In 2016, Music Tech Fest celebrated its 10th festival with a major event in Berlin. #MTFBerlin was our biggest festival yet, with week long experiments, inventions and debates at #MTFLabs, followed by an incredible lineup on the #MTFStage, immersive installations as part of #MTFSpace, the 24hr element14 Hack Camp, an all night party in a hidden chamber #MTFLates, workshops for kids and teens #MTFKids and new #MTFSparks, #MTFTracks a 24hr Trackathon, #MTFJams - a weekend long Jam Camp, a gathering of industry insiders at #MTFAmplier and startup showcase at #MTFSoundpit - all under the incredible roof of the Funkhaus, the worlds largest recording studio.
We launched the Music Tech Fest in 2012 as a creative playground - a ‘festival of music ideas’ - in an attempt to bring all music tech creators and thinkers under one roof. It was a byproduct of our involvement in the EU Roadmap for Music Information Research (MIReS) which aimed at opening up the scientific field of MIR to cultural, social and creative studies. Despite the fact that a festival was not on the cards, our modest ambition to do a couple of workshops which would bring artists and scientists as well as academia and industry into a common creative space, resulted in an unexpected level of response, and a three day festival was born. By raising match funding and support from local organisations, we succeeded in showcasing 54 presenters, inventors and performers, 70 innovative hackers, makers and developers of novel instruments, 70 creative practitioners and emerging artists who were set to reinterpret the way music is perceived, experienced and performed.
In its third year the event was invited to Wellington, Boston, London, Berlin and Paris by partners including the British Council, New Zealand Music Commission, Microsoft Research, London Symphony Orchestra, and the Centre Pompidou.
At MTF Wellington, 26-28 February 2014, we ran a New Zealand pilot in partnership with the British Council and New Zealand Music Commission, featuring a small group of musicians who developed new types of instruments for the first time using electronics and programming. Hacks included a ‘mobile orchestra’ and an ‘optical autoharp theremin’ which created music from light. The highlight was a collaboration between electronic artists and Polynesian musicians whose traditional wooden and seashell instruments were sonified to produce entirely new sounds.
MTF Boston at Microsoft Research, 21-23 March 2014, featured 63 performers & presenters to a select audience of 150 invited guests. Partners included Berklee College of Music, MIT Media Lab and Harvard Music Brains, and hackers interacted with emerging artists overnight at the state of the art live-streaming studio Redstar Union. Special reports were created for the BBC TV show BBC Click by presenter LJRich who became a hacker overnight.
Boston saw the first of the academic ‘afterparty’ symposiums, which took place at Microsoft Research on the 24th. Luminaries from across a wide range of disciplines collaborated to produce the Manifesto for the Future of Music Technology Research in response to the Music Tech Fest experience. The manifesto now bears hundreds of signatures.
Collaborations have continued well beyond the festival. Artists travelled to London to perform with collaborators, and there has been an ongoing remote live online presence of Boston artists during the festivals in London, Berlin and Paris.
On 5-7 September 2014 it was time for MTF London again, with 90 presenters-performers, 35 hackers and, for the first time, 12 kids accompanied by their chaperones. The festival was run in partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican LSO St Luke’s, and featured an unprecedented number of impromptu collaborations between established and emerging artists. Mercury Prize nominee Leafcutter John (Polar Bear) invited Tim Exile, Jason Singh and Yazz Ahmed for an incredible improvised performance; Lu Edmonds (PIL) joined with Feral Five, several sonified games controllers and a 3D printer on drums for a Gunk (Geek Punk) improv. The hack camp included remote linkup from Berklee College of Music graduates in Boston at our first ever telehackathon, while the first ever MTF kids hackathon – in which 8-16 year-olds learned hands-on electronics and coding to make instruments which they performed on stage - delighted the London audiences.
At the ‘afterparty’ symposium on 8 September at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL), a group of 42 musicians and researchers launched the research field of Human Music Interaction with a series of collaborative project proposals.
The MTF Berlin pilot event on 24-26 October 2014 brought together 43 performers & presenters as well as 30 hackers. It featured partnerships with Factory Berlin, Berklee College of Music and Fraunhofer IDMT. The festival also included remote participation from Berklee College of Music graduates in Boston. At the hack camp, young first-time instrument makers Piotr Paduch and Sara Morris impressed both the jury and audiences for creating engaging performances using electronic interfaces they had invented and created from scratch overnight, and both won top hack camp awards.
MTF Paris, 21-23 November 2014 at IRCAM, Centre Pompidou, featured 55 presenters & performers, and 22 hackers; as well as remote participation from Berklee College of Music graduates in Boston. 8 artists who had performed at MTF Berlin flew over to perform and collaborate with other artists, and a final jam on the main stage at the end of the festival brought together artists from across genres and around Europe in an impromptu collaboration using technologies many had never used or seen. The winner of the grand prize for a new instrument was a group of 6 artists from 6 different cities who had met at MTF Paris for the first time.
Here are some of the heroes who have helped us build this ecosystem over the past 4 years:
Jason Singh, Adam John Williams, Matt Black-Coldcut, Eska, Graham Massey, Emika, Nitin Sawhney, Reeps One, Viktoria Modesta, Martyn Ware, Laura Kriefman, Ezra, Grace Savage, Shlomo, Synthestruct, Crewdson, LJ Rich, Jamie Cullum, Scanner, Tim Exile, Mørk, Ross Flight, Leafcutter John
EU Commission, DMIC, British Council, Slovenian Ministry of Culture, Cankarjev Dom, MSUM, Umeå Kommun, Region Västerbotten, Uminova, Ume.net, Guitars Museum, NZ Music Commission, Sounds Aotearoa, Sound and Music, Redstar Union, Factory Berlin
...and an ever growing list of music tech startups with great ideas on how to reinvent this space.
The Music Tech Fest evolved from the ROADMAP FOR THE FUTURE OF MUSIC TECH.
Every network should have a soundtrack.