Music Tech Fest Scandi - Day 3

The final day of Music Tech Fest Scandi - the festival of music ideas - in Umeå, Sweden, was both inspiring and thought-provoking. It saw kids hacking, new instruments for more accessible music-making, the Hack Camp awards, and some memorable performances including LJ Rich mixing it up with cocktail master Emil Åreng.

Laura Kriefman, Guerilla Dance Project

Kids Hack

The Volvo Kids Hack Presentations were a highlight. Siobhan Ramsey and her team from Sandbox Education had set up the Kids Hack Camp where young hackers could get busy with things like Arduinos and Bare Conductive paint to make interactive instruments and musical interfaces. The idea was for them to get hands on with sensors, coding, physical computing, making music and having fun.

They created everything from very visual keyboard interfaces, to DJ-style drum kit and sample trigger software, and pictorial notation.

DisCoTech - Matan Berkowitz

Multi MTF Hack-Awards winner Matan Berkowitz gave an inspiring talk about his DisCoTech project and also about Musical Neurofeedback. He has a company called Shift and a music label called Universal Unicorn that puts on festivals and events.

Matan and his team invented an interface to enable a paraplegic man to play the guitar using thought process, and he was able to control the music in a way no-one else could. Matan hacked Google Glass and turned head movements into music and effects, and developed other prototypes using the body, including using a glove and a person’s heartbeat to create sounds. DisCoTech draws all this work together and is an amazing project to enable people with special needs to make music, and uses anything from 3D printing to a chord generator playable with your foot, and eye-tracking.


Novalia’s Kate Stone had set up Printed Touch Creator - Novalia’s latest invention - in the Hack Camp, and had people making tunes on tables. It’s based around a printed sticker you can touch to make music sounds including drums. It’s playful, clever and flexible in many different ways and connects up easily. Novalia is an award-winning tech company whose vision is ‘to bring print to life’, and Printed Touch has a press on control module and software tool, to make objects interactive without programming or soldering, thanks to the magic of conductive ink. It’s aimed at anyone from experienced designers through to kids.

Human Instruments - Vahakn Matossian

Vahakn Matossian dazzled with his Human Instruments performance and video. He has been developing a range of instruments that can be easily played using touch and/or breath to make notes, chords and even arpeggiation. They are for people of all abilities, including those with physical disabilities, and the instruments send MIDI to a computer.

The sounds were huge, especially the bass, and Vahakn quickly recorded a few stems on his latest instrument and put a tune together. His keyboard layout also lets you play guitar tabs easily. Vahakn went on to win an MTF Blue Vinyl award.

Low-Fi - house concerts marketplace from Anne Dvinge

Anne Dvinge has set up Low-Fi - an online marketplace that brings people together for house concerts. It’s a great idea at a time when the house concert scene is taking really off. Bands can sign up with their details and name a price, and individuals can book bands to play in their living room. People who have made bookings can also advertise their concerts. It’s currently operating in Scandinavia and New York in the US, and growing worldwide.

Anne says that the platform came about out of a love for the intimate format of the living room concert and a growing frustration with the way the current market for music seems to have deflated the value of not just music, but the work of musicians.

Random Bastards - Linda Iro

Linda Iro was a key figure in the MTF sound team at the festival, but is also part of a well-known local Umeå collective. Random Bastards is a skate and snowboard crew, music label, film studio and creative collective, and Linda showcased some of the exciting things they do, and talked about the Norberg Festival that takes place on the site of an old mine.

Hack Camp presentations

The Hack Camp presentations were, as always, thrilling and thought-provoking, and judges included the BBC’s LJ Rich, as well as Warner Music’s Josh Saunders, Matt Black, Jason Singh, and Paul Sonkamble.

Adam John Williams, MTF Hack Camp Director, had cooked up a laser turntable, and the list of amazing hacks included a Synthobone, Cubindisphere, Space Cowboy electronic LED snood, Glove FX, Cymatics and a DIY instrument, and the Kat Axoloti hack.

Full video coverage of the day’s events is at Music Tech Fest here and there are some highlights below.

MusicBricks winners

Four hacks won special #MusicBricks development prizes.

Airstrument - by Matan Berkowitz, Ariel Angel and Rani Dar which uses #MusicBricks technology to analyse an existing song, then allows the user to use hand gestures in order to play a melody within the scale and musical context. “The aim is to create an intuitive instrument that will make music more accessible in new and exciting ways”. Video

Dolphin - from Rojan Gharipour is a Product Platform that uses the #MusicBricks R-IoT board. “Dolphin is an gestural interface for controlling music selection & playback using head movements and head gestures. As a platform for interaction, the motion sensitive headphones can be used to track movement in space with respect to the audio played, as well as control that audio”. Video

Fanni Fazakas

FindingSomething BondingSounding - The presentation of this ‘Performance Interaction’ was dramatic and featured the team - Xico Teixeira, Horácio Tomé Marques and Fanni Fazakas (AKA audiovisual artist Rumex), in a kind of brain/body battle.

“This project is a response to the challenge of music as communication. It represents a duality between the mind and the body in a combination of performance and EEG brainscan data. The mind controls audio and video samples organized according to activation or relaxation; the body controls the effects according to position, acceleration and angle”. Video

Interactive Cube - by Per-Olof Jernberg & Balandino di Donato, is a ‘Smart Home Music Product’. and a physical interface for manipulating audio. “The orientation of the cube is tracked using the R-IoT board, and this defines the balance mix of 5 audio loops, while the movement of the cube drives a stereo panning effect”. Video.

Axoloti hack in progress - pic Terry Tyldesley

Cymatics Presentation - Ginger Leigh

Ginger Leigh had won a place at MTF Scandi in a Cymatics challenge - Cymatics being the creation of visual patterns in physical matter through sonic vibration. Ginger (AKA Synthestruct) is from Orlando, Florida and creates live Cymatics and Dome Projections. She showed her stark and beautiful work, as well as getting involved in the Hack Camp. More recently she has been working with Reeps One.

Cymatics - Ginger Leigh

Synth and Tesla Coil

Sparks and smell-o-vision were surprise features in the local Umeå Hackerspace’s demo of their synth-powered Tesla Coil, but it was a crackling triumph that left the audience transfixed and open-mouthed. Could things get any better before MTF finished? Amazingly, the answer was yes!

Kicking The Mic - Guerilla Dance Project

Laura Kriefman and Phil Tew from Guerilla Dance Project had been mighty busy in the Hack Camp with their interactive light-up snood. Now it was Laura’s turn to perform and she showed some of her latest work in progress and a piece called ‘Kicking the Mic’ - incredible interactive tap dance, with dancefloor triggers, LEDs, looping, visuals, and wearable controllers.

It went down a storm, and she also performed in the grand finale. Laura’s currently working on a spectacular Crane Dance event in Bristol that takes place on 3rd October.

Guerilla Dance Project - pic Terry Tyldesley

LJ Rich & cocktails - Beyond Glitching

LJ Rich gave one of the most fascinating and fun presentations we’ve seen at any Music Tech Fest. The presenter, performer and hacker has synaesthesia and using her keyboard, she played her responses to different stimuli. With the aid of chocolate biscuits, she got the whole audience joining in the multi-sensory experience. It’s hard to imagine how life feels to someone with synaesthesia, and LJ’s groundbreaking session ranged from enlightening, to moving, and hilarious.

Her grand finale was a double act with world-renowned Swedish drinks mixer Emil Åreng from Umeå. He’d been running a pop-up cocktail bar making what we can only decribe as art in a glass, including a social media based drink where your phone was confiscated, so you could more fully enjoy the concoction of ultra rare berries from secret local spots, classic Linea Aquavit and some other magical ingredients.

For this session, LJ was tasting his ingredients and concoctions and playing the sounds they conjured up. It was fabulous.

Emil Åreng and LJ Rich - pic Andrew Dubber

MTF Allstars Jam

MTF finished with a classic jam session featuring everything from tap dancing to a melodica and laser record player. Developing truly global sounds, it featured LJ Rich, Graham Massey, Scrimshire, Laura Kriefman, Jason Singh, Adam John Williams, and many more, with Matt Black creating visuals. MTF sound and mixing desk mastermind Dean McCarthy joined in - jamming while mixing the sound. A pretty amazing feat, but just the kind of thing that happens at Music Tech Fest.

MTF Allstars Jam - pic Terry Tyldesley

  • For more on Music Tech Fest Scandi check our blogs on Day 1 and Day 2.