Music Technologism

I’m really proud to have been involved with the drafting of the Manifesto for Music Technologists, or #MusicTechiFesto, as it’s being called on Twitter.

Nancy Baym and Jonathan Sterne brought together a group of world leading academics from a wide range of different disciplines at Microsoft Research on the Monday after the Music Tech Fest we held there in March. We called it the ‘Afterparty’.

We discussed and debated what we thought to be the most important things about music and technology – and we came up with a declaration that reflects what we believe and what we hold to be important. Things like:

“We call on companies to produce music technologies that matter, that foster meaningful communities, that consider musical culture and user bases as much more than cash registers.”

While not all of us make things with tech, all of us work in an area of intersection between music and tech in some way. That makes us music technologists – not as an occupation, necessarily – but as a movement.

“We are Music Technologists. We work in science, art, engineering, humanities, activism, social science, policy and industry. We believe in music technology and we want to build better worlds. We invite you to join us.”

Read and sign the Manifesto for Music Technologists.

Talk about social change…

I spoke at Music Tech Fest in May.

I met the festival’s founder Michela Magas at the London blogger’s meetup I spoke at back in April, and she asked me to come along and simply talk about what it is I do. I decided that since everyone else at the event would probably be talking about music and digital media, I would focus on the other stuff I do. The “music as a tool for social change” stuff.

It seemed to go down well, and they filmed it for posterity (see above). There’s a lot of really fascinating presentations on the Music Tech Fest YouTube channel, so if, like me, you have an interest in that intersection of ideas between music and technology, I’d suggest spending quite a bit of time there.

Since I did this talk, not only have I been over to Brazil to work on Occupy Music (the film I discuss in the video), but Michela is now the executive producer of that film, and I’ve become one of the organisers of Music Tech Fest.

So that all worked out rather nicely.

All this and a robot that makes cocktails

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I’m in London for Music Tech Fest this weekend. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a bunch of people coming together to talk about (and mess around with) music and technology. The talks are all being streamed live online (and most likely archived) at that link, if you’re interested.

I’m here with Jake, and it’s the first time we’ve done the father and son music industry conference attendance thing. It’s kind of fun – especially since he’s way more involved than I am.

Screen Shot 2013 05 18 at 16 32 14For his part, he’s engaged in the music hack event, in which there are a number of different challenges by different companies and interesting individuals to invent new things or solve certain sorts of problems.

It’s very coder-heavy (unsurprisingly for a hack event) – but there are also projects that are about inventing new sounds or simply reworking and remixing existing tracks. Jake’s currently working on a remix of a band called Everything Everything – and it’s sounding really great.

I gave a talk about my work – particularly with respect to the Brazilian independent music industry and the ‘music as a tool for social change’ projects I get involved with and study. That seemed to go well.

It’s an interesting and diverse crowd – everything from tech startups to musicians, entrepreneurs to social activists.

I always get a good response when I talk about the Fora do Eixo stuff – which bodes well, because I think that’s going to be a central strand of my work for the next few years.

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I’ve become interested in one of the hack projects – which is to completely reinvent radio. That’s the challenge. I’m hoping that one table of developers will want to get to work on that idea, because I have some thoughts about how that might work. I have just spent the last decade thinking about that problem, so it would be nice to have a play alongside somebody who knows how to build things out of internet.

But apart from the formal discussions and active projects, it is just a really lovely and creative space to be hanging out. I’ve had some great meetings with some brilliant and interesting people – and I think I may have a new funded research project in the pipeline as a result of one of those meetings.

There are some people here who are looking at the intersection between music publishing, sync licensing and digital technologies, and they’re going to be developing some really interesting software in that space, and they’ve asked me to come on board as an academic partner.

That sounds to me like a very good thing to be involved in – if for no other reason than it raises some fascinating problems which will dovetail very nicely with some of my other work.

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The festival is on all weekend, and I’m staying on through. It’s a great place to be.

I’m particularly looking forward to 6pm tonight, when Robert from Music Brainz is firing up the Bartendro 7 (pictured above). I’ve never had drinks poured for me by a cocktail-making robot before.