KYUB residency: 4-workshop series with IKLECTIK (UK) and the Institute of Sound (Ukraine)

Music Hackspace is teaming up with IKLECTIK to curate 4 workshops in December 2022, as part of the KYUB programme, a residency project with the Institute of Sound (Ukraine). 

 

If you’re an artist based in Ukraine, you can apply for the residency programme. Selected artists will be awarded a 1-year Going Deeper membership with Music Hackspace, a 1-year license of Max+RNBO, a 1-year license of L-ISA Studio and 500 EUR. 

 

Join the courses to learn about new exciting creative technologies and connect with artists from Ukraine!

Cave of Sounds: 8 instruments, 3 continents, 10 years

Cave of Sounds: 8 instruments, 3 continents, 10 years

Tim Murray-Browne is our guest blogger this month. 10 years ago, Tim was was in residency at Music Hackspace, the first artist residence we ran, in collaboration with Sound and Music. During his residence, Tim designed an ambitious interactive installation that is still going today. Its story is an exploration of the hacking culture, the prehistoric roots of music, collaboration and serendipity. Cave of Sounds is touring the world, find out more on the installation’s website.


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Hello from Milan! I’m Tim Murray-Browne, and Cave of Sounds has just opened here for a year-long at the Museum of Science and Technology. Eight digital instruments, each made by a different artist, are networked into a single interactive sound installation, which is then exhibited for visitors to play with. 

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Cave of Sounds in Milan

Cave of Sounds launched at Music Hackspace in 2012, having been selected by Sound and Music as their first composer in residence. Ten years on, it’s toured three continents.

After four years on a PhD researching the essence of “interactive music” as an artform, my head was filled with theories of what music is. Most prevalent was Christopher Small description of music as a playground to explore the possible social relationships between people, free from the consequences of literal reality. We shout, harmonise, clash, resonate, shout, sit quietly, dance, flirt, show off, lead, follow. The whole gamut of interpersonal dynamics is there.

 

Cave of Sounds was originally called Ensemble. The single word interchangeably describes a group of people, a set of instruments and the sound they make together. I imagined prelinguistic people sitting around a fire evolving music as the gateway to the dynamic web of relations and roles that makes human teamwork so formidable. From this perspective, ensemble is the fruit and the necessity of music. It is the practice of individuals becoming a single force of consciousness.

 

I observed that in the music hacker scene, a single individual is often instrument-creator, composer and performer. I’d see people perform together on a stage. But in this space, creating and hacking technology is a musical act in itself. So what happens if we create the instruments together? Like how we improvise together in a jam, except with the instrument-building bit. Would we end up with an ensemble to match the spectral balance of the orchestra? Would our individual musical identities still shine through in the outcome?

 

I put out the invitation to the community for people to join an experiment where we each build an instrument for a new ensemble. Eight got involved: Dom Aversano, Susanna Garcia, Wallace Hobbes, Daniel Lopez, Tadeo Sendon, Panagiotis Tigas, Kacper Ziemianin and myself. As we each set about building an instrument, we met every few weeks, sharing ideas, prototypes and skills. It took ten months.

 

That initial vision of prehistoric people around the fire persisted, as did the egalitarian and grassroots ethos of the scene. The circular arrangement of the instruments was agreed because we wanted no hierarchy. At a hackday, Dom dropped presented the project as “a cave of sounds” and the name stuck.

 

I pushed to avoid any official performances of Cave of Sounds. It’s exhibited for visitors to play. To introduce professional performers would subordinate the other players. It would set a standard. Without official performers, we avoid defining how these instruments should be played. What the audience does can remain as open as our experience of creating it was. This kind of ensemble is emergent. Bottom-up, not top-down.

 

I might have thought leading a bottom-up process would be a lightweight undertaking, but I remember finding it stressful. The more unpredictable the pieces, the more peculiar the task of keeping them together. It was stressful too. I remember helpful words from Atau Tanaka, one of my two mentors on the project: the work is the process so its success lies in remaining authentic to that process rather than its outcome.

 

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Cave of Sounds at the Barbican, 2013

The outcome turned out better than I could have imagined. Through serendipity, we were able to debut the finished work for one week in the downstairs lobby of the Barbican. The sound of the eight instruments richocheted off the brutalist concrete pillars.

Kacper’s Lightefface is a lamp and an array of sensors each controlling a different harmonic of a fundamental. Panagiotis’s Sonicsphere is a hand-sized sphere that you shake and rotate to play and bend notes. Dom’s Campanology lets you move your arms to play percussive rhythms based on the algorithmic patterns of churchbell ringers. Tadeo’s Generative Net Sampler has invisible trigger zones that play sonifications of the internet’s background noise. Susanna’s Mini-Theremin modulates sampled audio as your hand gets closer. Wallace’s Joker is a conduction-based drum machine that relies on the player wearing a mask to function. Wind, my contribution, lets you play a flute by flapping your arms about.

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The Animal Kingdom

The pièce de résistance (in my opinion) is Daniel’s The Animal Kingdom, which uses custom computer vision code to analyse the shape of hand shadows people cast to play an array of animal and synth sounds.

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Cave of Sounds in Rome

When people play together, lines join them together in a central projection. If they continue for a little bit, the sounds evolve with the harmonies becoming more complex.

In its original form, Cave of Sounds required two of us to be continuously present to periodically fix, reset and recalibrate the instruments. But more challenging – from a touring perspective – was that each instrument ran on its creator’s laptop. Few in our world are able to give up their laptop for a week or two.

 

 

In 2017, I received funding from Arts Council England to build a team to re-engineer the work into a tourable format. Further support came down the line from British Council in Athens, the Museum of Discovery in Adelaide and now the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan.

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An evolving installation

The most striking difference in this new version is the visual form: an octagonal centre with plinths and dancing LED lighting stretching out, designed by Sets Appeal. But internally, everything has been reengineered. Code rewritten, Max for Live patches converted into a standalone C++ programs, all audio rendered through a single MOTU soundcard, PCs scheduled to reboot each night and a single switch for gallery staff to turn it on and off.

The writer John Higgs observes our tendancy when reflecting on the past to project neat narratives that disregard the raw chaos of what actually happened. The story above is the me of today finding the simplest path through it all. In 2012 we were strangers. Today the eight of us are still friends. We’re spread across three or four countries now but still catch up on zoom. Collaborations still happen between us. And so perhaps it is natural that the bond of musical collaboration is the most salient strand of the story for me.


Tim Milan, 31 October 2022.

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Cave of Sounds 2022

Tim Murray-Browne continues to create digital interactive art. You can follow his work at  timmb.com, or on TwitterInstagram or MastodonCave of Sounds is on show in Milan until September 2023. Check the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci website for exact opening times.

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

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.