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Hacking to make music a collaborative experience

IMPOSSIBLE ALONE from Tim MB on Vimeo.

Sound-artist and coder Tim Murray-Browne is the first composer in residence at London’s Music Hackspace. Here he talks about why hackers and hacking are an interesting and integral part of the music industry.

Tim Murray-Browne wants to explore how we interact with sound and how this interaction can change sound. It can all seem a bit complicated to those new to the world of sound hacking, but to Murray-Browne musicians have always been pushing the limits of technology looking for unique sounds. He has a recent PhD in Interactive Music Systems from Queen Mary University of London and has created pop-up installation “Impossible Alone” at festival Secret Garden Party, where participants can explore a soundscape through synchronising their movements with a partner.

– Music is always about other people and a connection between people. That’s the way it’s always been. Music didn’t use to be something only special people could create or something frequently experienced in isolation, in the past it was something we were all more involved in.

Murray-Browne thinks that technology will allow more people to find a voice and a way to express themselves through music.

– Ten or twelve years ago the use of electronic and digital technology expanded the possibilities for musicians to start creating the technology as well as using it, things like laptops made technology cheap and easily accessible.

Although according to Murray-Browne what we’re seeing now is the culmination of almost a century of experimenting with music hacking.

– There has always been a relationship between artists, composers and instrument creators, says Murray-Browne.
– In the 60s things started accelerating when modular synthesiser that were designed to be rewired by the user to create different sounds came on to the scene.

But we shouldn’t focus too much on new inventions. The real innovation will come from how we interact with sound and technology, says Murray-Browne.

– We’ve really just seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of where it’s going. I spoke to Robert Thomas of RjDj who suggested that where we are now is like the equivalent of pong.

According to him there is a lot of potential for more interaction when it comes to games and electronic music, but Murray-Browne is more interested in the cutting edge and what kinds of new artforms will emerge as our understanding of interactive experiences develops.

His aim at the Music Hackspace is to explore the social aspects of musical creation and create a music hacking jam that will take place over ten months.

– It will take us ten months to create our individual contributions, but over this time we will be listening, interacting and responding to each other, as you would in a jam session.

The participants in the ‘Hackspace Ensemble’ will all grow together as they create new ways of making sound. We’ll be checking in with Murray-Browne during his year at the Music Hackspace to follow his progress. The residency is run as a part of Sound and Music’s Embedded Composer programme.

Image via Music Hackspace.