DM Lab: October 2015

Taking place once a month at our offices in Shoreditch the DMlab hackmeet is a chance for anyone with an interest in developing accessible music technology to meet and share projects, ideas and questions.

Imogen Heap & Drake Music
Image by Nate Lanxton

This month we had the pleasure of welcoming Kelly Snook @kellysnook who several years took one small step and transitioned from rocket scientist to music technologist.  Recently she’s been working with Imogen Heap and others on the Mi.Mu gestural gloves project.

Also in attendance for the first time was Jacob Harrison @jcb_h a student at Queen Mary University London who has a keen interest in developing assistive music technology. He wanted to bounce some ideas off us regarding a kind of large one button interface with aftertouch and positional information being output.

On the show and tell table we had a couple of Arduino sound and light projects that Drake Music Associate National Manager Gawain Hewitt had been working on.

One device consisted of a Bare Conductive Touchboard , a pager buzzer and a neopixel strip housed inside a piece of Sports Direct tupperware. The resulting instrument had proven to be a big hit with the reception class he’d been working with.

Close up of the touch board/buzzer/neopixel innardsCharles Matthews @matthewscharles lent a hand in tweaking Gawains Arduino sketch but they soon discovered that the Touchboard usb had been fried earlier due to a very cheap and faulty voltage regulator board. Gawain explained that he was expecting 5v however after finding his neopixels cooking he reached for his multimeter to find 15v flowing through his breadboard.

The other device on show was an Arduino Uno with a dmx shield produced by an Essex based electronics company doing some great kits and boards for Arduino and Raspberry Pi. In this device the Arduino is fed colour and luminance values from Pure Data which in turn receives midi information from any instrument generating it.

close up of the SKPang DMX Shield for ArduinoThe result is an engaging musical experience where a change in note creates a random change in colour. The device also featured a chefs hat made by the class teacher of the students Gawain had been working with. This prevented the colour being thrown on to the wall or ceiling and resulted in a satisfying glow from the random changing colours.

We had the pleasure of testing the midi to dmx lighting conversion of this set up with what is being called the Tone Ruler. Essentially a Soundbeam in a box the size of a cigarette packet it has 16 built in sounds, 16 preset scales and adjustable key all from the device itself. While still in development, the lone-wolf in the mountains “Mo” has delivered six of these mk1 instruments to DM HQ for further testing.

Also in discussion this evening was the dark double-crossing goings on at  and the birth of Genuino as an alternative name outside the US. You can read more about it here

Conversations also ventured on to the subject of bringing data in and out of MIT’s Scratch programming software, the trouble with setting up Kinect for those who are unable to stand, getting Kinect data in to Scratch and Scratch for Arduino

James Rose made a short video about the work he’s been doing as a conductor with support and mentoring from the Royal College of Music. James has been working closely with Gawain on a new lightweight pointer allowing James to conduct by moving his head. Read more here