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Sound practice for songwriting

by Eric Bender

We might picture songwriters at work sitting at a piano or holding a guitar, but more and more artists who work with musical technology are inspired by sounds, says Michael Bierlyo, Chair of Electronic Production and Design at Berklee College of Music. “You can think of someone like Björk, who is fascinated by sounds and uses that as a gateway to create songs,” he says.

You also might think of Nona Hendryx, an internationally famous singer whose career began with the Bluebelles, who had a hit with “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” in 1962. Hendryx’s extraordinary career as songwriter and performer is still going strong, and she is still experimenting with the latest music technologies. “Nona is totally hooked up with technology, with writing music with computers,” says Bierylo. “She is the technology diva.”

Hendryx coaches and collaborates with Berklee students, and she will join them with Bierylo and other faculty onstage in “Songs from Sounds” on Saturday April 25. This concert of sound-inspired songs will be performed for free at the MIT Media Lab at 20 Ames Street, starting at 8 pm (rather than the 7 pm listed in the Festival’s printed program).

Bierylo, who is also a longtime member of the band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, notes that the concert will be held in the Cube, the Media Lab’s legendary core meeting/working space, with quadraphonic sound and two large screens for video. “It will showcase the type of things we can do, really focused on the idea of using science to explore sound that will inspire songs,” he says. For a preview, see this 2013 performance at Berklee, also shown in these pictures by Claire Steger.

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