Music & Hacking

  • Finished Projects

While hacking is closely connected with the development of computer-science and the Internet, from the pioneering tests in the Tech Model Railroad Club at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to try to improve the effectiveness and speed of the first computers to Wikileaks, without forgetting the open sources movement, today it is common for the concept of hacking to cover numerous practices including several found in fields far removed from new computer-science and communication technologies.

In general, hacking can characterize a group of activities that is intended to optimize the performances of an object or technological system—the search for the best solution to a given problem—to be transgressive (circumvention of legal or technological standards, misuse of common practices, disrespectful attitude towards objects), and hedonic (pleasure in finding a solution, ingenious manipulation, technical prowess, customization). Hacking therefore designates certain positions or attitudes underpinned by a number of values than it does a precise activity.

In view of this, we can consider hacking to be a series of practices and customs configured by the conceptual categories of computer-science: the computer is an “open”, modular, object adaptable to the changing needs of the user. Code is a support for information, and the network a structure for communication – practices and customs that can then be reused (and remodeled) beyond the computer-science context.

The Music and Hacking project aims to find points of intersection between the hacker culture and today’s music, from the most explicit manifestations (periodical organization of music hack days and other hackathons, massive pirating of music industry productions, etc.) to implicit transfers (surfacing of new conceptions of the musical instrument, questioning the function-author, ethical dimension of certain experimental music, etc.), shedding light on new musical practices.

During 2016-2017, the team analyzed the activities of instrumental hacking in the “Lutheries Urbaines” workshop in Bagnolet, completed by the production of a set of interviews with important players in the improvised music scene who came to create their own performance system.

In 2017, the project will close with the conference “Music and Hacking: Instruments, Communities, Ethics” organized by the musée du quai Branly and IRCAM. This conference will address the multiple forms of misappropriation or misuse employed by musicians on their hardware, creation, and federation of musical communities via hacking or through the influence of the “hacker” ethics found in musical practices.

Finally, the organization of a music hack day after the conference (November 10 & 11 at IRCAM) will give a concrete look at the vibrancy and wealth of different approaches that make up the world of musical hacking.  

Start date : 2016 / End date : 2017

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