November 4, 2019
I do not know how I have only just come across her, but Beatie Wolfe is an incredible creative and innovator who is well accredited for her work. She is a talented musician from South London (now LA based!), who emits a passion for the role of music in medicine and explores how technology can be used for her unconventional ideas in the digital age. Her tangible formats for music have been recognised and celebrated globally; she held a solo exhibition of her ‘world first’ album designs at the V&A Museum and has recently been selected as a UN Women role model for innovation.
After visiting the Barbican in Moorgate for an experiential evening of art, film, live performance and conversation with Beatie Wolfe, we decided to reach out to Beatie herself as we could not wait to find out more about her projects and discuss her upcoming plans for the future.
What inspires your innovative approach to creativity?
Curiosity, passion, intuition and contemplation. It all comes from my great love of records, stories, art forms, creating worlds and the belief that those core human experiences will never go out of fashion, even if the digital era has displaced a lot of them (seemingly) for now. I am inspired by people, whatever their field, whose intention is to leave the world a little better for them having been here. I am also inspired by the Long Now philosophy and since I was a kid always thought about making the best possible work for years to come rather than to satisfy a trend of the day.
Can you tell us a bit more about your ‘From Green to Red’ environmental art piece? How challenging was it to collate 800,000 years of data tracking the impact of human behaviour on the planet? Do you think people understand the matters/message?
When that didn’t happen and the situation only intensified to a point of being absolutely critical, I wanted to find a way to make people literally see the data differently, so it could communicate where we stand in a way that was both comprehensible but also evocative. So, I shared the idea with The Mill, the amazing VFX company, and we’ve been working on bringing this to life. At the Barbican, I showed a teaser of the project but there’s much more to come and we’ll be doing a talk about it at SXSW’20.
Do you think more can be done to provoke social change, such as climate change, via art, music and technology?
Yes, I believe that is a role that art has always played in our culture and society and should continue to. I feel like the negative aspects of the digital era include the shift of focus onto ourselves as our own idols, the short-termist thinking and also the sheer volume of noise out there.
The benefits of technology are that we have more access to knowledge than ever before and also more ways of making the impossible possible. So, it’s about being as creative and curious in how we can use these tools to make the most positive impact. And there is no other time than now.
Your ‘Power of Music & Dementia’ project is extremely insightful and hugely positive for those living with dementia. It offers new and wonderful possibilities for dementia care. Were you surprised by the research results or have you always had a strong belief in the power of music?
In many ways I wasn’t surprised as I’ve always been aware of music’s tremendous power but seeing those reactions for myself – particularly given how extreme some of them were – forever imprinted on me and made me 100% certain of the power of music to run incredibly deep (even deeper than we currently realize) as something core to our humanity, our identity, our wellbeing.
One example of this was realizing that the breakthrough moments that occurred e.g. people transforming from catatonic to dancing or nonverbal to singing happened because of singular focused experiences and not because of an abundance of stimuli. So that is why ceremony has always been, and will continue to be, a key aspect of anything I create or curate.
It was interesting to find out that you hosted and created a dublab radio show‘Orange Juice for the Ears’ – especially the ‘Health’ and ‘Words’ episodes. What were the main points that you covered about the power of music to heal, connect and restore, as well as the importance of meaningful music journalism?
The idea of the radio show is to look at the music that makes up our DNA by inviting people from all different fields and industries to share some of the music that has imprinted and shaped them over the years, i.e. their “Orange Juice for the Ears.”
I took the title from an Oliver Sacks line about the power of music (also the title of the Barbican documentary about my work) and thought about my own specific key music moments and from that came up with the questions – e.g. the first song that imprinted, the first album that had a big impact, the music you would send into space, the song you’d have at your memorial and the record you’d pass onto your kids. By exploring each guest’s life and musical DNA, it acts as a celebration of the power of music for both the individual and the collective.
All of the guests I’ve had on so far are incredible people doing amazing work, so the show also looks at each of their industries and how they’ve made a lasting impact through their own intentionality.
We would love to discuss the ideas around your next album! Are you exploring a new physical/digital intersection or creating another modern-day equivalent of a vinyl record?
Yes and I am incredibly excited about it. It will be a new way of presenting a record via a secret communications system using code invented by an amazing female pioneer in WW2. I can’t say much more about it at the moment, but it will be unveiled at one of America’s oldest, most prestigious museums. And I’ll be working with my favourite design team, Design I/O.
What do you have planned for the future in terms of stretching the boundaries of the role of a musician? How else are you hoping to add humanistic experiences back into digital communications?
Always and in every way possible. I do have the next few projects mapped out in my mind as there are already in a process of being realised but often I don’t know what’s next until inspiration strikes. In that way all of my projects have been something of a surprise, a detour off the road map. I like to stay open and see what presents itself.
More about Beatie
Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles
Press play and enjoy…
If you like a bit of Orange Juice for the Ears? You should also watch her latest documentary.