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Microsoft Kinect powers KEXP’s trippy new ‘Inside the Music’ experimental tech installation

KEXP Studio Tour

KEXP will host a grand opening celebration this weekend for its new home at Seattle Center, which features everything you’d expect in a 21st Century radio station, from a high-tech DJ booth to live performance spaces. But there are also a few surprises. One of them: an experimental technology installation intended to give visitors a visceral, interactive experience with indie music.


The “Inside the Music” installation, created in partnership with Microsoft, occupies an entire room at the station, with mesh netting stretched across four quadrants of the space, and Microsoft Kinect sensors overhead. Inside the room, visitors can push, lean and even dance against the mesh to change and remix the music — amplifying and activating new elements of the track based on the movements detected by the Kinect sensors.

“We’re able to pump in the stems of the music, connected with the Kinect and the Kinect scanning the physical mesh, so every time a group of people walk into the space, they will have a customized experience with the song by using their body to manipulate the music,” explained Jeff Hansen, Microsoft’s general manager for brand strategy, who demonstrated the installation for us in the video below.

It’s one example of the approach the station is taking in its new home, said Kevin Cole, KEXP’s afternoon host.

“This a new platform for us, and a new future, where we are hoping people will come to KEXP and have an experience that they didn’t expect, and leave discovering either an artist that they didn’t know, or new music that they didn’t know, but also having a different experience,” Cole said. “I think this is a great experiment with that, because this is an experience that people haven’t had before. They’re physically remixing the music while being in it, and while interacting with it.”

Several bands and artists contributed stems of their music for the space: SamarisÓlafur Arnalds, Floating Points, and alt-J.

“We’re used to twisting knobs and interacting with our music, whether we do it live or when we’re making it, but this was a very special experience, when you’ve made the track and you get to do it again, in a massively physical way, almost like you’re dancing a performance,” said Jófríður Ákadóttir, the singer for Samaris, the electronic music group from Iceland, which is in Seattle for the KEXP opening.

It’s not a permanent installation; the large room will eventually be used for future expansion of KEXP’s operations. We’ll have much more from our sneak peek KEXP’s new home at Seattle Center later today on GeekWire.

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