Peter Kirn is a musician, sound-designer, composer, educator, and writer, specializing in DIY electronic music and interactive visual arts. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Create Digital Media, GmbH, an online magazine and community for those involved in music technology and audiovisual arts.
A member of betahaus since November 2011, Peter has already hosted events and workshops at Open Design City for users of the MeeBlip – an open-source synthesizer he co-designed – and plans to hold more events this year.
You are the co-creator and developer of the MeeBlip Synthesizer, and have already hosted a workshop here at Open Design City. Do you plan to hold any more MeeBlip workshops or any similar events at betahaus or ODC in the future?
Following my talk at the Create Art and Technology conference in November 2011, I hosted a very informal MeeBlip workshop at Open Design City. So far, these are the only MeeBlip-related events I’ve hosted here. Of course, I have a lot of plans for this year, and that includes more workshops and events at betahaus and ODC.
These events are generally attended by a mix of musicians and electronics geeks, but my long-term goal is to introduce a wider range of people to electronic music and synthesizers. The MeeBlip project is still in the early stages, and we have yet to win anyone over who isn’t already interested in this field. We hope to do a better job of making the MeeBlip more available in the future, and accessible to people everywhere.
I started out with CreateDigitalMusic, which focused on using technology as a window into music. It’s not just a gear site, nor is it a typical music site. CreateDigitalMotion was founded at a point when, very early on, it became apparent to me that a lot of musicians were moving from working with sound to working with visuals, especially with interactive visuals. I think that, as a musician and a live performer, you work a lot with time – an element most visual artists and designers often do not consider in their work. However, we have a new generation of artists and designers, as well as musicians who cross over to these fields, who do think in those terms – taking visual media and adding to it the element of time.
We’ll also be rebooting our social efforts with a site we’ll call Create Digital Noise; part of what I’m working on here in Berlin is engineering that site and creating something new for people exploring technology for music and motion. If anyone is interested in how social connections work for creative people, I’d love to talk.
There has been a backlash in recent years against the use of inexpensive software to produce music, with many blaming such software for the overall deterioration in the quality and value of music nowadays. Given that you specialise in external hardware, what do you think of this viewpoint?
Both James, the co-designer of the MeeBlip, and I are hardware users: we love the feeling of turning knobs, flipping switches, and so on. But we always try to be as open-minded as possible. Since I first started writing CreateDigitalMusic, I have always tried to cover everything. I try not to be too concerned about how people make music or what they use, whether they make music with an old GameBoy, big racks of analog gear, or an iPad. I think this backlash we’re seeing is mainly against the lack of variety in output, and the idea that people no longer have a choice in what they can do. Everyone has different tastes, different musical backgrounds, and access to different forms of gear. The great thing about music is that electronics, when in the hands of a musician, are no longer seen as disposable. If you give a musician an iPad, and a newer version comes out, they’ll simply get the newer one and have two musical instruments!
What inspired you to move from the US to Berlin, and what attracted you to betahaus in particular?
I recently moved to Berlin from New York to give both myself and Create Digital Media a new place to grow and develop. At the moment, I think there isn’t any better place for that than Berlin, and especially betahaus. I’ve always been interested in the intersection of technology and creativity – these sites themselves are examples of this intersection – and I see a lot of that at betahaus. It’s always great to see people from different fields – web people, musicians, people working with technology – come together to work on things. There is a strong sense of technological ingenuity, not only at betahaus and in Berlin, but throughout Germany in general, and I’ve been able to meet a lot of smart and interesting people since coming here.