So the dust has settled on the first Hackoustic Festival and its time to reflect on what a fantastic day it was.
I will start with a preface about Hackoustic, it’s an open group of people who meet at the london hackspace to talk and tinker and play with sounds and music. Tim Yates often organises great speakers or workshops too, all just for the love of the experimental. I was first invited to speak at their evening way back in 2014 by Saif Bunni. Then had the pleasure of being their neighbour at londons maker faire. They were also the group who invited me to exhibit at the Tate Modern. It’s safe to say I owe a lot to the Hackoustic group and to Tim for the multitude of opportunities sent my way.
So when Tim approached me to help run this festival I didn’t hesitate to offer my services.
The first (and only) choice for venue was Machinesroom. My home away from home, and premier maker space for all your making needs. The staff there are beyond helpful and friendly and our gratitude for them is massive.
The first thing out audience were greeted with was Tim’s Big Blade installation. A giant circular saw hung from a log tripod with a variety of beaters and sticks for people to hit it with. The variety of tones and timbre you can achieve with this thing is vast. It’s a great example of the ethos behind Hackoustic in finding extraordinary sounds from unexpected sources.
Lucia Naidu is a long term Hackoustic participant who bought down 2 of her fantastic projects. One being a type of 3D theremin using capacative sensors and the other an arduino driven computer fan noise generator.
We were fortunate to have Raxil4 join us. We gave him some pretty odd spaces to try and work with and he managed to pull off 2 very interesting installations. Nuclear Toilet was a site specific installation created using manipulated field recordings of the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, recorded to endless looping audio cassette tape. The installation was in the toilets of machinesroom and definitely added a level of fun and intrigue to the day. He also pulled off a great version of Luciers music on a long thin wire with artists μ + Harmergeddon.
Charles Matthews has been one of the speakers at the Hackoustic meetups before. I have been lucky enough to have played with and discussed his work before so was massively honoured he was able to come to our first fetival. He bought down his project and passion which is his Augmented Gamelan/pipilan project.
It’s such a complex system of MAX patches, feedback loops, piezo sensors and transducers that i couldn’t even begin to explain it. All that matters it it sounds incredible and looks amazing! It is controlled by simple arrows and buttons but has been developed by Charles to follow the method of composition for full traditional Gamelan playing. You can find out more about his work here http://ardisson.net/
Jack Jelfs was another recent Hackoustic speaker and he bought along his moat recent installation,fresh from its last home at The Conservatoire in Blackheath.
Stop/start is an ensemble of sculptural units which generate sound using magnetism, electrricity, physical acoustics and amplification to collectively perform a musical composition on an endless, never exactly repeating, loop. The piece draws influence from minimalist classical music, techno, scientific apparatus and the physics of sound.
I was very lucky to work with Luis Zayas in Berlin recently at MTF. So was naturally very excited he was able to bring his lifeSupport installation to us. It uses hospital drip feeds to randomly trigger sensors underneath. This is then processed with a Bela board and converted into audio outputs. You can change a whole bunch of variables, from the scales to the octaves and sustain. It’s a very zen like installation, beautifully constructed and a joy to just sit and watch/listen to.
Cyber Citizens are a group that Tim and I have bumped into a few times at recent London maker events and they are ALWAYS completely surrounded by people wanting to try their creations, but more specifically Butterscotch, their voice controlled bubble farting unicorn. It is intended for the performance project ‘Girl with the Unicorn’, but is such a well executed and fun hack of an existing product that it’s worthy of being it’s own stand alone project.
While these great installations and projects were out and on display we also had a great line up of talks and performances from some of our friends and idols in the world of sound/hacking/tech. All of which was recorded and broadcast by the great Sonica.fm radio station.
We had Dan Wilson give an incredibly interesting talk on his work with what he calls Miraculous Agitations. It was a talk that resonated a lot with me as it seems our creative process runs along similar lines. It was great to hear his ideas and I hope to work together on something in the future.
We were VERY VERY VERY privileged to have Dr Kelly Snook talk with us. Kelly is one of the pioneers and creators behind the mimu gloves project. The gloves allow you to control and trigger a multitude of gestures and commands via MIDI, with complete ease and freedom of movement and it’s really a very magical thing. She went through the software behind the gloves and gave us all some exciting news about that software becoming available soon for everyone. Kelly went above and beyond after her talk and let people try on the gloves and try a few of the million different things you could do with them. I was lucky enough to have time to try them and I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time…
Gwaith Swn are a london based arts collective concentrating in sound, field recordings and installations. I’ve performed on the same bill as them before and they interviewed me for their monthly radio show on Resonance FM. We had Kev Chan from Gwaith Swn perform his hypnotic, mesmerising and stunning tape loop performance. hand crafted tape loops layered ontop of each other, slathered in reverb and masterfully mixed together.
And to top of the day of the festival we had the unimitatable Tasos Stamou perform and textural, multilayered drone piece on electronics, harmonium and various effects. He was noisy, and brilliant, and loud, and worth trying to see perform if you ever get the opportunity to do so.
Tim and I also had our own projects on show at the festival, Tim’s Curio project explores the sound of everyday objects in a wonderfully designed array controlled by capacative touch sensors. And I had my recycled instruments setup ready for anyone to pick up and play and make noises.
After the day festival, we packed up Machinesroom and headed down the road to Limewharf to set-up for the evening gig. Tim and I were joined by Jon Saunders for our improv project YOAF.
The gig part: