Join us as we take a stroll around RBMA’s New York headquarters.
There’s no shortage of bells, whistles and curiosities vying for your attention once you walk inside the Red Bull Music Academy, New York.
Upon entering the complex, you’re immediately greeted with sound and visual art installations in all corners, a fully operational radio station ran by Academy participants pipes music through the lobby and in the “bedroom” studios on the seventh floor there’s a wealth of recording technology just waiting to be utilized.
In short, for the creatively minded soul, the Academy is a multi-floor playground of possibility.
But perhaps more importantly, the Red Bull Music Academy is also a platform for human interface. The most striking thing about the set-up is that it brings together music-makers from all over the world, eager to learn from each other as well as the abundant technology placed around them. A decent laptop and a copy of Pro Tools can get you pretty far in the music world, but the solitude will bring you to an artistic dead end faster than many people realise.
“Face-to-face interaction is key to your growth in music,” agrees Toronto’s Boi-1da, a guest lecturer at Red Bull Music Academy in New York. Although he spent hours as a kid conjuring up beats on an illegally downloaded version of FruityLoops, Boi-1da (whose list collaborators includes the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Drake and Nicki Minaj) will be the first to tell you that sometimes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. “You’ve got to learn, interact, hear people’s stories. You can’t come across that kind of experience on the internet. It’s important for me to do this too. I have an email that I give to people who want to contact me and I get sent thousands of things - but I listen to them all. Somebody here could send me something that I like, and who knows where it might lead?”
As a 26-year-old, it’s fair to say that for all his success, Boi-1da probably still has plenty to learn. But it’s not just the youngsters who are being educated by each other at the Red Bull Music Academy. Having collaborated with such musical peers as the Beach Boys and Frank Zappa, as well as carving out his own critically acclaimed solo career, Van Dyke Parks is known as a master of his craft. But as the 70-year-old ambles around the building, talking to participants and enjoying the sound of ideas being born, it’s clear that even he is revelling in the atmosphere.
“This Red Bull experience has been more informative than I possibly could have anticipated,” he beams. “I’ve come away feeling like a red ant on a watermelon. I feel like a piece of algae in an ocean of devotion. These people deserve more than just a guitar or synthesiser in a room of solitary confinement. These people deserve collective opportunities, and in a time when patronage for the arts is hard to come by, Red Bull has given them what I think should be exemplary support. It was worth me going through airport security for!”
As anyone who has known the unforgiving wrath of the Transportation Security Administration will understand, this is high praise indeed.