Category Archives: Valencia Campus

Casey Driessen performs at the Viljandi Folk festival in Estonia

Casey Driessen is the new Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) Program Director at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. Casey recently performed at the Viljandi Folk festival in Estonia and shared his thoughts with the local publication Eesti Ekspress:Casey-Driessen-Berklee-Valencia-Estonia-Festival

“I spent last weekend in Viljandi, Estonia, for my first solo gigs since arriving to my new life in Spain and the EU. It was my first time to Estonia and traveling there was similar to flying across the USA. I’m no stranger to long travel, but in this case, residing within the EU now makes getting places like this much more probable—which was a big attraction to moving here. I love music, of course, but more specifically, I love the cultural exchange that happens through music.

The Viljandi Folk Festival is in it’s 23rd year, and this year’s message was “freedom.” Represented on stage were Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, France, Russia, Moldavia, Poland, Belgium, Niger, Spain and the USA (myself by way of Spain). Throughout the course of the weekend I heard many new musicians and made many new friends. I performed my scheduled solo sets but also got in a few others. Most notably in the hours after midnight, I would saw down on American fiddle tunes for a culturally diverse dance floor full of couples, solos, and impromptu lines. It was on that same dance floor that I quickly found I had two left feet when it comes to some traditional Estonian dances.

On the Sunday afternoon set, in a courtyard outside the town museum, I tried to give back a bit to Estonia for a gift they’d given me. About two years ago I began listening to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. He inspired a new direction in my solo material—one involving tranquility, taking my time, and consonance—which has manifested itself in an improvised solo looping piece. Realizing I was heading to Estonia, I transcribed a portion of his composition Fratres to incorporate, and performed it as the final selection in my afternoon show. From speaking with people afterwards, I believe I connected.

It was a special weekend and I am scheduled to return in October of this year. I will be collaborating with Estonian fiddler Eeva Talsi, looking for common ground and shared experience through our folk musics and love of fiddle.”

Here is an excerpt of his interview with the Eesti Ekspress:

The theme of this year’s Viljandi Folk festival is “freedom” which seems to be the best word to describe your way of playing the fiddle. Would you agree? How important is musical freedom (as opposed to different rules and conventions) for you?

Musical freedom has always been an important part of my life. This doesn’t mean that I believe it is appropriate to play anything at any moment—I always try to respect the music I am playing. For many years I played as a sideman for other peoples music. I was very fortunate that I wasn’t required to play exactly what was on their records. Instead, I was trusted to interpret their music in my own voice. In those situations my goal always trying to find the way to best serve their music, which could be playing or NOT playing. In another sense of freedom, I never wanted to play just one music or music that was only standard to the fiddle/violin. If the music felt and sounded good to me, I wanted to be a part of it.

How much do you improvise while performing live? Do the songs sound close to what they sound like on your records or do you prefer to develop them in completely new directions?

Improvising is a major part of my live performance—as well as on my records. I like taking chances and being out of my comfort zone—that keeps life exciting and interesting to me, and hopefully to the listener too. Solos are always improvised. However, I might be working on a particular solo concept or starting point for a while, but it will develop differently every time. Arrangements are often fixed—because of how the looping technology operates—but within those arrangements I often work in flexibility for improvisation. In the case where all the parts are set, I am still varying the phrasing, bowing, tempos, etc… nothing is exactly the same. To push the freedom and improvisation in my performance, I have begun improvising a whole piece… I never know what might happen—tempo, key, mood, shape, etc.

Please tell about the roots your style. Could you name some of your main influences?

My roots are as an bluegrass fiddler. Bluegrass is an American music with its “sound” first recognized in the mid 1940’s. It is an instrumental and vocal music that developed from Appalachian mountain music, Scots/Irish heritage, African American blues and early country music. I began learning bluegrass from my father who played the banjo (a standard bluegrass instrument) and the pedal steel guitar. The pedal steel is found in country and western swing music, which my father also played, so I was also learning some of that repertoire. When I was about 12 years old, I started a bluegrass band with some other young friends. A central sound of bluegrass is the mandolin and its percussive “chop” that acts like a snare drum. In our band, there wasn’t a mandolin, so I began to develop a percussive “chop” technique to assume that role. Around that same time, I joined a local college jazz ensemble and began to learn that music. So I could compete with the volume of the drums in the jazz ensemble, I started electrifying my fiddle… which led to playing in some rock contexts. For college, I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston where I was introduced to funk, r&b, and music from around the globe. As you can probably imagine, I have many influences. Here’re a couple that come to mind: Stuff Smith, Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Stevie Wonder, Oumou Sangare…

Your latest record is called Singularity. What’s the story behind that name?

I’ve always wanted to develop the ability to play a solo show—partly for the challenge of it but also for the ease and freedom of travel. The concept of this project is very singular in nature. With regard to the music, it is all arranged or written on my own and performed on one fiddle through one pedalboard—all live (nothing pre-recorded). Continuing the singular nature, the album is produced, recorded, designed and distributed by me as well. In addition, there’s also this term “technological singularity” in which man and machine become integrated in the future, and at that point no one knows what the possibilities are. That concept feels a bit like this music to me. Through the combination of my analog fiddle with digital effects pedals in a live setting, I feel the possibilities are endless.

Do you use multiple fiddles in a concert? How many do you have and how are they different?

I use only one fiddle, but it’s has five strings—the same standard four plus a low C—making it a violin+viola. Rather than use different instruments to create different textures as in some solo looping shows, in this project my goal was to us only one instrument and find as many sounds and textures within it, in combination with the effects pedals.

Your playing style is quite intense, using several new and untraditional techniques. How does your instrument hold up to that – fiddle is often considered sensitive and gentle?

The fiddle is sensitive and gentle at times, but it is also aggressive and intense—and every color in between. The violin and bow are not as fragile as you may think, as long as you understand where their strengths are. I don’t think the form and build of this instrument would have continued virtually unchanged for 400 years if it wasn’t strong and versatile. There are so many amazing sounds possible on the fiddle, from beautiful and soft to nasty and loud. Contrasts help me express and I’m looking for them all.

What’s the story with your red shoes?

I’m sorry, that information is top secret.

Embracing Change in a Changing World

Paul Nnaoji and Michelle Golden are students from the global entertainment and music business graduate program at Berklee’s Valencia campus.

Almost ten months ago, over 150 students from 35 different countries, came together to attend various Master’s programs at Berklee College of Music, Valencia campus. We didn’t know what to expect — some of us were fresh out of college, while others had a few years of experience under our belts. But we came to Valencia, Spain — from various parts of the world — to explore our passion within the music industry. As the spring semester comes to a close, we sit here and write filled with more knowledge, experience, and guidance as to what comes next. In the spirit of this year’s TEDxBerkleeValencia event, which took place on April 25, 2015 at L’Oceanogràfic themed Changing Currents, the idea of change is one that every student at Berklee is rather familiar with, and one that we all faced head on when we came to Spain in August.

Ashley-Graham-TEDx-Berklee-ValenciaThirteen speakers came together from all over the world for one afternoon to speak on what changing currents means to them for the second edition of TEDxBerkleeValencia. The mission of TED is to share ideas worth spreading. Each speaker — whether it was internationally-renowned body activist and model Ashley Graham speaking about the power of loving yourself, to Hannah Fraser, ocean activist and freelance mermaid from Australia speaking on how she’s turned her underwater childhood fantasy into reality, to Berklee Valencia Master’s student, Alán Hensley speaking on the importance of encouraging children to embrace adversity as assets, each speaker shared something so invaluable with an awed audience.
Carmen-Pellicer-TEDx-Berklee-ValenciaInspiring talks poured forth one after another. Carmen Pellicer Iborra spoke on the changes needed in the education systems of the world. Damian Draghici recounted his life story as an aspiring musician turned elected official; and each story left the audience with a sense that situations of perceived difficulty existed only to be surmounted.

 

In today’s world, change is inevitable. The industry we’ve decided to pursue in some capacity, is one that is ever-changing. How can we embrace this volatility? What changes do we want to see? How do these fluctuations interact with one another? How can we make good change — in a world that faces so much adversity?
Our answer: by embracing it.

Liz-Teutsh-TEDx-Berklee-ValenciaAs the second edition of TEDxBerkleeValencia draws to a close, we are once again reminded of the power of the convergence of ideas, and its ability to affect meaningful change. We witnessed Nicolas Schipper, a Music Business Master student seamlessly blend his talents on the bagpipes with Kareem Clarke an MTI student with the scratch skills of a budding master. The synergy was a reminder of the power of diversity, and the unique felicity that can be achieved when differing peoples come together united by a desire to create, unrestrained by the fear of the unknown. Changing currents is all about going into the untread waters armed with one thing. Passion. That passion was evident at the second installment of TEDxBerkleeValencia. We are all thrilled to have been apart of something so special.Alan-Hensley-TEDx-Berklee-Valencia

AM Agency X Le Musee Passager

Aimee Jagou is a graduate student from the global entertainment and music business program at Berklee College of Music’s international campus in Valencia, Spain.

AM-Agency

Since last year, I have been working on my own company with a friend currently studying at the “Institut Français de la Mode”, a fashion school. We met in high school, but really got to know each during university. She was in Paris while I was travelling around, already trying to connect to the music and fashion sphere on our own through different experiences. Both of us are passionate about music, fashion and art; each time we met each other we imagined our dream company – the one we have just launched: AM AGENCY.

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Music Business Seminar – Leo Nascimento: Brazil Music Market Ambassador

Students Aimee Jagou and Gabrielle Mella from the global entertainment and music business master’s program reflect upon the twelfth of the Music Business Seminars, where they had the chance to to learn more about the Brazilian music industry with guest speaker Leo Nascimento.

Leo-Nascimento-Berklee-ValenciaLeo-Nascimento-Berklee-Valencia-2

 

Last week we had Leo Nascimento as our guest in the music business seminar, currently director of Deezer in Spain, he’s been in the digital music industry in Latin America and Europe for quite a while. He has work in companies like Universal Music Group, Reader’s Digest, Volkswagen and other influential companies. With an opening to Samba music by great Berklee musicians from Brazil, we humbly received this incredible speaker to introduce us to the Brazil music market.

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My Reconciliation with World Music at Womex

Julia Hoffman is a global entertainment and music business graduate program student at Berklee’s Valencia campus. In this post she reflects on the Womex conference she attended in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Julia Womex

In October I learned what it means to be a ‘Womexican.’ Womex takes place for five days every October in a different city throughout Europe and it is not to be missed by any artist manager, agent, label, or festival programmer in the world music scene. And this really is a ‘scene.’ At this year’s Womex in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, I realized that anyone who is anyone seemed to know everyone! It is a close-knit community and having an ‘in’ can lead to many opportunities. Some notable encounters of mine included meeting Bruno Boulay, Programmer of MIDEM, Todd Puckhaber, programmer for the SouthxSouthwest Festival, and Malcolm Haynes, programmer for Glastonbury.

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