Mogees: an Italian’s startup that is making the whole world play music (from trees to DJ’s)

Bruno Zamborlin makes objects turn into music. He is 31 and from Lonigo, Italy. For the past three years he has lived in London, where he just completed a PhD in music at Goldsmiths, after having studied in Paris and at the school of Luciano Berio in Florence. Then he decided to create a startup… Read more »

IMG_2601Bruno Zamborlin makes objects turn into music. He is 31 and from Lonigo, Italy. For the past three years he has lived in London, where he just completed a PhD in music at Goldsmiths, after having studied in Paris and at the school of Luciano Berio in Florence. Then he decided to create a startup with what he had learned. And Mogees was born.
Mogees is an iPhone app and a sensor that can be attached to objects in order to play them. It works on anything. It does not create instruments, speakers or drums. It exalts entire musical properties. Without modifying them. It makes them interact, it mixes them, and it creates an acoustic kaleidoscope that is always different and potentially infinite. Just six months after his first version of the software, Zamborlin has begun doing concerts all over Europe. And high caliber artists, DJ’s, and musicians are using it like Jean Michel Jarre, one of the forefathers of electronic music, and Rodrigo y Gabriela, the guitarists whose music has been used in Breaking Bad.
If the movements of DJ’s could actually make music
Bruno came up with the idea of Mogees for the first time one year ago in a club in London. «A DJ was moving around to mix on his console. He was moving his arms vigorously, even a bit clumsily. As a researcher, this not only made me laugh but it also made me ask a question. What would happen if those movements could actually make music? ». This was how the research began for the software that he invented. After six months he had created the first prototype and launched a campaign on Kickstarter. In just a few days he collected 160,000 dollars for 1,600 units that were sold. «It was a success, but it was not enough to grow», explained Zamborlin. But the successful response confirmed that he was on the right track. And it also gave him good media visibility. The London music scene began to hear about him. At this point, he was just missing the means to get Mogees out to the masses. After a few more months he got the contact he was waiting for. It came from Italy, the Veneto, to be precise, the same region that he came from. The M31 fund of Ruggero Frezza decided to finance him with two rounds of investments: 600,000 euros in 2014 and the same sum in 2015 together with Francesco della Rovere and Andrea Ghello. «We also had various proposals from venture capitalists in Great Britain. But I chose M31 because of Ruggero. I didn’t know him, but we immediately were in sync with each other. There was a good feeling from the start». M31 has also funded other things like the tourism solution Veasyt, the breathalyzerFloome, and Helty, the startup that brought “para-pharmacies” to Italy. Mogees is the latest challenge.
The three functions of Mogees
«Do you remember the electronic drums of Depeche Mode? Well, the concept is no different. Based on touch, the type and intensity of sound is made. It is just that Mogees is applicable on a potentially infinite range of objects» continued Zamborlin. Together with 10 other young people that make up the Mogees team, he is developing the software in three different modes, of varying grades of complexity (and potential).
1. The first is Song Mode. It is the simplest mode. In the video that demonstrates it, a kid stands in front of a stovetop in a kitchen that the sensor has been connected to. A song has been uploaded to the app (in this case “For Elise” by Ludwig Van Beethoven). The app knows the notes of the song and inflects the tones based on those notes. The child begins to touch the stovetop with a fork and knife and the song begins. The touches create the rhythm and intensity. The notes are already decided, but the form and the tempo are left to the child’s creativity.
2. Free Mode offers access to the notes as well.
The mode requires that tables, ashtrays, windows, etc. must be “tuned” before being played. The touch becomes a factor of intensity in sound as well as the notes that change in scale with different types of touch. The logic is the same as the Song Mode, but is made more complex with the possibility of composing music along scales. A Kathak dancer who is shown in a video filmed in New Delhi last summer, demonstrates how a table becomes an instrument, an extension of her body, which she plays with her feet.
3. The last one is Capture mode. It allows sounds to be created. Like playing a tree with the resonant properties of a window. The sensor in this case captures the sound of the glass, then, by connecting it to a tree and touching it this emits sounds in a certain scale with the properties of glass. The combination of sounds is infinite.
Who would use it
«For now it is not in commerce, but there could be many uses for it» noted Zamborlin, «from musical education for children, to those who want a personal approach to music even though they don’t know how to play an instrument. The thing that I like most about Mogees is that it is a powerful tool for exploring the world. Seeing it from another point of view, from playing a chair, a grill, a track». Then there is the music world. Jean Michel Jarre has taken a fancy to it. And along with him, many other musicians who have asked Bruno to install his sensors to use during their performances: Plaid, Imogen Heap, and numerous DJ’s. These last ones who, even though they play music, they never actually play it themselves. «But with Mogees they could really play, making their performances unique at every show».
Even that DJ in London who inspired Zamborlin a year ago could finally discover the sounds that his gestures would really make.