“I don’t listen to music!”.

Anna Meredith explains the painful process of making an album, and how listening to music she likes doesn’t help. I’m a designer in the room full of musicians, and I’m hooked.

I flew from Shanghai to Berlin the night before. I had the idea that attending the Loop — a summit for music makers — would kick open some doors. What I discovered over the three days of conferences is that music makers and designers alike have the same problems. How to find your style, how to gain confidence, how to get inspired, how build a solid body of work, how to keep the flame burning.

With a difference. I sensed a genuine love for the craft transpiring in every talk, every whispers in the halls, auditoriums, food courts, jam rooms. No attitude, no posture. Let’s talk about the jam room. A desk full of hardware gears, synths, drum boxes, controllers, accessible to all. People enter the room, play together, jam, and once in a while, build a beautiful piece and cheer. With no intend to impress. For the fun of it. Tell me designer, when was the last time you created a piece with someone?

One of the jam rooms.
Kopenhagen Laptop Orchestra jamming in public.

The few designers onstage didn’t convince me otherwise. While Sougwen Chung admitted she understood collaboration better after her Drawing Operations, she conceded that the perfect teammate would be her clone alter-ego. Jonas Eriksson, invited to talk about his beautiful skeuomorph GUIs, seemed absent. The audience, acquired to the functional austerity of Ableton Live, had a certain idea of the user experience. “Isn’t it better to turn real knobs?” asked people used to real life interaction and physicality. Designer, when was the last time you left the comfort of your softwares?

Native Instrument duet in an intimate set.
“What ruined the synths is the keyboard”. Suzanne Ciani rocking the Buchla.

I saw people of all ages applaud pioneer of electronic music Morton Subotnick, laugh with Gudrun Gut at her description of New York in the 80's, in awe at Suzanne Ciani for her breathtaking performance.

Musicians celebrate their peers. Something designers often fail to do. The design scene is reinventing itself so fast that it’s going full circle every five years or so. So entitled that it forgets to look back.

“Music is not solved, it never will”, concludes Daedalus. So could be Design. Delight and magic won’t come out of trends and UX methods. Let’s just jam and have fun.

Morton Subotnick
Lee Scratch Perry delighting the audience.

Loop in Berlin, https://loop.ableton.com/

Looking back, https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/look-back-at-loop-2016/

A brief History of the Studio as an Instrument: https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/studio-as-an-instrument-part-1/