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