Lineup Sónar+D 2015 from Sónar on Vimeo.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with asking the same questions repeatedly. Cyclical inquiries are necessary in any practice. And over time, you refine answers.

But this year’s SONAR+D program promises something different.

SONAR+D is the younger, digital discourse alongside Barcelona’s massive electronic music festival. SONAR itself deserves a lot of credit for helping create the template a lot of digital music and media festivals follow today. And as that has since blurred into a parade of headliners, SONAR+D added a lot of dimension. There were good talks, hacklabs, workshops, and a showcase of makers.

Speaking as someone who either follows or participates in a lot of these things, though, I can’t wait for this year’s lineup. It seems uniquely ambitious and relevant, and I hope it sets the tone for the rest of this year.

Here are the threads I hope to follow – and why I’m glad CDM is a media partner of SONAR this year.

1. It’s not afraid to ask some hard questions. First up, I’m really curious what will come out of the discussion I’m joining, “De-westernalizing music through technology.” It’s a conversation I hope will spill over far past SONAR.

Xavi Serra is a leading researcher from one of the world’s hottest programs in music tech, the Music Technology Group at Pompeu Fabra University. And he’s in a fascinating new area, examining computational models for the world’s music. That includes delving into music from India, Turkey, Maghreb (Arabic-Andalusian), and Chinese Peking Opera idioms. Israeli producer Ariel Tagar is re-releasing rare Middle Eastern vinyl, and went to Jamaica to produce a record – sans computers, Jamaican style. Watch the trailer for a documentary that tracked them from Tel Aviv to the Kingston ghettos:

Congo Beat The Drum – Kalbata & Mixmonster // Trailer from kalbata on Vimeo.

Given the assumptions and defaults made by many music software tools are narrow even in the context of Western Classical practice, I think there’s plenty to explore here.

Speaking of asking tough questions, Holly Herndon is asking a lot of particularly timely ones. Without a hint of cynicism, her work digs into the profound interactions our computers have with privacy, surveillance, and politics – all the while keeping matters musical and personal. I’m particularly keen to hear what she’ll talk about to veteran music journalist Kate Hutchinson (The Guardian). This is a great chance to catch her live at SONAR, too.

holly

2. It’s highlighting some of our favorite music. Apart from Holly, SONAR+D is honing in on some of the music I can say at least I most love. Editions Mego, Resident Advisor meeting up with Voices from the Lake, and XL Recordings are all in the spotlight. All that and sonic reflections on Mies van der Rohe.

arduino

3. It’s directly celebrating open technologies. There’s very little discussion of open tech at these sort of events. Not so, SONAR. Arduino co-founder David Cuartielles is directly engaging open source hardware. And this is a timely moment for Arduino, given the traction of new (sometimes competing) platforms, Arduino’s entrance into MOMA, and challenges around branding. There’s a workshop with a Theremin and step sequencer, too.

littleBits are on-hand, too, complete with a workshop featuring a performance by FEZ co-developer Renaud Bédard, playing live. littleBit’s industrial design lead Jordi Borràs is a Barcelona native, since transplanted to that company’s home in New York, and will talk about how the platform can “snap into the Internet” with the Cloud bit. That should be Internet of Things buzzword-compliant, as should an appearance by Bruce Sterling, hosted by WIRED Italy.

xdj

4. It just might break some new DJ tech. DJing’s two biggest titans are each coming to show their latest stuff. In this corner, Pioneer: their PLX-100 and XDJ are the company’s latest play for the booth, covering their bases for both vinyl and computer control. Meanwhile, with the tech just about to hit users, Native Instruments are showing Stems, flanked by none other than Carl Craig, Luciano, and Kerri Chandler.

5. It could help European entrepreneurship and innovation. When I first came to SONAR, Spain was still reeling from the economic crisis. The entire European arts community was sorting out where to go next. Now, it seems, we’re getting some answers – and SONAR is unique in embracing DIY initiative as part of the solution. There’s talk of a href=”http://sonarplusd.com/activity/m-startup-barcelona/”>how Barcelona is making startups work, and Google Creative Lab is talking about how they work.

There’s also an active role by Kickstarter, including the opening keynote – and no accident that you’ll get to see a Kickstarter-funded futuristic digital handpan as part of the event, too.

But this isn’t just about the startup-style, fend-for-yourself American model. European policy has a role, as well – one that can be more targeted and effective than perhaps it was in the past. The European Commission is a platform for neurotechnology, and in a massive talk will discuss open digital science ranging from NGOs to researchers to academics to EC wonks.

sonarworkshop

6. You might learn to build something.As in past years, there’s a 24-hour Hack Day sure to yield new stuff. As to the last point, though, this now includes European-funded building blocks to accelerate development to a new level.

Even if you’re not hacking, you can build the new synth project coming out of Mute Records.

7. It’s just generally got some cool stuff. Moldover, he of controllerism fame, is in town. Motionographer is showing eye candy. The creators of the beautiful indie game Monomument Valley are talking about their work, and Aaron Koblin and Chris Milk are going VR. The 808 movie is screening, with Arthur Baker (who’s also performing). And there’s lots more, even before we get to the artists playing the festival.

We’ll be reporting back. But:

If you’re going to Barcelona…

Discover Sónar and Sónar+D with your accreditation at a reduced price:

Thanks to the partnership between Create Digital Music and Sónar+D to promote networking opportunities among related communities around the Creative Industries, we are offering 10 professional accreditations -first come first serve- with an exclusive discount deal to attend Sónar 2015 only until 12th of June 2015

Promotional Price:

250€ – Day and Night accreditation. Price without promotion 310 euros

Find all the accreditation benefits: http://sonarplusd.com/buy-your-accreditation/

Ask for your promotional pass by contacting promotions@sonar.es

And no, we’re not getting paid for this piece – these are my opinions.

Believe me, otherwise I would happily just show up for my panel and sneak away to the beach the rest of the time!

I’m really excited! I’ll be chugging Red Bulls and trying to absorb as much as I can!

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