Documentary MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival 2015 from CDM on Vimeo.

With computers and electricity or without it, musical performance has the potential to be expressive, powerful, immediate. Making music live in front of an audience demands spontaneous commitment. What technology can allow us to is to wire up that potential to other fields in new ways.

And that was the feeling that began 2015 for us, working in the collaborative MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival in Berlin. Neuroscientists met specialists in breathing met instrumentalists.

Think the lightning bolt in the laboratory: it’s alive.


Documentarian and artist Fanni Fazakas went above and beyond her participant role to deliver this terrific documentary video for a look inside that lab.

We get, in particular, a detailed look at the projects.

Working with my co-facilitator Leslie Garcia of Mexico (an alum of the hacklab and now serial organizer of her own hacklabs), we got the chance to open up the lab in some new ways for CTM this year. Biologists and planetary scientists joined the discussions. Bacteria and brainwaves and electric shocks joined the interfaces. And the results went far beyond what we could have imagined.

With collaboration from CTM Festival and Native Instruments, we were able to connect to a festival full of programming exploring body-sound relationships and make use of NI’s facilities and development teams – with input from people who design music hardware and software (and some Reaktor tips, of course).

The video tells the story, but some of the examples:

  • A bacterial interface for sound involving a wearable kobucha mask and a collaboration with industrial design
  • A Wiimote-driven yoga exercise
  • A sonification of data from the sun
  • Feedback from muscles and the bodies – even, in our first pre-natal interaction, connecting with a pregnant participant
  • A machine that sequenced Ableton Live to … physical pain?

And the list goes on.

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Now, I think looking from outside the process, you might see some of these as familiar ideas. But the other thing to appreciate is that this is just a first chapter – a running start for concepts and collaborations. Very often, pairings formed in hacklabs have led to new work later. I’m every bit as interested in what happens after these events as what happens during – and, indeed, the hacklab format under Leslie’s direction has already toured to Mexico City and Dresden in the intervening time, with more planned. (More on that soon.)

We also go to speak this week at re:publica, Germany’s digital culture conference, about hack-a-thons, with myself, and representatives of Berlin Music Pool, Tech Open Air, Music Tech Fest, and SoundCloud (on behalf of Music Hack Day). And that in turn came just before the second edition of MIDI Hack (where I’ll be this weekend), and yet more events in the coming weeks, plus a larger agenda for engagement evolving across Europe.

Plus, now that bio-hacking labs have met up with music hacking labs, I think nothing may be quite the same.

It’s alive, indeed.

More coverage of the event

Resident Advisor’s lavish coverage of CTM in photos includes many shots of the lab:
CTM in pictures

Dry Magazine featured the lab, including selected interviews with participants:

The future of music performance

Warsaw’s Jakub Koźniewski collaborated with Moscow’s Dmitry Morozov (aka ::vtol::) on a 3-axis interface for finger, which made an ideal technical window for the Atmel blog – yes, the chip folks behind Arduino:

Producing a sonohaptical experience with Arduino [Atmel blog]

German-language only:

Missy, a feminist magazine for young women, profiled the hacklab as part of their CTM writeup:
CTM Festival 2015: Verkörperlichte Technologie und Resonanz

Wired Germany interview lecturer (and previous hacklab workshop leader, with Imogen Heap) Kelly Snook:
Zukunft der Musik / Kelly Snooks Handschuhe bringen das Universum zum Klingen





Full description of projects presented in performance

Not all the participants quite made it to the live stage at the end, though everyone produced something. But here are the projects seen in the film:

MusicMakers Hacklab 2015
Tuning Machines

Yoga sound tuning
Diana Combo [PT]
Fanni Fazakas [HU]
Giampaolo Costagliola [VE]
Marie Caye [FR]
Maximilian Weber [DE]

Ableton Live
Darwiin Mote
Nintendo Wii Mote
Emotiv Epoc

Organun Vivum
Bacterial Cellulose Interface
Paul Seidler [DE]
Aliisa Talja [FI]

Pulsum OSC
Super Collider

Three Cycles
Solar data sonification

Muharrem Yildirim [TR]
Juan Duarte [MX]

Pure Data

TITOMB = Two Input Three Output Mixing Board
Muscle – machine feedback

Omer Eilam [IS]

Xth Sense
Electromagnetic transducer

TENS device

Participative performance for pregnant body
Theresa Schubert [DE]
Marco Donnarumma [IT/UK]

Xth Sense, Bioacoustic wearable sensor
Custom-made responsive garment
Surround sound

The Finger
sonohaptic + one-finger controller

::vtol:: [RU]
Jakub Kozniewski (panGenerator) [PL]

Nord Modular

Sonic Minds
Real-time EEG data live dj set

MuArts collective
Francisco Marques-Teixeira [PT]
Francisco Rocha Gonçalves [PT]
Horácio Tomé Marques [PT]
Miguel García [MX]

Emotiv Epoc Action Potential
Ableton Live

We Suffer For Our Art
Electrical suffering for musical performance

Karl Pannek [DE]
Adam John Williams [UK]

Ableton Live
Max MSP/Jitter
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Electromyograph

Dark Side of the Balloon
Collaborative A/V improvisation

Anastasia Vtorova [RU]
Francesco Ameglio [IT]
Sinead Meaney [IR]

Analog pedals
Low Frequencies

MusicMakers Hacklab 2015
Tuning Machines


Animation: Zara Olsson
Music: RUMEX
Film (direction, editing, videography): Fanni Fazakas

For a documentary of our previous hacklab outing:

4DSOUND Spatial Sound Hack Lab at ADE 2014 from FIBER on Vimeo.