Bangs and mash – the future of music

The Mash MachineComposers are using the Internet of Things to invent new ways of making music

A row of brightly-coloured rubber ducks lines up to provide the bass tracks and a tin of baked beans controls the mix in Guy Gross’s wacky new juke box. He calls it The Mash Machine and it is more than a juke box because it separates the different elements of a track – vocals, drums, strings and so on –  and gives the user the power to mash them up into a new version. Gross has already sold several Mash Machines to major companies for what he calls ‘experiential marketing’. He calls it a ‘game changer’ and claims it will revolutionise the way we listen to music, by making listeners into makers. The brain of the Music Machine is a laptop and the things we use to build music are almost infnitely variable, since a hidden webcam is used to read the ‘notes’.  He demonstrates how it works to FI’s Jane Whyatt and editor Peter Warren.Guy Gross with The Mash Machine


Gross is relaxed about issues of copyright in the musical sound banks his Mash Machine uses. He says he has the support of a number of independent musicians. The next step for him is to raise enough investment so that he can create a range of different machines – from a coffee-table version for the home to a corporate event using a swimming pool with skaters and bicycles. Based in the City University’s small business incubator The Hangout near London’s Silicon Roundabout, he is well placed to achieve his game-changing ambitions.


City University’s music and informatics department are also breaking the mould of traditional composition and enlisting the Internet of Things to create ‘instruments’ from datasets and our own bodies. Doctor Diana Salazar is working with dancer Maria Salgado Llopis to sonify her own movements.

Sensors attached to the dancer’s limbs provide a stream of data and the metrics from this data are translated into sounds on the composer’s laptop. Dr Diana Salazar

Salazar is an award-winning composer and she admits that the sounds we hear are not only generated by the measurements of the accelerometers attached to her dancer. There is a strong creative element, too. Demonstrating her work at the Open Data Institute in London, she revealed to the audience that the irritating noise of the industrial air-conditioning in the building was being modified by data generated by measuring the movements of the people in the room. She had programmed her software to smooth out the bangs, clicks and whirrs and create a more pleasing soundscape.


This use of the Internet of Things is more like John Eacott’s sonfication of the river Thames and the Orwell than Guy Gross’s Mash Machine.

Metrics are interpreted by the artist – a dataset can come from the flow of water or from a dancer’s wrist. It is raw material, in the same sense that birdsong inspired Benjamin Britten or Vaughn Williams. However in the Mash process found sounds and music tracks are re-assembled by the listener – a system that is more like curating than composing, and can turn us all into the music makers of the future.