Music Tech Undergrads take “Red Bull Hack the Hits”

Left to right: Emma, Christy, Jaye.

Over the past weekend, 3 of our undergraduate students Emma Camell (‘18), Christy Welch (‘19), and Jaye Sosa (‘19)  were selected along with 12 other finalists to participate in Red Bull’s 48 hour hackathon, “ Red Bull Hack the Hits”. Finalists were split into 5 teams and flown out to San Francisco, to create mind-blowing prototypes while working side-by- side with other students from around the country and today’s leaders in experimental sound!

The event took place at TechShop San Francisco where teams had access to TechShop’s resources which included laser cutters, welding and wood carving machines, and TechShop’s dream mentors that were present around the clock to assist in any electronics, building, or technical needs. In addition to the Tech Shop Dream mentors, Red Bull invited 5 incredible industry mentors to provide participants with expertise skills and advice throughout the entire ideation and creation process.

These 5 teams of 3 participants were then challenged to create a project within 48 hours that was musical, innovative, and usable to be presented for an audience and a panel of 5 judges within the music industry!

Congratulations Emma, Christy, and Jaye!

Emma Camell. Photo by Michael Urakami.

Check out Red Bull Hack the Hits’ website to learn more:

http://hackthehits.redbull.com/#faq6

Read up on this short interview with Emma, Christy, and Jaye below:  

Q:  What did you and your group create during the 48 hours of the hackathon?

E: My team and I created three handheld MIDI instruments, collectively called Tritone. They were created to be played together, and to be passed around between players. The basic unit is a hexagonal acrylic cup with sensors or buttons, and an Arduino attached to the interior wall. Each was designed to emulate its musical purpose, which were Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm. For instance the Rhythm instrument had capacitive touch sensors on the bottom edges and side, to imitate the normal percussive motion of hitting something onto another surface. As MIDI instruments, the buttons/sensors can be mapped to any sound or effect, but we chose musically relevant options. Rhythm has simple kick, snare, and hi-hat sounds. The Harmony instrument has the basic I, IV, V, and vii chords, 4 different arpeggiation patterns, and octave displacement buttons. The Melody instrument has buttons for a full scale, octave displacement, chromatic displacement, and three sound choices. With our creation we wanted to incentivize making music as a group, with devices that are easy to hold and move around!   

C: My group created a small-scale model of what is essentially a MIDI-controlling stage environment. We sought to change the way electronic musicians perform onstage, helping to move them out from behind a table and to create a more interactive performance. Through a system of sensors and physical mechanisms, the performer can use physical motion to control the effects and clips in their performance–think an intelligent jungle-gym or large-scale Bop-It. With pendulums, springs, distance sensors and more, we chose to capitalize on the physics and mechanics background of one of our teammates as well as the coding and Arduino background of my own to make this system of sensors communicate through MIDI with a session in a DAW.

J: We created something called the “Kinect4” where we wanted to create a human sequencer using location tracking for multiple people. Our group hacked into an Xbox Kinect 360 within Processing and tracked location movement of the tops of people’s’ heads. We then created a virtual grid through a JavaScript website that would play back tonal and percussion loops based on the position of 4 users in the grid. Based on their real time movement from grid spot to grid spot, the pattern of the users would then trigger the audio to be played. We wanted to create something that was physically interactive and something that people of any age could learn and have fun with!

Christy Welch. Photo by Michael Urakami.

Q: Which skills that you learned from the NYU Music Technology program did you apply to and use during this event?

E: One essential use was of the Arduino, which I have Digital Electronics to thank for. I also used my music theory knowledge and performative training. Although we did not use Max, my experience in it helped me conceptualize programming and building in other softwares. Soldering was also an essential skill.

C: I was very thankful for both the Digital and Analog Electronics classes at NYU, as the background in circuitry and microcontrollers proved to be incredibly helpful. In general, being comfortable around the intersection of hardware and software was at the crux of the competition.

J: Huge shout out to Steven Litt, the analog and digital electronics professor within Music Tech, for helping me be comfortable with coding within Arduino and Processing! Having a coding background through computer science has been extremely helpful, but intersecting both code and music onto one platform has definitely been a valuable skill that I have taken away from this program. Also, studying Max MSP in Paris was very helpful when creating visuals and working with signal flow and audio processing.

Jaye Sosa. Photo by Michael Urakami.

Q: What was your favorite “Hack The Hits” memory?

E: My favorite part was finding out Christy and Jaye were also coming! But besides that, my favorite part was after we took our initial classes at Techshop. Everyone had chosen between mig welding, metal, laser-cutting, and wood. As I was finishing up my second try at laser-cutting, I found many of the other participants had come up to see what we were doing, after finishing their own classes. These people I had just met really cared about what I was making and wanted me to succeed! That really set the tone for an incredibly supportive and fun weekend on all sides.

C: I have to say finding myself alongside my teammates welding steel at 4am felt pretty unreal. I felt so lucky to have access to such a well-equipped makerspace and incredible mentors to help me learn a ton of new skills that I might otherwise have never had the opportunity to try. In general just the camaraderie between teams and teammates created such a crazy fun environment that working through the night past the sunrise was enjoyable to say the least.

J: Staying up atrociously late troubleshooting with my teammate the first day and getting back to the hotel at 6 a.m and getting to watch my first (and probably last) San Francisco sunrise. I was delusional to say the least from sleep deprivation, but I felt that moment so viscerally and made me feel so incredibly proud of the work that all of us were doing and putting into the event. Also finding a few weeks ago that I was going to be traveling to San Francisco with 2 of my fellow NYU lady MTech’ers!   

All photographs courtesy of @MichaelUrakami.

Tonight! Morton Subotnick Performs at NYU Skirball

Tonight at NYU’s Skirball auditorium, Morton Subotnick, will offer a rare performance celebrating the 50th anniversary of his iconic Silver Apples of the Moon. A long time associate of the Music Technology department, Subotnick has been described as the ‘founding father’ of electronic music, and Silver Apples, his first full length album, has even recently been selected as one of 300 recordings to enter the National Registry of Recorded works at the Library of Congress. This evening will definitely be an incredible experience for anybody interested in electronic music. The concert is at 7:30 pm, and reduced student tickets are available for $15.

More info available here.

MARL w/ Dr. Areti Andreopoulou

On Monday afternoon, University of Athens professor & NYU Music Tech Ph.D graduate Dr. Areti Andreopoulou will discuss the recent surge of interest surrounding spatial audio & virtual reality entertainment. With the increased interest, researchers look towards global, perceptually relevant spaces for HRTF and user comparisons. Andreopoulou will discuss the challenges and limitations that come with this mass approach to research. Students are invited to sit in on this talk on Monday at 1 pm, in Steinhardt’s 6th floor conference room.

MARL w/ Johanna Devaney

Tomorrow afternoon, MARL invites Ohio State University professor Johanna Devaney, presenting her talk on “Cognitively Informed Music Information Retrieval for Modeling Musical Similarity.” Using her AMPACT software to predict the timing, tuning, loudness, and timbal parameters of various datasets, Doctor Devaney studies the ways in which listeners perceive similarities between musical performance and composition. Students are invited to learn more about the study tomorrow at 1 pm, in Steinhardt’s 6th floor conference room.

Pandora Challenge w/ Common

The Music Business program is teaming up with streaming platform Pandora & Real Industry to create a marketing campaign for hip-hop legend Common, and they’ve extended an invitation to students in the Music Technology program. With opportunities to network with Pandora’s executive team, this is a great chance to explore the intersection between music technology & business while contributing to a major campaign

Admission is open to the first 50 students who RSVP for the launch event on October 11th. 

Red Bull Hackathon Call for Submissions

Interested in engineering or programming? Loved your Analog/Digital Electronics courses? Now’s your chance to turn your ideas into a reality! Red Bull is hosting their second “Hack the Hits” event for all of the experimenters among us. If your submission is accepted, you’ll be flown out to the Techshop warehouse in San Francisco to develop your prototype. With renowned mentors such as Moldover & Ean Golden, you’ll have two days to wow the judges, among them hip-hop innovators The Cool Kids and OWSLA co-owner Blaise James. Open only to students, this is an incredible opportunity for the talented tinkerers in our department! For more information on how to apply, visit the Hack The Hits website.

Student Spotlight: Ben Lidsky

Ben Lidsky

As students get back into the swing of things this semester, we’ve been excited to learn about everything that they’ve been up to this summer! Music Technology Junior Ben Lidsky came back with stories of a mysterious internship that landed him in studio sessions with rappers such as Chief Keef, Fredo Santana, D Double E and more. We sat down with Ben to find out exactly how he ended up working with some of the top artists on Interscope Records.

Max Lord’s Secret Studio

Growing up in Denver, Ben met local dubstep promoter Max Lord, who would later join hip-hop supergroup 808 Mafia with TM88 and Southside. After a few years of sending Lord instrumentals, Lidsky got a late night phone call at the beginning of the summer asking him to come to Los Angeles and work as Lord’s assistant at his secret home studio.

Once Ben arrived, circumstances had changed and Max Lord was travelling to Atlanta to set up a new studio. Ben was told to “hold things down” in LA, and on his first day he had his first of what would lead to many encounters with Chief Keef and Fredo Santana. With nobody else around, he quickly acquainted himself with the boards and recorded “Snatch His Chain,” which is now available on Fredo Santana’s “Fredo Kruger 2” mixtape. Throughout the rest of the summer, Ben recalls “waking up at Max’s house and seeing 2 Rolls Royce roll up,” knowing that another client was looking for a last minute, low-key studio session.

This semester, Ben is studying at NYU Prague and has connected with some members of the Czech rap community. We’re all eager to see what he does next! In the meantime, check out some of his work with Walt Grizzly and B Sneaks below.

Remembering Don Buchla

This time last year, we mourned the loss of iconic music technologist Don Buchla. Today, we remember his legacy, from work with NASA, in audiology, and of course his various synthesizers, championed by legendary composers such as Morton Subotnick as well as modern experimenters like Floating Points.

Described by Suzanne Ciani as a “Renaissance Man,” his vast body of 

work truly captures the ethos of our department, wherein musicians and engineers can learn side by side. Here in New York, we boast a Buchla 200 model in our Studio A synthesizer collection. 

Known for its rich sound and unconventional controls, it’s to this instrument that we owe such albums as Subotnick’s “Silver Apples of the Moon,” and Jonathan Fitoussi & Clemens Hourrièreas’ “Five Steps, ”

not to mention countless student compositions. Students studying in Paris through our partnership with IRCAM, with whom Buchla was a consultant and guest researcher, might get a look at the facility’s Buchla 300 model. Explore the above links for your weekend listening pleasure, and long live Buchla!

 

 

SWiTCH September Meeting

As we enter week 2, SWiTCH (Society of Women in Technology) is hosting their first meeting of the semester! Students are invited to join in Steinhardt’s 6th Floor Conference Room at noon to meet some of the amazing women from inside and outside of our department as they discuss AES presence and upcoming MARL events.