Music Tech Fest Scandi - Day 2

Day Two of Music Tech Fest Scandi - the festival of music ideas - in Umeå, Sweden, included the launch of new music format TJAY, an amazing performance from Graham Massey, Scanner and Jason Singh, plenty of new music tech and hacking. The next Music Tech Fest is #MTFCentral and takes place in Ljubljana, Slovenia 18-20 September.

Graham Massey, Jason Singh, Scanner - pic Andrew Dubber

The action-packed second day of #MTFScandi had plenty of memorable moments and music making opportunities. We’ve picked some highlights, all the presentations are on video here.

Coffee at the Electro Acoustic Cafe

The perfect way to start day two of Music Tech Fest was with a coffee at the Electro Acoustic Cafe, from legendary barista James Brewster who conjures up electrifying caffeinated sound art in all kinds of locations.

You could sit on a special chair with surround-you-sound and hear your coffee being made - feeling what it’s like to to be the coffee inside the machine. There are more of James’ frothing sounds on soundcloud.

Mind-bending installations from other artists included a Silent Forest which became a popular place to chill - with tree trunks, forest films, a ‘fire’ and pine scent, it was a little haven. You could also explore the Voice Harvester, the Bubble Room Instrument, and play with the world’s biggest Midi Controller’, Big Cubes by Hakan Lidbo. MTF Founder Michela Magas and MTF Director Andrew Dubber were almost dwarfed by it!

World’s Biggest Midi Controller - pic Kitmonsters

Hack Camp starts

The day saw the start of the Hack Camp 24-hour hackathon. Hackers had the run of amazing facilities including an onsite Hackerspace with 3D printers and laser cutters, plus the newly-launched Music Bricks, a suite of exciting music development tools including protoypes, physical and virtual interfaces, and APIs. The new MusicBricks scheme gives hackers the latest tech tools and then support for their inventions and help to bring them to market.

There were four hackathon challenges - ‘Music Things for Music Ecosystems’ and ‘The Sound Objects in Smart Homes’ promoted ideas of collaboration and the Internet of Things. The Cymatics Challenge aimed to explore the relationships between sonic and visual art, and there was also a ‘Music as Communication’ challenge. Many of the people presenting their projects at #MTFScandi joined the Hack Camp and worked with each other.

Hack Camp - pic Andrew Dubber

Toontrack Trackathon

Also ongoing during MTF was the Toontrack Trackathon - a week-long competition to make tracks, with the winners to be released on an EP to raise money for mental health charities. The mission was to collaborate and experiment to make an entire song from scratch using the popular Toontrack EZDrummer 2 software at the core of the song - as well as a collection of sounds and samples donated by leading musicians from around the world. Toontrack are based in Umeå and make drums, keys and mixing software. L.A.-based recording artist Phonat (from Skrillex’s OWSLA label) was judging along with Vince Lynch, and Grammy-nominated Pascal Guyon. The trackathon had its own room at MTF, with studio software and instruments for people to use and was co-oridnated by Rania Kim Birch and Piotr Paduch. The eventual winners were - CJ Carr (Boston), Cyril Rosenthal (London) and Matan Berkowitz (Tel Aviv) and the EP is due out soon.

The Jam Camp

The Jam Camp, led by Obi Blanche, was a beautifully-equipped space for people to try out music technology and play together, and the jams were all being recorded. You could create with the new Roland Aira range, as well as drum machines, synths, guitars, and pedals. We chanced upon an amazing session with Graham Massey jamming with Matt Black.

Meanwhile, presentations and performances were running on the main stage all day featuring instruments, technologies and research from around the world.

Scanner - pic Andrew Dubber

Johannes Taelman’s Axoloti

Johannes Taelman has had huge success crowdfunding Axoloti on Indiegogo - the Axoloti allows you to create your own standalone digital audio instruments and effects through graphical programming and a core board. You can program your sound, composition, and interaction by selecting objects like oscillators, filters, envelopes from the object library and drawing connections on your computer. After uploading your patch, the hardware runs independently from a computer and it has exciting possibilities whether you are an electronic musician or a guitarist. Johannes was taking part in the hack camp and was very in demand as people were excited to be working with some of his prototypes.

Axoloti - pic Kitmonsters

Tracy Redhead - One Drop

Tracy Redhead is a musician, composer and researcher who has created the One Drop remix app. It features different instruments from drums and bass to stringed instruments including the Erhu, a Chinese instrument, and vocals in styles from rock to disco. It’s been designed to be easy to use, and volume, effects and pan controls allow you to tweak your mix.

Jan Bidner - Gamification

We were gripped by Jan Bidner’s session on Gamification. He talked about sounds that move you and showed how they trigger emotions - sounds as warning, or reward for example - and how they can be put to different uses. He also told the poignant story of the lonely whale who was on the wrong frequency.

Jan Bidner - pic Kitmonsters

Immersive Album

Ben Dawson from Immersive Album was roaming the festival with a virtual reality headset to give people a flavour of VR in action. Immersive’s goal is to make immersive software tools accessible to all. They made an exciting interactive app for The Who’s 50th anniversary which brought together music, recording studio experiences, previously unseen pictures, visuals and stories. Immersive combine bespoke work, including on Oculus Rift, with developing free software. Their Studio software is due to launch soon and is designed to be easy to use, so that artists can create and publish immersive cross platform releases themselves.

Eden Grey performance

Eden Grey is an electronic music composer, and modular synth and multimedia artist who gave a mesmerising performance at MTF. She built her own modular synthesiser, and programs original beats ranging from electro and drum n’ bass to hip-hop, ambient and drones, as well as researching vocal synthesis. Her new album is a tribute to Eric Satie.

Eden Grey - pic Andrew Dubber

Kitmonsters Playtime - from DIY to 3D printing

Terry Tyldesley from Kitmonsters presented a look at DIY music tech culture ranging from railway bridge and baked bean can instruments, through to developments in 3D printed instruments and 3D printing in music. Terry, AKA Kat Five from Feral Five, also demo’d a ‘Scrapitar’ stringed instrument she had made from recycled materials at a Vulpestruments workshop. Tom Fox from Vulpestruments will be presenting his work at Music Tech Fest Central in Slovenia.

Terry Tyldesley with self-built Vulpestruments-designed instrument

Ninja Jamm

Ninja Jamm is the great music mixing and making app that Matt Black from Coldcut and Ninja Tune launched, and he announced some some jaw-dropping new features. A new Android version and other developments mean you can sync music on iOS and Android. Matt performed using a sonic palette that ranged from house to lovers’ rock, including a Bonobo track, to seamlessly make music across different devices. Ninja Jamm’s new open source Sync Jams is at the heart of it all and allows musicians to collaborate by connecting over a network with zero configuration. The POF (pure data open frameworks) development tools let software makers work together to make more apps.

Matt Black and Michela Magas (MTF Founder) - pic Andrew Dubber

Matt’s vision for the technology is to allow people to create their own ‘mobile orchestra’, by allowing wireless synchronisation between music apps and direct communication of key and scale between players and devices. The platform is available on Github and supports Python and PureData. He has also made SyncJams available as part of the Music Bricks tools for the hackers in #MTFCentral in Slovenia.

See our interview with Matt about developing the Ninja Jamm app, Coldcut, and his favourite music gear here.

Ninja Jamm

Animated Notation performance - Anders Lind

Anders Lind is a composer, and also director of Creative Studies at Umeå University. He put together a spectacular and colourful performance with local students, using his Animated Notation system which was projected onto the walls. A chamber orchestra with musicians from the Norrland Opera Symphony Orchestra played with 40 young percussionists. The notation animations enable performances on a grand scale and people without any score reading knowledge can take part, making complex music.

Animated Notation performance - pic Andrew Dubber

Optonoise - laser operated synth

We’d been eyeing up Stan Lewry and Faraz Sayed’s Optonoise over the weekend, watching fascinated as they created and assembled their coloured glass-disc instrument.

Optonoise - pic Kitmonsters

The Epsilonograph is their prototype optoelectronic analogue synth and is played using lasers, and also provides its own lightshow. Since MTF it’s been shown in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern in London.

Optonoise - pic Andrew Dubber


We’d been told a new music format was going to be launched but had no clues about how it would work until Michela Magas, Andrew Dubber and team unveiled TJAY with Scrimshire’s ‘Loving You Is Like An Ending’, as the first release. TJAY gives you vinyl album sized artwork, a special T-shirt and a limited edition track you can play by scanning the t-shirt with the TJAY app.

Scrimshire and TJAY - pic Andrew Dubber

TJAY sets out to get more revenue directly to the artist than other music formats too - which has to be a good thing - and Scrimshire was delighted to be kicking the whole thing off.

TJAY T-shirt

Graham Massey, Jason Singh, Scanner

There was a lot of excitement surrounding the day’s closing performance which saw electronic music gurus Graham Massey and Scanner join composer and beatboxer Jason Singh for a one-of-a-kind jam. Graham confounded expectations by coming on stage with a clarinet and starting the set by weaving haunting and magical melodies.

Graham Massey - pic Andrew Dubber

As the others played solo sections and also joined together, the collaboration swelled and changed pace to become something resembling an electronic symphony, of live, looped and sampled vocals, instruments and beats, at times more ambient, at times more urgent, darker and industrial, or dance-orientated - a very very special set. Scanner was improvising using his Eurorack modular system, and told us “ it was a performance based around utter freedoms”.

Scanner has been creating new interpretations of Test Department’s music and has also contributed a track to the MITRA music compilation that is raising funds for reconstruction in Nepal.

Jason Singh is creating the sound design for a V&A exhibition The Fabric of India, and Graham Massey, who features in 808 The Movie, has a series of live 808 State dates lined up for the Autumn.

  • We’ve more on Music Tech Fest Scandi - for our blog on Day 1 click here.