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Music Thing: Scrambled Hackz

Each week Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:

It's like Karaoke gone wrong. You sing into the mic, but something very different comes out of the speakers. It's a jerky, warped version of MC Hammer trying to sing what you sang. Scrambled Hackz is a cobbled together mixture of ordinary hardware and extraordinary software, running across three programming languages.

Sven König, who designed it, calls it a Realtime-Mind-Music-Video-Re-De-Construction-Machine, and does a great job of explaining the whole system in this video (Also available here on YouTube). First, a source track is chopped into slices, each 1/16th of a beat long. Each slice has it's sound spectrum analysed, and is dropped into a database.

The fun starts when new audio comes into the system through the microphone. It is similarly sliced up, in real time. Each chunk is compared to the database, which starts spitting out chunks of the original source track (and it's accompanying video) to match the audio input.

In fact, singing doesn't work that well - the system certainly can't match words intelligibly. But human beatboxing into the mic sounds incredible, turning your boom-ka into kicks and snare drums from the original track. As an interface for a sampler, the human voice is a lot more intuitive than a keyboard and a bunch of knobs.

Sven has used the system (loaded with a ghastly collection of 80s hits) for live performance, and as a hysterical gallery installation. He's planning to release the software, currently a mess of C , Python and Pure Data, under the GNU GPL once he’s cleaned it up.