The People's Music School Music Hack: Vote Now!

Photo by Andre Merz:1871.

Updated Dec. 4, 2017

On Nov. 11, The People’s Music School (TPMS), whose mission “is to deliver access to the benefits of high-quality, tuition-free music education,” hosted its third Music Hack. This music hackathon brings together teams to compete in a tech challenge to “make music more accessible and relevant to all.” This year, students brought in their most cherished objects to celebrate Chicago’s Latino community and inspire sounds going into a world premiere at Harris Theater next fall. These student teams pitched their ideas to a panel that included Harper Reed, Genevieve ThiersNeal Sales-Griffin, Chris Amos and Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa, TPMS president and artistic director.

Below, watch these incredible technologists and musicians, many of whom just met that morning, use loopers, algorithms, fruit, and yo-yo’s to bring these objects to life.


Voting is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Team Technicolor!

So what does PURPLE sound like?

Team Technicolor’s app relates colors in an image to pitches and rhythms. The possibilities are endless!

Team: Technicolor (Charu, Christian, Andrew, Felipe)

Treasured object inspiration: All objects

Creative strategy: Analyze photos of objects to determine the most prominent color in each, assign each color to a sound. Mapped each color to an instrument, volume, and emotion to capture the feeling of each object.

Technical tools: Google Vision API

Final outputs: Web app, sound samples

Demo video: 


Data and music intersect with Team Synthesize It!

Two data scientists and two music programmers teamed up to turn Brian’s chorreador (coffee maker) into sound. Brian bought the chorreador on his last trip to his family’s hometown in Costa Rica.

Team: Synthesize It (Alex, Alberta, Ben, and Victor)

Treasured object inspiration: All objects

Creative strategy: Convert images of objects into sounds using color, design, and key features. Capture emotional significance of each cherished object through sentiment analysis algorithm to inform musical characteristics (timbre, tone, tempo, etc.) Learn more.

Technical tools: Computer vision, morphological transformation, MIDI, sentiment analysis

Final outputs: Sound file

Demo video: 

No students were harmed making this human keyboard!

Team Trala recorded samples of our students expressing what their objects mean to them, then hacked their way to an interactive keyboard that used students as the keys.

Team: Trala (Sam, Vishnu, Luis)

Treasured object inspiration: The students themselves!

Creative strategy: Sample the students playing their instruments and describing their cherished objects, use Makey Makey to to design a “human keyboard” with students as the keys. Learn more.

Tools: Makey Makey classic kit, Swift, Beanstock, Python, student sound samples

Final outputs: Interactive human keyboard

Demo video: 

Team EBGB takes the yo-yo to a new dimension!

Inspired by Armando and the yo-yo he received from his grandmother, the EBGBs manipulated recordings of Armando playing his flute to feel that classic yo-yo slide.

Team: EBGBs (Tomek, Andrew Stenio, Ali, Tanner)

Treasured objected inspiration: Armando’s yo yo

Creative strategy: Set image of the yo-yo over a grid to assign sounds to each color value, use samples of Armando playing his flute to provide the sounds. Convey the feelings of happiness and nostalgia Armando associates with the yo-yo by mapping the “warm” colors of the yo-yo to major sounds and “cold” colors to minor sounds. Learn more.

Technical tools: Rule 30 algorithm, flute sound samples

Final outputs: Sonic Pi (melody)

Demo video: 

Making music with tamale dough!

Team Hack-A-Song fell for Rebecca’s favorite family recipe. First step: grocery store. Next step: turn that dough into sound!

Team: Hack-A-Song (Snow, Ann, Edward)

Treasured object inspiration: Rebecca’s tamale recipe

Creative strategy: Make tamales! Create human-food/human-computer interactions by using the dough as an interface. Break apart dough into seven pieces for the seven steps of the recipe and attach sensors to each one. Use sound clips of Rebecca playing her violin and describing what it’s like when her family gets together to make tamales

Technical tools: Makey Makey classic kit, student sound samples, tamale dough

Final outputs: Tamale dough player

Demo video: 

Coffee unites all!

Team Venti was inspired by Brian’s chorreador, a shared love of coffee, and the piece of Costa Rican culture the chorreador represents. They got creative with their equipment to make this chorreador sing!

Team: Venti (Joe, David, Paul, Tali, Daniel)

Treasured object inspiration: Brian’s chorreador (coffee maker) from Costa Rica

Creative strategy: Design an interactive piece to capture the sounds of Costa Rica and coffee making process, convey a sense of place through sound outputs. Learn more.

Technical tools: Makey Makey classic kit, Scratch

Final outputs: Interactive instrument

Demo video: 

Show and tell just got interesting!

Team Color Camera was inspired by the story behind each object our students brought in. They created a tool that anyone can use to express their memory of an object through a real time webcam.

Team: Color Camera (Viktor, Nathan, Matthew, Steve)

Treasured object inspiration: All objects

Creative strategy: Find a way to allow people in real time to put image in front of a camera, extract the image’s color, and produce a sound. Used basic sound study to match each color with a relevant sound

Technical tools: Webcam, image recognition, additive technology to build layers

Final outputs: Interactive webcam tool

Demo video: 

CON-CHA, CON-CHA, CON-CHA!

Everyone in Jose’s family knows how to make conchas (Mexican sweet bread). Team Orange Peel tried everything from eating to throwing the conchas to capture its unique sound, then paired it with some yo-yo bass to create something totally original.

Team: Orange Peels (Antonio, Samantha, Eric, Sam)

Treasured object inspiration: Jose’s conchas (Mexican sweet bread) and Armando’s yo yo

Creative strategy: Capture the significance of each object — what they meant to the students and team members themselves who were also of Mexican heritage. Played yo yo like a bass and recorded sounds of eating and manipulating the conchas. Learn more.

Technical tools: Contact mic, Zoom field recorder, sequencer

Final outputs: Web app with animated GIFs, YouTube video, sound sequencer

Demo video: 

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