Maker Faire: Syzygryd

Maker Faire: Syzygryd

Maker Faire is the ideal place for creative collaboration. A huge advantage of sharing what you make in a public space is the potential for finding like-minded folks who can collaborate and contribute to your project. You can feel it in the air at the Faire and it’s super exciting. This year’s Maker Faire Bay Area, taking place on May 22nd and 23rd at the San Mateo Fairgrounds, will feature folks working together on a project called Syzygryd. The project, still in the works, is a collaboration between four crews: Interpretative Arson, False Profit Labs, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, and Illutron. The entire team working on Syzygryd is around 30-40 people. One member, Emma Dannin, took a moment to tell us more about the project and what part of it the crew is bringing to the Faire.

1. Tell us about the project you’re bringing to Maker Faire.

The piece is a part of the sculpture Syzygryd. There’s more info on, but basically, the piece is a giant 2.5-ton musical instrument that allows 3 people (regardless of musical ability) to collaborate and make harmonic-sounding music together. We’ll just be bringing the music pieces to Maker Faire. That includes touchscreens running our custom sequencer/controller software and computers/speakers to play back the music people make. The sets are composed in Ableton Live and we’d like more folks to get involved and submit sets. We’re hoping to use Maker Faire as a chance to get the word out about our project, as well as recruit new participants, or musicians looking to contribute sounds.

Syzygryd’s Kickstarter video gives a great window into the project.2. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?

Some of the folks in the group have gone before. Some of us know about it as residents of the Bay Area. We decided to participate because we want to get more user feedback on our project. We also want to recruit new members. Our piece is huge and collaborative and we need all the help we can get!

3. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and
who are your inspirations?

I am a musician. I’ve played piano and clarinet from a young age, but started recently getting into electronic music. I’m inspired by all manner of musicians from classical to pop, and a large sector of electronic musicians, like Boards of Canada, Amon Tobin and Autechre.

I’m also really interested in software and usability. This project gives me a great chance to help build better software and improve the usability of our interfaces. We want this to be dead simple to use, so that anyone can walk up to the sculpture and start creating beautiful music.

4. Is your project strictly a hobby or a budding business? Does it relate to your day job?

This project is a hobby for me, but there are people involved who work full-time on this project. For me, in my day job, I work for a software company. So there are a lot of similarities between what I do from 9-5 and what I’m doing in this project. I do a lot of product and project managing, leading people and assigning tasks, as well as planning for the future. I’m also doing a lot of schmoozing with musicians and making connections with companies to build relationships and make this a successful project.

5. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?

I’m interested to see where devices and projects like ours will take the area of music creation and collaborative music projects. There are these somewhat-outdated beliefs that music is intellectual property, but with a piece like ours, the music is in the moment. There’s no intellectual property in this kind of large scale group effort.

6. What is your motto?

I have a number of mottos but I find that the one mantra I keep returning to with this project is: “Don’t worry, take things one at a time and knock down one task a day.”

7. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just
getting started?

Look for people to collaborate with. You can get a lot done by yourself, but you’ll get even further if you have a good group of people to work with. You never know what kinds of ideas you can get through collaboration.

Thanks, Emma! Be sure to find the Syzygryd crew to check out their musical components and to chat with them about collaborating on this massive project. And for all the information you need about Maker Faire, including buying tickets online, check out the Maker Faire website. See you at the Faire this weekend!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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