Electronic Music Stars Plug in for Voltage Connect Conference

On March 10 and 11, Berklee’s Electronic Production and Design Department (EPD), hosted the inaugural Voltage Connect Conference. The event was inspired by David Mash, Berklee’s senior vice president for Innovation, Strategy, and Technology. Mash, who retired in May, founded the music synthesis program in the 1980s and guided the college’s efforts in academic technology during his fruitful 40-year tenure at Berklee. With a theme that focused on “pioneers, players, thinkers, and purveyors” of electronic instruments, the conference brought together top researchers, performers, and representatives from established and emerging companies for a series of lectures, panel discussions, master classes, product demos, and a concert in the Berklee Performance Center.

“All three keynote speakers were great,” says EPD chair Michael Bierylo, who helped to organize the confab. “Each brought a different perspective and set the stage for the conference.” Keynote speakers included David Friend, cofounder of the ARP Instruments company and Berklee trustee emeritus; Marcus Ryle, president of Line 6; and Daniel Haver, CEO of Native Instruments.

Berklee alumni David Rosenthal ’81 (music director for Billy Joel), Dan Lehrich ’04 (of the VR startup Magic Leap), and Jack Hoptop ’73 (Korg USA), and several Berklee faculty members were among the conference’s many presenters.

The musical highlight was the concert on the evening of March 10. The concept for the show was to “look at various aspects of the synthesizer,” according to Bierylo. Electronic music pioneer and composer Suzanne Ciani opened with a solo improvisation using the Buchla Modular synthesizer. The next segment was titled: “Ictus: the Music of David Mash,” which featured four original pieces composed by Mash. It was a reexamination of his work with his jazz-fusion outfit Ictus in the late seventies and early eighties. The band brought Bruce Nifong, Robert Schlink, and Dave Weigert who were members of the band during the 1980s, together with faculty instrumentalists Jeff Baust, Richard Boulanger, Michael Brigida, David Doms, Chris Noyes, and student Tom Bar.

For the finale, Jordan Rudess, keyboardist for the platinum-selling prog-rock band Dream Theater, rocked the house. Rudess played the GeoShred iPad and Korg Kronos synthesizers with laptop accompaniment. He was joined by Eren Basbug ’15 for a duet on Roli Seaboard Rise 49 keyboards.

The conference was an unusual hybrid of an academic conference and industry trade shows focusing on new electronic instruments. “It’s rare to have those come together to shine a light on the really interesting things happening in the field,” Bierylo says. “This first event will be a springboard to future events that we hope will be a part of the legacy of David Mash. With his retirement in May, we hope that holding the conference as an ongoing event inspired by his work will be meaningful. Dave knows a lot of people in the industry, and many wanted to come and celebrate his retirement. I think we delivered a really good conference for all of the attendees.”