October 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm

It’s On: Boston Music Hack Day Approaches

Participants at Boston Music Hack Day 2010 will converge to create operational music technologies over a single weekend. (Photo of last year's event: Rich Orris)

Hundreds of music technologists will enter Boston Music Hack Day this weekend, and… okay, hundreds of technologists will leave, too. Before they do, they’ll spend an action-packed weekend at Microsoft’s aptly-named New England Research and Development Center (NERD) inventing, building, and presenting music apps, hardware hacks, and art projects. The official rules are simple:

“Music + software + hardware + art + the web. Anything goes as long as it’s music related.”

Mere mortals such as myself are often shocked by the pace of innovation these days, which is mostly due to the dedication, ingenuity and yes, occasionally genius of the coders and makers who build the technology we use every day. Music is no exception.

At Boston Music Hack Day on October 16th and 17th, you can literally see this innovation happen, either in person or through a live video stream. There’s even a T-shirt, courtesy of a crowdsourced design challenge.

So, what will you see? Lots of smart people building the next generation of smart music applications: everything from powerful listening tools you might use every day, to completely whimsical creations like The Swinger, created at San Francisco’s Music Hack Day, which famously enforced a swing beat on hits like Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (as noted by Boing Boing and others):

Music Hack Days where technology enthusiasts gather to build both serious creations and off-the-wall apps like The Swinger have sprung up in many of the world’s tech hotspots since the first event was held in London last July. The previous Boston Music Hack Day drew over 350 software wizards, hardware tinkerers, and members of the press eager to witness the creation of new technologies.

Designer Jocelyn Petko of Alburtis, Pennsylvania won the 24-hour-long contest to design the T-shirt for Boston Music Hack Day with this design.

On Saturday and Sunday, participants will build their ideas, with each team presenting their creations on Sunday evening in the hopes of winning a variety of prizes. Sponsors of the event include Collecta, extensions.fm, Microsoft NERD, MTV, Mozilla, MusiXMatch, SonicBids, SoundCloud, TicketFly and The Echo Nest, which publishes Evolver.fm.

(Read more about the relationship between Evolver.fm and The Echo Nest.)

We’re currently witnessing the dawn of another digital music revolution, as the media player migrates from hardware to software — more specifically, to web and mobile apps that apply powerful data APIs to innovative ideas that would never be feasible on a pure hardware level.

Hardware interfaces continue to be important — but because MP3 players can be code now, they have the potential to do a lot more than they could just a few years ago. I was there when Steve Jobs announced the iPod, but these days, even Steve Jobs knows apps are where the action is.

I’m not the only one looking forward to seeing this year’s creations in all their forms. Here’s that livestream link again — and, to whet your appetite, some more photos from last year’s event. Stay tuned throughout the weekend for more Boston Music Hack Day coverage; following that, we will return to our regularly nonscheduled programming.