Composer/producer Jon Brooks has a love piece for the Braun AB-30 alarm clock, and its iconic designer Dieter Rams, entitled, appropriately enough, “Music For Dieter Rams.”
“Every sound on this record, from the melodic sounds to the percussion, the atmospheric effects to the bass lines originates from the Braun AB-30 alarm clock.”
In turns whimsical and reflective, the minimal soundtrack is inventively melodic. Pads and beats extend in roomy spaces, giving patterns room to breathe, free of ornament or effect – just as you’d expect music in homage to Dieter Rams to be. Calmly repetitive, the music hums away cheerily and efficiently, all of the zenlike balance of a Braun clock with none of the anxiety of an alarm. Some would be pleasant to wake up to. But it’s not all restraint, either: sounds cover the spectrum, squeezing every imaginable timbre out of the source material, up to the spacey, futurist cut “Elektronische Schaltungen.”
Dieter Rams’ aesthetic I expect has had a deep impact on neo-modernist electronic musicians, whether in the production of their music or as an impact on software and hardware design. (At least, it has between baroque layers of music and faux wood paneling and imaginary tubes reproduced on screen, which have their own, distinct place.) I think a lot of us would like to see more Rams-inspired design in music and visual tech, more of his humanistic notions about design. They don’t all have to be spun as Jon Ives-ian Apple chic, either – indeed, it’s a reminder of the importance of returning to the source of some of those aesthetic choices.
But that makes these musical poems all the more moving. They’re in no way slavish, translating one set of ideas to a novel medium, and dealing with the materiality of the product itself. It gives a design for a humble clock still one more way to last.
Read about this and other projects on Jon’s blog:
And more of the “good design” thoughts of Dieter Rams:
It’s not a sound design tour-de-force in the same way as the Dieter Rams album, but also well worth listening: Music for Thomas Carnacki.
More in the vein of the Braun project is a Brooks’ wonderfully-clever “Electronic Music in the Classroom,” as produced by a fictitious D.D. Denham and pupils. It’s simultaneously retro parody and freshly-modern; like the Braun piece, it effuses sonic wit.