Jason Lim '13: All of the Above

Adam Renn Olenn
December 16, 2013
Jason Lim performs with the Berklee Heavy Metal Ensemble in 2011.
Jason Lim '13
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Adam Olenn

The casual observer could be forgiven for not quite knowing what to make of Jason Lim. Is he a violinist, a guitar principle, a drummer, or a bassist? Well, yes, all of that—plus a synthesist, a computer programmer, an electronics technician, and an inventor.

Originally from Falkirk, Scotland, Lim began playing violin at a young age, quickly becoming adept at pieces from the classical canon as well as traditional fiddle tunes. He soon learned to play guitar and “anything with strings,” he says. One day, his father took him to a science exhibit where Lim participated in a hands-on electronics demonstration. He was hooked, and his fearless curiosity led him to take apart his electric guitar to see how it worked. When asked how he summoned the courage to disassemble it, Lim shrugs and says, “I had two guitars.”

In high school, Lim formed a band with some friends and secured a weekly residency. “It was a lot of fun,” he says. “I was always modifying my guitar and my friends’ guitars.” He went on to earn a B.A. in popular performance from the University of the Highlands and Islands in Perth, Scotland, but felt he needed to expand his network.

“Berklee has the worldwide reputation and facilities that I wanted to experience,” he says, and adds that he began saving money to come to Berklee early on during his first degree program. He originally intended to stay for only a semester or two, but found the experience so rewarding that he completed a second degree, this time in electronic production and design (EPD).

Having already focused on performance, Lim turned his attention to music synthesis–circuit design, computer programming, and real-world experimentation. “I just try to build things,” he says. “I make a prototype and see if it works. If it does, then maybe it’s an idea worth developing. But a lot of them fail, and I move on to something else.”

One idea that has proven well worth developing is Nebulae, a modular synthesizer project Lim has been collaborating on with Berklee alumnus Andrew Ikenberry ‘13. “We were in a Circuit Bending class together, and we just looked at each other and there was a fist-bump moment where it was like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do this.’” Lim says that his experience building prototypes and proofs-of-concept paired nicely with Ikenberry’s programming expertise. “Together, we have the right mix of skills to get this company off the ground.”

So far, their alchemy is producing gold, as pre-sales have been brisk and units are scheduled to begin shipping in January of 2014. Never one to linger over past accomplishments, Lim and Ikenberry are already designing a second product to follow the success of Nebulae.

Lim has applied his creative energy to other projects as well. “My sister is a dancer,” he says, “so I built her a light suit of sound- and motion-activated LEDs.” As a result of his involvement in Berklee’s Interdisciplinary Arts Institute, directed by EPD professor Neil Leonard, Lim’s next art project is considerably larger in scale; he has been invited to invent a means of performing with the lights in Berklee’s new 160 Massachusetts Avenue building. “At the opening concert, they want to be able to play the building itself like an instrument. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to use the internal lighting system or add some LED lights to different floors, but I’ve just figured out how to use the building’s network to send control messages, so the hard part’s done.”

So if you find yourself amazed and puzzled when you see 160 Massachusetts Avenue blinking rhythmically and you can’t decide if it’s music, technology, or performance art, that’s okay. It’s one of Jason Lim’s creations—which is to say, all of the above.