Music Hack Day represents the opposite of the Infinite Monkey Theory, which states that a group of monkeys typing randomly would eventually reproduce the complete works of Shakespeare given an infinite span of time.
The time span at Boston Music Hack Day at Microsoft’s NERD Center in Boston was constrained to a mere 24 hours, in which participants had to execute music apps and hardware creations — and then had only two minutes to present those to judges hailing from the various companies sponsoring the event.
Another difference: their typing was anything but random. It resulted in an astonishing 41 functional music technologies — the most ever generated during the 18-month, worldwide history of Music Hack Days.
The “Finite Nerd Theory,” as it were, is powerful stuff. Without further ado, here are the winners of Boston Music Hack Day 2010 (The Echo Nest, publisher of Evolver.fm, is one of the sponsors of Boston Music Hack Day):
Show Preview: It’s a question that has haunted humankind for generations: Should I go see the band that’s opening for the band I really want to see tonight, or should I stay at the bar around the corner, sipping less expensive beer in comfort until my faves take the stage? Show Preview examines your musical preferences via Last.fm, finds your location, determines which bands are playing near you that night using SongKick and serves up 30-seconds via 7digital of the hottest tracks by the opening band as tracked by The Echo Nest’s “hottness” attribute.
Jennie’s Ultimate Road Trip: Jennie Lamere — daughter of The Echo Nest’s Paul Lamere — had the idea to plot a road trip based on the bands that are playing in various locations along the way. So Lamere built it. He compared the process to the Traveling Salesman Problem, often examined by computer engineers, which involves calculating the optimal route for a traveling salesman. Except in this case, the bands are moving too, which complicates the issue considerably. To build this web app, Lamere mashed a city database from the web with Songkick’s live events API, The Echo Nest’s Personal Catalogs API, and Google Maps.
DIY Ceelo: Remember the text version of the Ceelo video that was making the rounds earlier this year before the fully-produced version emerged, which displayed big blocky lyrics as Ceelo sang them? DIY Ceelo lets you do that for any music video on YouTube by simply entering a URL, letting the app grab lyrics from MusiXMatch’s database, and controlling the pace at which the lyrics scroll past with three simple keyboard commands. It’s simple, effective, and amusing, if you’re into this sort of thing.
LyricalComments: This one takes lyrics from MusiXMatch and applies them to songs hosted on SoundCloud. The ingenious part is its use of SoundCloud’s existing comment system, which lets listeners attach text comments to specific points in the song’s timeline. Lyrics appear in the timeline just before they are sung — neat.
Sing ‘Em All: One of the more whimsical winners of this year’s Boston Music Hack Day, Sing ‘Em all is a deceptively simple web app that turns any block of text into song using the melody of your choice. You’ll need to have that melody represented by a MIDI file in order to use it, but if you do, the results, which leverage Canoris‘s text-to-song API, are impressively magical.
TwitterPlay: I’ve seen plenty of tools for mining Twitter for music but none of them do anything like what TwitterPlay does. This app takes the most popular trending topics on Twitter, searches MusiXMatch for songs that include those topics in their lyrics, and then assembles a playlist from 7digital’s catalog using The Echo Nest’s track search. If you’re looking for topical tunes that jibe with the events of the day this may very well be your only option.
SF MusicTech Summit
Danceability Index: Much like the famous correlation between hem lines and the state of the economy, Danceability Index leverages The Echo Nest’s new Danceability feature to analyze the five most popular songs in New York City historically, and mashes that data against stock market performance. Shockingly, danceability is a decent indicator of stock market performance; Danceability returned an 80-percent profit in the example cited. Stay tuned for more on this one.
Invisible Instruments – Guitar: By making use of the accelerometers and tilt-detectors in the iPhone and Wii remote, Invisible Instruments – Guitar allows the player to shred without a guitar, while enjoying a decent degree of control over what chords and notes get played. It’s just like air guitar, but noisier.
NoteFlight HTML5 Score Viewer and Player: This web app allows you to compose music and hear it played back — something the company normally does with Flash, but which they’ve managed to do within a normal browser thanks to the strength and versatility of HTML5. This allows printing, zooming, and the injection of other HTML directly into the song — for instance, you can embed a SoundCloud file within the notation.
TwitterPlay: See above.
SynLyrics: People who suffer from (or, quite possibly, enjoy) Synesthesia see words as having various colors when they read. Somewhat likewise, SynLyrics analyzes lyrics and assigns a color to each to allow you to view a song graphically, via a screen full of various-sized circles, with larger circles representing longer words and their colors representing a synthesthetic color associated with each word.
The Echo Nest
Danceability Index: See above.
Highlight to Listen: Want to know more about a given band, song, album, phrase, venue, guitarist, etc.? Install this Google Chrome extension once it’s finalized and them whenever you highlight text within a browser window. Highlight to Listen then searches The Echo Nest’s database for the text, presenting you with a bevvy of music-related information about whatever text you’ve highlighted.
Scrobbyl: Last.fm’s audioscrobbler feature is crucial to building an online music profile in part because its API allows third-party developers to harvest that profile for all sorts of purposes, as evidenced by the rest of the list above. However, until this weekend, no good method existed for scrobbling vinyl or other non-digital formats. As its name implies, Scrobbyl solves this problem by analyzing whatever songs are sent to a computer’s audio input and adding them to your Last.fm profile. (Read more on Scrobbyl here).