- 10 Jul 17
On June 14, I flew from Ibiza to the sweltering heat of Barcelona for my fifth visit to the Sonar festival. This time out, Sonar offered no less than 140 acts across musical performances across nine stages. For good measure, it had 157 activities and projects at Sonar+D, with more than 400 speakers and exhibitors. The festival had a 61,000-strong crowd at Sonar by Day, with a similar number heading to Sonar by Night.
We landed on an early flight and straight away I made my way to Sonar by Day, which was incredibly well organised. My accreditation was sorted very quickly and within 20 minutes of arriving, I was at my first panel.
First on the agenda was checking the Open Music Initiative, a collaborative international endeavour to find an open-source standard for music metadata, allowing for the fair distribution of music royalties and licence fees to artists and publishers. Richie Hawtin and Resonate founder Peter Harris were among the speakers. We Are Europe, meanwhile, hosted a series of informal Q&As with people like Dimitri Hegemann (founder of Tresor Berlin) and digital strategist Bas Grasmayer.
From there, I explored Sonar+D, where creativity and technological advancement meet. Experts from around the world including entrepreneurs, artists, technicians and researchers present initiatives and tools that will shape creative experiences in the fields of music, visuals and interactive content.
One facet of Sonar+D I absolutely love is Market Lab, which is a great place to get lost for a few hours – it’s a space for creators of the year’s most innovative technologies. Attendees have the opportunity to explore the latest products from PLAYdifferently (Model1), Electron, Novation and Plankton Electronics. The latter have just rolled out their latest synthesiser, Ants, a Eurorack-compatible table-top semi-modular analog synth.
A popular theme this year was artificial intelligence and its possible role in future creativity. Another theme, meanwhile, was immersive audio visual experience, from interactive laser and lighting rigs to binaural sound systems.
Elsewhere, Sonar360º was a brand new dome space dedicated to audiovisual work. An immersive experience, the audience were completely surrounded by 360º image and sound, curated by Montreal’s Society for Arts and Technology. This was really one of the most impressive installations I have seen in some time.
I got my first taste of virtual reality at the Sonar+D Realities area, which featured a selection of cutting edge audiovisual content and technological platforms. You could travel through the universe or witness the evolution of life on earth first hand. Virtual reality is still in its relative infancy, but the dawn of the virtual age is definitely upon us.
The 24th edition of Sonar boasted an attendance of 123,000, the highest in the festival’s history. Sonar+D brought together audiences from 105 countries, with around 5,500 professionals and more than 2000 companies from the creative and technological industries.
Among the highlights of Sonar by Night were Carl Craig, Seth Troxler, Marcel Dettmann, Marco Carola and Fat Freddy’s Drop, while Richie Hawtin hosted an official Sonar pop-up party at a skate park with Fabio Florido and Gaiser.
The 25th anniversary of Sonar will be held on June 13-16 2018, with tickets already on sale at .sonar.es. The next Sonar events worldwide, meanwhile, will take place in Reykjavik, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Hong Kong and Istanbul.
In short, Sonar is a must for anyone with a passion for electronic music and the technologies that drive it. Always an inspiring trip. Until next year…