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At Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, students periodically receive visits from music professionals from different backgrounds. The objective is to give them the opportunity to work closely with these professionals, learn current cutting-edge trends, and benefit from their experience as artists and visionaries. Students not only observe their work but are often an active part of the workshops and master classes, and have the opportunity for one-on-one mentoring sessions with many of these guests.
“Our visiting artists are selected for a variety of reasons: some are already masters in their field, some are new and exciting trailblazers, some are subverting established norms, and some are undeniably compelling,” says Pablo Munguía, director of the Master of Music in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation. Students enrolled in this program welcomed two visitors in the last months of 2016 who exemplify the spectrum of roles in today’s music industry.
Laura Escudé, a.k.a. Alluxe: Building a Track from Scratch with the DJ, producer, and Live Performer
Laura Escudé was on campus between November 14 and 17. She offered a master class where she discussed her journey from violinist to music producer, programmer, and performer, providing insights on “how I got from one realm to the next and the relationships I made along the way,” she says. Together with this presentation, she exhibited her controllerism and violin techniques, and performed for the students. The next day, she attended faculty member Ben Cantil’s class and gave feedback on student projects. “It was very exciting. There are some amazing producers there!” says Escudé.
The highlight of her visit was teaching students, together with Cantil, how to build a track from scratch. “Ben and I sat in a beautiful studio and allowed our creative processes to take over. We fielded questions and ideas from students, played with different samples and instruments, and had students come up and collaborate. It was definitely an interesting process!” she recalls.
Student Henry Rater, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, participated in the session by volunteering to contribute a chord progression and FX design. “Ben and Laura agreed to not stick to a single aspect of the production for too long because of the time constraint, so there were a lot of ideas being bounced back and forth between them. After a time, the form of a track began to emerge,” says Rater.
Daniel Kleffmann, a student from Lima, Peru, adds that the session was really dynamic as Cantil set down a great rule: No one was allowed to work on something for longer than 15 minutes. “Escudé encompasses artistry, modern music, and technology, all together in one act. She is definitely the most interesting visitor we've had so far,” Kleffmann says.
Munguía believes that Escudé’s forward thinking and tech-savvy nature has allowed her to master a varied skill set, and turn that into a career as a performer as well as a highly sought-after technologist for the likes of Drake and Kanye West. “I believe that the students found inspiration in her determined approach to succeeding in her career,” he says.
Jessica Herreman’s Lecture on Latin American Sonic Bastardizations
On December 9, Jessica Herreman, who specializes in ethnomusicology and has been working in musical research since 1997, gave a two-hour lecture on how Latin American music mixes, deconstructs, distorts, and alters traditional music styles. “There is a need to be creative and to dance hunger, poverty, corruption, and violence away,” Herreman says.
Her presentation focused on cumbia and norteño and all its subgenres, and included samples of vinyls with different instrumentations divided by countries and styles, as well as a discussion of the cultural context in which the creation process is honest, amateur, and genuine. “The main aim of these artists is not to be creatively correct but poetically correct,” says the researcher.
Andrea Almeida De Mendonca, a student from Rio de Janeiro, thinks that the lecturer illustrated the process of cultural bastardization in an academic manner, making use of examples from traditional and folk music that mixes indigenous, African and European elements.
“I grew up listening to Brazilian music and only recently I realized how little do we know about other Latin American music genres despite geographical proximity,” says Almeida De Mendonca.
For Munguía, “Herreman introduced students to some highly stylized musical and cultural art forms that began with traditional forms of expression and morphed into something else entirely.” Her research and insights provided a deeper understanding of the subversions and stylizations of some traditional Latin American musical and cultural idioms.