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Future Sound of Pop Music Symposium

December 8, 2017
Mark Lochrie

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Recently, PhD candidates Jack Davenport and Oliver Halstead travelled to Switzerland for the annual Future Sound of Pop Music Symposiumhosted by the University of the Arts in Bern.

This Symposium saw academics, practitioners and students from around the world meet to discuss new and engaging sounds within the music industry, and where they see the music industry going in years to come. 

There were a range of talks over the four days, both in English and German, that covered a variety of topics including the history of FM Synthesis and the development of a modern Theremin, Rhythm and Noise in popular music, Extended Instrument techniques and new and bespoke instruments for experimental electronic composition.

Jack presented on his experiences with digital instruments, how companies within the modern music technology company are producing more ‘user friendly’ controllers, accessibility and developments within music education, and on his interactive musical interface, the ‘Sound of Colour’.

Jack’s talk detailed how both Ableton and ROLI are currently trying to ‘democratize music composition’ and make music composition more accessible to the general public. By developing tactile and user friendly controllers including the Ableton Push and the ROLI Block, these companies hope to share the joy and fun of musical composition with a wider audience.  This talk also included an update on his ongoing project, the ‘Sound of Colour’. This talk is a development from Jack’s recent poster session at CHI PLAY in October, and highlights the future of the Sound of Colour project. The Sound of Colour 2.0 is currently under development in collaboration with Onno Bouduain. This refined and more robust system will be based on a Raspberry Pi, for its portability and low cost. In the new year, the team hope to install the new version of the Sound of Colour interface in one of the multi-sensory rooms within the SPACE Centre, Preston.

The SPACE Centre provides a safe place for those with physical, learning or emotional difficulties. This community are then given opportunities to acquire and develop skills through SPACE, and enjoy experiences usually denied to them. They have absolutely fantastic facilities, and are currently doing some music based activities, related to cause and effect, and how it can help health, learning, progression and learning new skills for everyday life. The team plan to instal a version of the Sound of Colour within SPACE, and use a grounded theory approach to see how people interact with it, and how the design choices can be improved to truly let anyone compose, create and enjoy music.


Whilst in Bern, Jack and Oliver had the opportunity to explore the city whilst the conference wasn’t taking place. The old city of Bern, surrounded by the river Aare, is a popular spot for many tourists as it boasts a variety of wonderful medieval structures and some quaint spots to explore. The snowy conditions made Bern’s cobbled streets and decorative alcoves even more picturesque, and with the Christmas period having just gotten underway, the streets and buildings looked particularly enchanting.

Better still, Jack and Oliver found themselves caught in the middle of a Santa Run, where hundreds of locals dressed as Santa Clause and ran through the streets to raise money for charity. Having not been aware of this event prior, the occasion took Jack and Oliver rather by surprise, as they found themselves surrounded by bearded men, women and children all clad in bright red suits.

The symposium, matched with the rich and vibrant city of Bern typified what was a very worthwhile, insightful and enjoyable experience for the pair.




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