A conductor of bits and bytes

Start-up company Coire has created a software interface with which computers and smartphones can make music together

Marius Braun, Christian Dietz, Florian Goltz (v.l.) Photo: Lutz Maternowski

It is late summer. A poinsettia garland weaves its way across the desks of Marius Braun, Christian Dietz and Florian Goltz. „We’ve had more important things to do in the last months than worry about the office décor,“ says Marius Braun, noticing a certain puzzlement. For the start-up trio it’s the last official day in the founders’ building of the Technical University of Berlin (TUB).

Coire is now fully fledged. Up to now, the start-up was able to work on its idea in the founders’ incubator of the Centre for Entrepreneurship – financed by ESF and Exist start-up stipends and the „IKT Innovativ“ competition. Coire used this time and created a technology whose name might sound somewhat megalomaniac when heard for the first time: „The Almighty HUB“.

„This thing is incredibly powerful in its simplicity,“ Christian Dietz says of the software interface. Speaking calmly and clearly, the 35-year-old seems no more megalomaniac than his co-founders – three likeable young lads with a passion for digital music and a profound knowledge of bits and bytes.

These three have created a software module that runs with iOs, Android, Mac, Windows and Linux. It synchronises the time of different devices so that they can make music together via music software. Ultimately, this all works similarly to an orchestra: the body of sound requires a conductor to dictate the rhythm, so that the cello doesn’t overtake the violin and the trumpets don’t step out of line altogether. The situation is exactly the same when smartphone A wants to make music with smartphone B, or computer C want to play with music programs. Even if the applications were started at the same time on all the devices, they would drift apart after a certain time.

Up to now, this problem has been solved using the „Midi“ standard, a digital interface for musical instruments. But the Coire founders have higher standards – for them it’s about microseconds. They’ve create a more precise system that requires no additional hardware, instead using existing, wireless interfaces such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. „Until now, it’s also been difficult to join in with an ongoing session. We do this automatically and dynamically,“ says Christian Dietz, as his phone suddenly interrupts us with dissonant piano notes.
„My initials in musical form,“ Dietz explains. Like all the members of Coire, he likes tinkering with sounds, using algorithms to convert binary files into music. He and Florian Goltz already experimented with this as undergraduates while they were studying communication sciences and technical acoustics. A stone’s throw away, in the electrical studio of the TUB. They still go there regularly: „The expertise and the networks are pretty close by here,“ says Dietz.

Even though the market is ultimately in the USA, many of the big software manufacturers are located in Berlin and Hamburg. They’re already negotiating with one of these, and others have shown an interest. Goltz summarises: „It’s a niche that we’re working in, but we fit into it pretty snugly.“

Susanne Hörr
Kluge Köpfe 2014