Whenever someone asks me the punishing question, “What DAW do you use?” I can confidently say Ableton Live. The next question usually is “Why?” My go to response is to say that Live is one of the most forward thinking, future proof DAWs available.
Ableton’s forward thinking / future proofing culture was the most outstanding feature at their recent music summit. They call it ‘Loop’ and I was extremely lucky to be invited by Ableton to attend the event as a guest. I was also asked by Kimbra to perform with her, Daedelus and Lars Horntveth during her presentation.
Loop is a three-day mash up of discussions, panels, performances, presentations, studio sessions and interactive workshops with artists, educators, technologists and creative minds. The A&R manager at Ableton is Berlin-based New Zealander Brigid-Anne Gilbert, who describes the philosophy behind the summit as, “An open space for people to have conversations about what it is to be a music maker in the modern day, and what it could be like to make music in the future.”
Some of the performers / artists at Loop this year included Lee Scratch Perry, Deantoni Parks, Suzanne Ciani, Kimbra, DJ Jazzy Jeff, No I.D., Kyoka, Gudrun Gut. For a creative and art driven musician like myself the summit was an energising and inspirational weekend. A reminder that there is a musical world that exists far away from major label pop and that the musical world is full of creative, boundary pushing artists and musical scientists. I came away from the weekend with a new-found spark to create thoughtful, considered art.
As with any aspect of overseas travel at some point you are going to bump into a fellow New Zealander and I did that multiple times at Loop, you can’t hide that accent no matter how hard you try. Every one of the NZ contingent ended up at the summit for different reasons, the consistent factor being that they are all hardworking and specialists in their realm of music. I thought it would be best if each of them described their experience of Loop.
As part of the Artist Relations department I had a hand in programming Loop, along with a group of other tech and music experts from Ableton. My role before Loop was to pitch ideas for individual speakers and performers, and help to curate lineups for different formats – studio session, panel discussion, etc. My role on the actual day was to make sure that the artists attending had the best experience they could and that everyone was where they needed to be.
It’s summit for music makers. This is not a product-focused event for us at all, and quite a few of the presenters and speakers do not use our products. How do you make music? What tools do you use? How are tools changing? Who is making the tools? How do you find inspiration? Where do you learn about music? Who do you learn from? What does your live performance look like? These and many other questions we pose through a series of themes we program around, in the hopes that people will connect with us and each other to discuss them.
The Invisible Jukebox sessions with Gudrun Gut and Morton Subotnick were real highlights for me. Having two extremely well respected and different musicians listen to different music and discuss it with a fantastic moderator was engaging and really inspiring.
Also, the performance from Deantoni Parks completely blew me away. His sound over the huge sound system that was at Funkhaus was insane.
One of the talks I attended was ‘The Learning Institution: New approaches in music education’ and amongst the participants in this particular discussion was fellow Kiwi, Rodi Kirkcaldy. Rodi pulled a quote up in his presentation that said, “Greatness is grown, not born,” which as a music producer is quite a profound and freeing thought. You are not subject to some abstract ‘talent’ that you either have or you don’t; rather, you dedicate yourself to your craft and become great through practice and hard work. Perhaps, upon reflection, that’s not as comforting as I thought, haha.
I was invited to speak on my process as an artist using technology in the studio and live on the stage. I also did a performance of live improvisation to demonstrate how I like to do spontaneous writing in front of an audience as part of my process to break creative barriers.
I was so encouraged by the sense of community at Loop. There were artists and producers from all over the world who had gathered in Berlin to learn and be inspired by each other. Everyone had a hunger for expanding their skills and all the sessions were so interactive so you always had a chance to speak personally and ask specific questions which made for a really great environment.
I really enjoyed the presentation by Daedalus about sound and space and how the two affect each other. He made me think really differently about how I interact with the space I work or perform in and be sensitive to that at all times. Deantoni Parks’ performance as Technoself also totally blew my mind.
I came away with a new appreciation for the use of technology in the live arena. Sometimes the infinite possibilities and never-ending supply of new gear and gadgets can feel overwhelming. But Loop really encouraged artists to feel liberated by the technology they use and find unique ways to use it as your friend, not as something that can get in the way of your music and connection with the audience. I enjoyed talking about that with other artists who also work to strike that balance in live performance.
I was involved in the Push 2/Live 9.5 launch at the first Loop last year. This year I went as an attendee so I could soak up all the interesting music and sessions going on.
It’s definitely not a trade show, I’ve been to those and they can be pretty awful. It’s more a mix of conference and festival, the day part at the Funkhaus was really like a creative conference with lots of interesting speakers and music and then the night part was shows in venues and clubs, more like a festival.
The Copenhagen Laptop orchestra was pretty cool, it was five guys playing on laptops, iPads and machines. They were set up facing each other right in the middle of the floor of the main hall at the Funkhaus and you could stand right next to them while they played over this massive quadrophonic sound system.
Suzanne Ciani did an awesome improvised Buchla performance, again through the massive quadrophonic rig. That hall just sounds so amazing and she clearly knows the instrument inside out, you can’t really beat the sound of a fantastic analogue synth through a big PA in a room like that. She also spoke really eloquently about her musical history, her approach to live performance and got right into the details of how she uses the Buchla. (If you want to get your head bent look up the MARF or Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator).
The last one would be Lee Scratch Perry. He’s really on another planet but there is a spiritual thread running through what he’s saying, even if it’s not always easy to understand. I got into electronic music through dub so it was inspiring to watch an originator perform and to really soak up some bass on a pristine sound system.
The whole Loop experience got me pretty hyped to keep working on the improv/dub jam rig I’ve been working on lately, it’s based on Live, a DIY monome, Push 2 and Launchcontrol XL for dub mixing. Also I think I need to get my tape delay and spring reverb fixed up!
Speaking on a panel discussion.
How would you describe Loop? A really diverse gathering of creators from around the world. It had elements of all three of these things but most of all I found it be a valuable exchange of ideas and opportunity to meet a wide range of people that share a similar passion for sound creation + manipulation.
Robert Henke’s site-specific laser installation plus Q+A session on its development. Suzanne Ciani’s hypnotic Buchla 200 performance in quadraphonic sound in the spectacular Funkhaus Saal 1.
I was really blown away that education had become such a topic of interest in this Loop. It’s something I’m really interested in but I was really enthused that the idea of it being interesting for such a wide range of people! I think we’re in a fascinating era for education in creative industries and it’s great to be on the forefront of this here in Berlin.
Many and varied. I love Ableton Live and wanted to attend. Also dBs Music Berlin the audio engineering / music production school I teach at has a close relationship with Ableton and used our studios for the Loop workshops at the Funkhaus this year.
Conference with a slice of festival, I guess.
My favourite performance was Morton Subotnick. To see a synthesis pioneer in his 80s (!) and at the top of his game was inspiring on many levels. The performance was fire. The Moritz von Oswald (Maurizio, Basic Channel – dub techno pioneer) talk was personally inspiring to me – he is a humble gentleman. I enjoyed hearing him speak about his creative approach, which can be summed up in the following words: “I listen.”
What I came away with was personal more than anything else. I felt and feel inspired by having seen and interacted with so many musicians from mixed backgrounds. It was also nice to see expressed very clearly over the weekend, how music is a lifelong art-form that involves very serious personal involvement, with the end game ultimately being self satisfaction – though hopefully you get to share the fruit of your labour with more people than just yourself.
As someone who recently dove deep into the Ableton world I was super curious to be around other ‘nerds’ like myself and to soak up all the various aspects of creativity being explored through this medium.
Loop to me felt like an ego-less summit. Everyone was super warm and excited to share and learn from each other… it was a meeting up of all kinds of people somehow affiliated with their use of Ableton, and their desire to push further into its stratosphere…
Deantoni Parks playing drums with one arm and sampler with the other. The talk that No I.D gave about the music industry. Chagall and her performance with the mi.mu gloves… and Suzanne Ciani’s Buchla performance felt like a wonderful meditation beside a literal ocean of sound.
Yeah, I came away even more hungry to push myself and my relationship to music and creativity. I’m excited to explore sampling more, and also was encouraged to collaborate more with others and their process. I actually met some people from Russia, Turkey, UK and US that since Loop I have begun to already do this with. I loved how Loop brought together people from all cultures, countries, faiths, genres, eras, scenes. It truly was rather wonderful, like some kind of sonic dream… and yeah, after it all finished I headed home and felt a pretty even mixture of excitement, as well as that ‘post summer camp blues’ feeling, kicking right on in.
Jeremy Toy is an artist and music producer. He also teaches Electronic Music Performance at MAINZ in Auckland.