Rudiger MeyerRudiger Meyer

Labs, Hackathons and Doing It Anyway

Do it anyway was the theme of this year’s SPOR festival and title of the mini seminar it hosted on the topic. Johnathan Marmor, a New York composer and programmer with a day job at Spotify, filled us in on the motivations behind holding hackathons and their ever increasing popularity in the tech world over the last decade.

Instead of polishing a ‘perfect’ product over a long period of time the aim is build asomething from scratch within a short period of time. By temporarily setting aside the concerns of daily life and working intensely on something you’re passionate about it’s possible to quickly move through the life cycle of creating something and learn about problematic steps in the process. It’s an opportunity to review one’s beliefs and internalize lessons learnt. And at the end of it all you have a finished product to show for it.1

Then of course you might take one of those products and iterate the hell out it if you sense that you might be on to something special.

Travis Just and Kara Feely from the Object Collection expanded on how they’ve chosen to focus on the process of creation itself rather than finely tuned works. Given the increasing difficulties related to funding and managing complex projects they’ve embraced a strategy of simply producing as much as they can as quickly as possible and relying on the accumulative effect of continually getting stuff out there. It’s not so much a case of working on something again and again in an attempt to improve it as of simply being better at the whole process the next time round because it’s been done so many times before. It’s a strategy that focusses on the here and now rather than projects which take years to realise – by which time the world is a different place. Doing things even when there isn’t really suport for them – it’s a strategy that makes them less reliant on funding and the cultural gatekeepers associated with it. A strategy for keeping creatively alive in a tricky cultural landscape.

Frankenstein’s Lab falls somewhere in-between all of this. The original idea was that there wasn’t anything between the kind of incubation space found at a music conservatory, for example, and the polished final products presented at festivals. It’s not quite a hackathon because the pieces/presentations aren’t directly created at the lab but it is a place in which to try things out and get some feedback while still in the process of working on something. Somewhere in-between the artist/composer’s workroom and a performance. An opportunity to get some insights into the tricky parts of your creative process and feedback on the results even if you don’t (yet) have a place on some festival program.

It was also originally inspired by the meet ups of the Dutch improvisation scene that I experienced while living there. People simply getting together every week to play together and try out stuff. Which is also great when there are visitors in town and you’d like to play together even though it hasn’t been planned a year in advance. Frankenstein’s Lab often has improvisation sessions after the presentation slots and here anyone is welcome to join in. No process required.

  1. You can read more about the Monthly Music Hackathon that Johnathan takes part in on their website – or follow them on twitter: @musichackathon

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