DMLab Live @ Mozfest 2016

29th October was the day of the “The Charles, Sophie n JK Roadshow”!  Perhaps it was better known as DMLab Live at Mozfest 2016, and it was a great afternoon.

This blog post should hopefully give a flavour of what we got up to, as well as sharing our reflections for other practitioners wishing to participate in similar events.

Mozfest2016 DMLab participant comment.
Mozfest2016 DMLab participant comment.

Just under the shadow of The 02 Arena in Greenwich sits the amazing Ravensbourne Building. Ravensbourne is an innovative, industry-focused university sector college which champions creativity and collaboration.  Ravensbourne  was also the venue for the ‘CSJK Roadshow.

DMLab Live participants at Mozfest 2016
DMLab Live participants at Mozfest 2016

DMLab Live

Mozfest is the world’s leading festival for the open internet movement. Taken from the official website, “the festival is a diverse, highly interactive event with something for everyone’.

The festival kicked off on the Friday evening with a science fair,  Saturday and Sunday were filled with participant-led sessions.

The DMLab Live event could be found in the Digital Arts & Culture zone, specifically with a focus on Digital Inclusion.  DMLab is our R&D programme, which holds meetings open to the public every month as well as more focussed hack events.

The aim of our 3 hours at Mozfest was to give participants a flavour of some DM magic, making music using both ‘off the shelf’ & bespoke accessible music technology (AMT).

We offered the unique opportunity to explore bespoke AMT on show such as The KellyCaster and Tone Ruler, as well low tech ideas developed in our R&D programme in the classroom with young people.  We also presented a variety of more established AMT, such as iPads, beams, and switches.

A device placed on participants arm that responds to muscle movement to create sound.
Currently being developed by Charles A device that responds to muscle movement to create sound.


This was a first time for all of us to work on this kind of environment, but there are many aspects that cross over with more general workshop facilitation and music making.  With this in mind, we’ve included a few reflections on how the event went.

Participants were able to see everything in action, as well as jump in and have a go.  All sorts of music activities took place, from individual music making on iPads, groups jamming on the SoundBeam, to a full on jam with AMT and chords on the KellyCaster providing a foundation.

We even broke into a mini-R&D session at one point, as one visitor expressed an interest in muscle-based control.  Five minutes later, we had a (semi-)working theremin based on muscle movement!

The plan was to have a drop in session for the first hour, a bit more structured workshop in the middle then a jam/putting it all together type bit for the last hour. All best plans change, but the preparation we had put in payed off as things of course didn’t work out as planned.

The event was far more free flowing so the structured workshop had to be interwoven as and when there were groups of people with us.  We used all we had planned but in a different way.

We were tucked away in a room which had its advantages and disadvantages.  No noise complaints from the neighbours! But it was hard to get the passers by in as they weren’t really passing by.

Those that ventured to the edges of the Mozfest exhibitions & variety of drop ins would hear the sounds coming from our room and then come on in to the lively, engaging music filled atmosphere.

It was more like the whole three hours was one big drop in and the other two elements of our plan (workshop & jam) was interspersed through the time with little demonstrations, games, group improvisations responding on interests at the time.

There were quiet periods which gave all three of us the time to interact with ones & twos, and then suddenly the room would be full and we’d move to a group activity.  The whole afternoon was fun and pretty full on…tea & cakes a key support in sustaining our energies!

A perspective from each of the team on our experience:

Sophie’s Reflections:

Sophie Facilitating
Sophie Facilitating

“I think the above pretty well sums up the event; I would only add that it may have been an advantage to have people sign up for the `workshop’ hour, so that we could have been a little more `be-spoke’ with what we offered.

I think it worked really well having so many different aspects of Tech/Music to offer, as participants got to `Pick & Mix’”  As with any Live event, some elements worked better than others eg. Muscle-flexy-thing…… but we were all kept entertained!!

Participants of DMLab getting hands on 'Lazy Susan' & ipads at Mozfest 2016
Participants of DMLab get hands on at Mozfest 2016

I think we did actually achieve the above; all the `gear’ is still relatively new to me, so I feel if I’m honest, I wasn’t much practical help but am aware that my presence hopefully added something to the inclusive aspect of the workshop, for participants.

I had never attended an event like this, so felt very much a Brave New World to me. Was excited and pleased to be there, if a little overwhelmed”

3 key things:

  • Inclusivity
  • Accessible Music Making
  • Fun!

John’s reflections

John setting up Kellycaster software.
John prepping Kellycaster software.

Being involved on our Think20/20 initiative I saw this opportunity develop from our Associate Musician development day so it was lovely to see different bits of my Drake Music work experiences marrying up on so many different levels too.

By this I mean Strategic (think 20/20) Workshop delivering/AMT Advocacy (Mozfest) & my own development (as an AM and with The Kellcaster.It’s so important to get our work out to new places where traditionally we may not have been in the past and importantly to be making music in inclusive settings using Accessible Music Technology.

3 Key things

  • Don’t panic -use every opportunity
  • Flexibility in approach
  • Have fun

I loved working with individuals, particularly with a few younger participants who were trying to get their Arts Award challenge completed that day.  Mozfest was promoting  The Arts Award and during the festival young people could have a taster of it by taking up a mini arts award challenge.

Participant Showing his completed Arts Award Challenge map.
Participant at DMLab completes his challenge!

It’s really nice to work in a team, we all had different skills and it was brill to work together all working hard to bring out the best experience for those who joined us.

Charles’s Reflections

This was a great opportunity to take our equipment and workshop ideas out of their natural habitat. Our DMLab events are typically about showcasing new technology – often freshly soldered. This felt like a logical progression, as we moved into group music making brilliantly facilitated by John and Sophie.

It can be a bit of a challenge working with technology in any event, and so one of the things I’ve taken away from this has been a desire to make things as transparent and fluid as possible.  We’re constantly thinking about this in developing music workshops, and this is a challenge that we need to take up as we’re designing new instruments. Hopefully the shift in music technology away from desktop computers to tablets and smaller, handmade instruments can help make these situations smoother and more accessible to all.

With this in mind, one of the highlights for me was getting to use our Lazy Susan, designed with KS3 students at Belvue School, as another instrument in a music making session.

Charles demonstrating the Lazy Susan.
Charles demonstrating the Lazy Susan, a piece of Bespoke kit recently created at a schools project

It was interesting to talk to people on a variety of angles – discussing some of the code behind of our projects one minute, meeting other technologists such as the people behind the PiDeck, and jumping straight into music making the next.  I hope we’ve inspired some people to look into moving forward with accessible music technology in some shape or form!

3 key things:

  •   Keep it simple!  It might be a cliche, but less really is more.
  •   Making workshops accessible can also mean using resources that are easy and affordable for participants to find afterwards.
Mozfest2016 DMLab participant comment card reading "Interactive & clearly compelling for teaching"..
Mozfest2016 DMLab another participant comment.

We’d like to say a big thank you to Mozfest and Arts Award for making this event possible.  A great afternoon spreading the word, having some fun, learning, using AMT….I really hope we return and develop our DMLab Live experience at Mozfest 2017… this space!

Do you have similar experiences or tips to share? Please leave a comment below.

Picture credits: Thanks to Carien Meijer, Becky Morris Knight & Mozfest official photographers.