Ableton’s Loop Berlin Conference is a Shining Sample of Electronic Music’s Progress and Future

What was Loop 2015? A gathering of music minds? A sharing and networking opportunity? A play space with many digital and analog toys? Inspiring and thoughtful talks? Parties? A tantalizing product release? Yes, it was all of the above and more. Hosted by Ableton over three days and nights, 500 music makers and fans gathered at Radialsystem in Berlin to mingle, share, and explore the boundaries of electronic music.

Ableton Loop Berlin Gear
Ableton Loop Berlin conference attendees browse some of the latest in MIDI controllers.

It was amazing to be in the same room with some of the very people that inspired me over my years as an artist. For them to not only listen receptively to what I had to say, but also express how interested they were, was humbling — to say the least. To put it in more blunt terms, the whole experience was dope! I met some very cool cats at Loop: Matt Black from Ninja Tune; King Britt, a friend to OHC and inspirational music educator; Mark from the Living Lab and Dirty Looking Disco Mobile; Gloria and Greg from the San Francisco underground; Team Supreme, a musical collective spawned from a university course at Chapman; and so many more…

It was near impossible to meet everyone there, but just being in this sort of creative environment has me rethinking my approach to music; ditch the genres… make whatever I want… push the limits — yeah, that feels good. CTM, curator of the musical selections, did a good job of introducing artists who sit on the very edge of electronic music. Some of it sounded fantastic, some of it not so much, leaving me wondering about the final results, but that was the point, to explore. Props to Nigga Fox for the crash course on how to mix underground techno, reggaeton, salsa, hip-hop, and house, all together. It was a highly danceable form of musical tourettes.

As my own contribution to the conference, I talked about flow at Loop, and had the chance to witness it in its many forms, from the artist lost in the art to the collective synergy on and off the dance floor. Play was another prevalent theme. littleBits showed us how to make synthesizers from lego like sound blocks. A rotating stand of analog synth racks encouraged a return to the source of it all. On the modern edge, you could control music and visuals with an EEG headset or try out the LinnStrument, with its maker there to show you how.

Ableton Loop Berlin Modular
A modular display at Ableton Loop Berlin, which showcased the best of both the analog and digital worlds.

Learning was a big part of Loop. In a studio listening session with Cio D’or I encountered, for the first time, a discussion of dramaturgy in electronic music making. Berlin truly has the cultural depth for electronic music to move into the realm of fine arts, and it showed in the subtlety and nuance to which many producers talked of their work.

For me, an expatriate turned global nomad, this was a historical event. To witness electronic music move from a socially outcast subculture to a curated event such as Loop — well, it’s hard to put words to it. Inspiring, that’s one. Electronic music being taught in schools as an alternative to traditional music education? The potential is just beginning to manifest. If only we had this growing up! It would have been a very different road. But things happen as they happen, and the attendees of Loop now have the chance to be part of something new and potentially profound; a community of like minded artists making music and change. We have Ableton and CTM to thank for making this possible — it was a real honor. And I know I can’t wait to get my hands on the new Push!