify to WooCommerce
– Retirement of shop.musichackspace.org 

Why gender diversity in the audio industry needs attention

By Dr Eddie Dobson

Yep, the audio industries have a long and established history of misogyny, exclusion and deep sense of male entitlement. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, or feel like it isn’t happening, or you really think that there are more important things to focus on (including other areas of women’s rights). Perhaps you’re aware but not sure what can be done.

Or maybe you’ve simply been blinded by your privilege (and freedom to focus on other things). Or your I’ve never seen it so it can’t be realism. Before you start a comments thread saying that girls and gender diverse people aren’t interested in audio (honestly yawn) please don’t embarrass yourself, just sit on your hands for a minute and keep reading. The situation is systemic, social and quite honestly diabolical.

How do we know there is a problem?

University of Southern California’s most recent Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Report revealed that only 2.6% of producers (for 500 songs on the Hot 100 Year-End Billboard Charts between 2012-2019) were women. That’s 29 women to 1093 men. Analysis of UCAS applications to 38 Higher Education degree courses over a 10 year period (when applications grew by 1400%) showed a 90% male demographic (Born & Devine). Female Pressure’s Facts Surveys (total data from 322 festival editions of 182 different festivals), from 2012-2017 shows an overwhelming male dominance of the global music scene.

 

I won’t go on but I really could because quite a few people (usually women*) have derailed their music careers in order to research and publish books: Women in the Studio: Creativity, Control and Gender in Popular Music Sound Production by Paula Wolfe; Gender in Music Production edited by Hepworth-Swayer, Hodgson, King and Marrington; Towards Gender Equality in the Music Industry edited by Strong and Raine; and Women in Audio by Leslie Gaston-Bird.

 

To make this clear, I’ll summarise – society and audio culture needs to change in order for women and gender diverse people to exist and remain present in all physical and virtual audio spaces. Change means addressing explicit misogyny and often more elusive unconscious bias, basic human values about how we treat our peers. It means presenting studio environments that are comfortable for everyone using them as Grace Banks explained in Off The Record: How Studios Subliminally Silence Women for The Quietus.

 

Change means recognising the leaky pipeline within education, where younger people aren’t seeing relatable role models, or feeling like a career in audio is plausible because they’re already experiencing subtle clues from a world that bases careers, skills and capability on a persons gender, from the second we are born! It means acknowledging that men talk about he, him and even the gentleman’s club when referring to their community and spaces of audio production.

What’s the big deal if girls don’t want to do it?
If you’re wondering about this, you’re still missing the point. Too many women become exhausted with the constant pressure to outperform male counterparts, with tokenism, with being unable to just chat audio because their gender has become a more unique point of interest in the all-male space.  So let’s consider the economic situation because, after-all we’re talking about an incredible range of professions when we cluster the audio industries. If we look at the creative industries as a whole, according to the UK Creative industries website in 2019 was valued at £115.9bn a year. In 2018 the value of service exports has been recorded at £35.6bn and we know that most of these industries include audio.
 

We have a responsibility to create industry career facing pipelines for people of all genders, and as women and people of diverse genders have been pushing hard against a range of now very well documented barriers there is proactive work to be done. 

We haven’t even started to touch on the issues affecting women and gender diverse people differently: race, disability, transgender discrimination. When considering discrimination, it is important to view this issue through an intersectional lens as experiences of discrimination are more or less layered.

 

What are we doing about it at Music Hackspace?

We at Music Hackspace are listening to women and gender diverse people on this issue of creating diverse and inclusive learning environments, and we have been working on this issue for some time. Our ongoing commitment to inclusion and diversity is reflected in our goal of achieving gender parity. In practice this means that for each man we seek out and recruit two women, and so far 36% of our attendees are women. We also invest in careers by offering training for artists looking to build their teaching portfolio, and we hope to inspire others in the audio industries to take the same positive action.

We’re not going to shy away from this and imagine that it is a problem for someone else to address (or continue to ignore), so we hope others will feel motivated to do the same. The Yorkshire Sound Women Network have recently launched their gender diversity and inclusion training, which leads to Volume Up Kitemark accreditation. We hope you will join us in exploring such initiatives.

* in this post we talk about women however the audio industries are basically not gender diverse; the issues facing the trans community are complex, indeed increasingly dangerous at the moment – so as a fundamental bottom line we include transwomen as women and also support non-binary people as part of this marginalised community in audio.

Why I’m Opting Out of the NFT Gold Rush

By Duncan Geere

As a generative artist and musician, I’ve been seeing three letters pop up in my social media feeds with an increasing regularity over the last year. Those three letters are “N”, “F” and “T”. An NFT – which stands for “non-fungible token” – is a way of establishing and verifying the ownership of something – including music, art, and all kinds of other bits and bobs – using blockchain technology.

I’ve always been interested in new technologies, and it’s unusual to see such a vibrant community springing up around something so quickly, so I was initially intrigued. I’ve been following the blockchain and cryptocurrency movement (which includes Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin) from a distance for about a decade, since writing about Bitcoin for Wired magazine in 2011.

But the problem I’ve always had with blockchains, and the reason why I’ve never personally invested in any, is the vast environmental damage they cause. In a nutshell, that’s also why I refuse to get involved with NFTs – I’m simply not willing to value my art over a liveable planet.

Why do NFTs cause so much environmental damage? Well, NFTs live on blockchains, and at the time of writing, all the major blockchains use a technique called “proof of work”, where your computer solves a bunch of fiendishly complex equations to validate transactions elsewhere on the network. In return, you get rewarded with cryptocurrency. This process is called “mining”.

The problem is that solving a bunch of complex equations requires a lot of computing power, which in turn requires electricity. While renewable energy is becoming more common, the world energy mix is still dominated by fossil fuels – particularly in the countries where most mining takes place. This means that blockchains have an enormous carbon footprint – at the time of writing, Bitcoin’s is about 90 million tonnes, while Ethereum’s is about 41 million tonnes. These two blockchains alone emit almost as much carbon each year as the entire country of The Philippines. If they were a country, they’d be the world’s 36th largest emitter.

This environmental damage is so great that regulators are getting concerned. Recently, the Swedish ministries of financial and environmental regulation teamed up to issue a joint statement that proposes an EU-wide ban on mining proof-of-work cryptocurrencies. They write:

If we were to allow extensive mining of crypto-assets in Sweden, there is a risk that the renewable energy available to us will be insufficient to cover the required climate transition that we need to make. This energy is urgently required for the development of fossil-free steel, large-scale battery manufacturing and the electrification of our transport sector.

There are several approaches that people are taking to try to reduce the astonishing environmental damage caused by NFTs. The first is carbon offsetting – this is the idea that you can cancel out your own emissions by paying other people to lower theirs. Unfortunately, they don’t really work – more than half of carbon offsets fail to offset carbon. And even if they did work, is it really ethical to pay someone in a developing country to plant trees on their farmland and totally change their way of life just so that you can drop a new NFT?

The other approach is shifting from “proof-of-work” blockchains to other consensus mechanisms like “proof-of-stake”, which reduces energy consumption, and therefore emissions. The most notable of these is currently Tezos, which is linked to the marketplace Hic et Nunc. Some people call these “green NFTs” (though they’re not actually greening anything – they’re just less brown), and they’re slowly growing in popularity, though they currently represent a tiny proportion – less than 0.5% – of the total crypto market.

Proof-of-stake, by the way, also doesn’t solve any of the other major red flags when it comes to NFTs – that they’re dumb, that they’re a scam, that they’re untrustworthy, that they’re a pyramid scheme, or that they perpetuate inequality -all of which are beyond the scope of this blog post.

For me – someone who merely wants our planet to remain habitable – the decision is quite easy. Any money I could make from NFTs pales in comparison with the guilt I’d feel for participating in a system that’s so obscenely wasteful at a time when the Earth is hotter than at any point in the last 125,000 years, when entire countries are disappearing below rising seas, when severe weather events are rampaging across the globe, when wildfire season is no longer just a season, when tens of millions are being displaced from their homes, and when our planet is in crisis.

NFTs – as artist Everest Pipkin says – are “nothing short of a crime against humanity”.

Duncan Geere is an information designer interested in climate and the environment

@duncangeere

http://www.duncangeere.com
http://blog.duncangeere.com

NFTs for music and digital creators

Is the Metaverse a space for creators to reach new audiences? What about the environment concerns or art theft? Artists opinions are divided on the topic.

Here at Music Hackspace, we want to help artists understand the space and make informed decisions. Our courses will help you navigate your way and find out for yourself if NFTs can be a revenue stream for you or a way to increase your audience reach.