‘Music Hack Day’ coming to Drexel’s ExCITe Center; these robots are unimpressed [video]

You’ve heard of hackathons where web developers scheme up new apps in a matter of a few caffeine-soaked hours.

But what about a hackathon for music?

Philadelphia’s first Music Hack Day is being hosted by Drexel’s ExCITe Center on Saturday. The newish space, which is dedicated to the fertile intersection of technology and the arts, is co-organizing a 24-hour marathon of musical exploration.

“There will definitely be some physical hacks,” said ExCITe Center director Youngmoo Kim. “Maybe some instruments will even get built over the weekend — certainly instruments will get modded or augmented in different ways.”

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That’s something the ExCITe Center knows well.

The center’s one-of-a-kind magnetic resonator piano will be on display to the 100+ people who’ve already signed up to attend. Their task is to cobble together new innovations in music technology. (If you’re technically-inclined, you can register online. It’s free.)

Civilians can also sign up for a sleepy-eyed demo day on Sunday, where some of the brand new technologies will take the stage. (You can register for that online, too. It’s also free.)

“Music is something that has an extremely broad appeal. Everybody loves music,” said Kim. “There’s so many different ways in which to experience it and interact with it and to hack it.”

Music Hack Day is an initiative of The Echo Nest, a Somerville, Mass.-based company that provides the algorithmic brains behind popular music services like Spotify. It’s the 12th such event worldwide.

“We are excited to bring Music Hack Day to Philadelphia,” The Echo Nest’s Paul Lamere said in a statement. “Anything goes. With Philly’s strong tech and music scenes, we expect to see some fantastic innovations come out of the weekend.”

Drexel’s Kim says each Music Hack Day has its own flavor. Where previous events have had more of a software and web focus (see this writeup from Wired on Music Hack Day San Francisco), Kim says the Philly event will be “a little bit different.”

“We are going to try to emphasize more musical performance, music expressiveness, interfaces,” said Kim.

He says the ExCITe Center’s music-playing robots might even make an appearance. They’re best known for this Beatles cover:

If you want to learn more about the ExCITe Center, watch this recent profile by WHYY-TV’s Friday Arts.

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