Ableton Spaces, A New Event For Music Makers, Launches In New York

Ableton Spaces, July 2019

Last weekend was the inaugural Ableton Spaces event in Brooklyn. The all-day program at the Music Hall of Williamsburg brought together diverse members of the New York creative community to share insights and ideas around making music.

Unlimited cold brew helped jump-start the day’s events

The Music Hall Of Williamsburg has two main spaces: a first-floor theater that seats about 600 and a basement lounge.

Spaces started at 10 am with registration upstairs, and canned cold-brew coffees and unstructured get-to-know-you conversation downstairs in the basement lounge.

This first Ableton Spaces program featured presentations, performances and discussions designed to inform and inspire attendees’ own creative practices.

A core part of Ableton’s concept for the Spaces event was to tailor the presentation to the host city and to highlight the host city’s unique musical flavor. The sessions featured local artists and members of the Ableton team.

The program began in the main Music Hall space at 11, with a discusion, “Start here: Remix/Deconstruction”, led by Ableton’s Jesse Terry.

Terry had created a sample and challenged two artists from differing musical backgrounds to use the sample as the basis of a new piece of music, to explore what they did with it in 48 hours:

  • hip-hop producer and modular synth enthusiast Ski Beatz; and
  • sound artist and educator Stud1nt.

The results were played and discussed onstage, with Terry and the artists exploring the individual techniques, creative directions and processes that shaped their track.

Ben Casey (Ableton) and Matthew West (Ableton) on Automation and Mixing Techniques in Live 10
Ben Casey (Ableton) and Matthew West (Ableton) on Automation and Mixing Techniques in Live 10

Rounding out the morning sessions was a deep dive into “Automation & Mixing Techniques for Production and Performance” in Live 10, with New York-based Ableton Certified Trainers Ben Casey and Matthew West.

This presentation explored some practical and creative techniques to keep musical projects exciting, bringing movement to mixes, followed by more technical demonstrations of some specific tools and techniques in Live to keep tracks dynamic and evolving.

The afternoon kicked off with a group conversation, facilitated by Ableton’s Coleman Goughary, about “Creative Strategies.” He talked with Stud1nt, as well as singer-songwriter, music producer, and audio engineer Ebonie Smith, and the producer Nick Hook.

The discussion ranged from identifying the causes of creative blocks, to how to get “unstuck” and overcome those obstacles, to balancing the practical needs of daily life and making time for making art.

Nandi Rose Plunkett, aka Half Waif

The final hour at Spaces was called a “Performative Presentation” with artist Nandi Rose Plunkett, who performs as Half Waif, along with Ableton’s Sabina Plamenova.

The first section of the hour long session was a discussion about Plunkett’s music, inspirations, and creative methods. Her most recent Half Waif album, Lavender, was recorded last year with two other musicians. When those two weren’t available for the subsequent overseas tour, Plunkett decided to recreate the songs from the album for solo live performance, using a couple of keyboard synths, a pad controller, some pedals and Ableton Live.

The second half of the presentation was a Half Waif performance, where the Live session was projected behind her on a screen for the audience to follow along.

The Spaces agenda allowed for long breaks before, between, and after the four scheduled sessions. Participants were encouraged to stay to talk with the artists after their discussions, or go visit and mingle in the basement lounge, or drop in on one of the scheduled informal meetups for audio developers or educators.

Matthew West (Ableton) demonstrates CV Tools with a modular synth at Ableton Spaces in Brooklyn

Event organizers had also set up several stations (and had Certified Trainers on hand) for attendees to try out Ableton’s new CV Tools with Live 10 and voltage-controlled electronic instruments.

After the Spaces event at the Music Hall concluded, attendees were invited a few blocks away to an informal outdoor venue, Lot Radio, where Stud1nt and Nick Hook each did DJ sets.

Ableton’s large-scale, three-day, multi-track Loop annual creative summit series draws its audience, presenters and performers from around the world. By comparison, this first Ableton Spaces was a smaller one-day, one-track event, drawing both the artists and the audience from the local creative community in NYC.

Where session topics at Loop can be pretty wide-ranging, the inaugural Spaces was focused primarily on producing music using Live. The Spaces format seems conducive to re-creating the event in a number of cities, tailoring the content, topics and artists to reflect the character and sound of the city.

No future Ableton Spaces events have been announced (yet), but the next Ableton Loop has recently been announced, and will be back in Berlin, April 24-26, 2020. You can find out more about Ableton events on their website.

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