If someone asked us, we would have no doubts classifying music as a form of art. It is, indeed, a discipline that elevates our existence and exists primarily to make our lives more beautiful for the sake of it. However, and even though it is also one of the most democratic disciplines of art in that it is performed and/or listened by everyone everywhere, it still has not always been recognised by the ultimate marker of ‘art’: the museum. 
The Institute for Sound and Music has been born in Berlin with the mission of giving it this overdue acknowledgement. Composed by an initial team of seven professionals (and friends) of different industries, brought together to change –and shake – the artistic landscape, their venture is about to show its first fruits in the most formidable way. Premiering on the 29th of March, the ISM Hexadome is their first project, an immersive audiovisual installation that will combine art and technology.

Taking place in Berlin’s art heavyweight institution Martin-Gropius-Bau, nine installations and performances will take place, and here is where the big oomph comes: some of the names behind them are Brian Eno, Tarik Barri and Thom Yorke, Holly Herndon and Mathew Dryhurst or Ben Frost and MFO, among others. We talk to the team behind this ambitious project that gives us faith in the future of music – and museums.
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Lara Sarkissian and Jemma Woolmore
The ISM was born a couple of years ago. How did that happen? Is this the story of a few friends with a utopian desire in mind, or a more professional get together of intellectual minds?
The ISM was a natural progression and development inspired by FEED, a live electronic music and audiovisual performance programme which began in Boston in 2010 and moved to Berlin in 2011, in a location in Neukölln before partnering with the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Mitte in 2013. Under the name Frequencies, FEED and the KW hosted over thirty sound and immersive electronic performances with the likes of Mark Fell, Mika Vainio, Transforma, Robert Henke, Lesley Flannigan, and Lucretia Dalt.
Learning how an institution like the KW operates, and observing a noticeable interest in these immersive electronic music and sound art disciplines from both the public and artists alike, lead and inspired discussions about developing a focussed institution for sound. As a community-driven project, it wasn’t long before further like-minded individuals from across art, technology and music joined the team. The non-profit organisation was founded in 2016 with seven administration members and over twenty board members – all prominent figures within the aforementioned industries.
One of the goals of the ISM is to "build a museum in recognition of sound, immersive arts and electronic music culture." Are you hoping for a bigger recognition, documentation and divulgation of electronic sound as an artistic discipline? Why do you think this hasn't been the norm so far?
Yes, absolutely. Music and sound are arguably the most social of the art forms, yet are often reserved for clubs, venues and festivals rather than institutions and museums. The audience, the technology and the understanding of these mediums are all maturing – electronic music and sound art are still very much in its infancy. But now is the time to create a space for further contextualisation, and to encourage new opportunities and understanding about what is possible. The aim is to create a forward-thinking institution for the future of sound and electronic music, while also being able to look back and acknowledge the achievements and events so far.
For this first edition of the ISM Hexadome, you have been able to put together a rather impressive lineup of artists. How did you manage to successfully approach them? Can you give us a glimpse into your golden pitch? What were the guidelines under which artists worked?
Our team of volunteers and our board members all come from the industries of sound, art, music and technology – such as Ableton, SoundCloud, Berliner Festspiele, ZKM, Bitwig and also nightclubs in Berlin, to name a few. Having that combined with five years of FEED events, which helped develop the community, we were able to openly discuss with artists the opportunities of working with the ISM, and the ISM Hexadome in particular, quite easily.
We also won funding from the Kulturstiftung des Bundes for the ISM Hexadome, based on a brilliant concept devised by the ISM and Pfadfinderei. We would be using a world class sound system traditionally reserved for academia called Klangdom, developed by the ZKM in Karlsruhe. After agreeing to have it hosted at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, it all meant this really was an opportunity not to be missed. Being able to provide all artists with a residency at the ZKM to learn how to use the sound system and working with world class visual artists was also very appealing.
The guidelines were very much focussed on the platform we had been able to provide – an immersive 52 channel sound system, 6 visual projection screens and the opportunity to learn about spatialized sound.
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Frank Bretschneider and Pierce Warnecke
From the curatorial point of view, what can we expect to find at the Martin-Gropius-Bau? How have you balanced sound, technology and the visual?
Nine performances and installations have been exclusively commissioned for the ISM Hexadome. Each sound and visual collaboration has interpreted and developed concepts based on the technology provided independently, and each work will be showcased in the program provided during the event. But you can expect to see pieces working on topics such as empty formalism, artificial intelligence, immersive worlds, and shared experience.
The balance between sound and visuals will be quite clear when standing within the ISM Hexadome. The structure contains a fifty-five channel, 360 sound system and the six visual projection screens so the sonic and the visual details will be presented in equal measure.
For those who won't be able to travel to Berlin, what other events should we be looking forward to in the near future?
The ISM Hexadome will travel to other notable institutions and spaces across the world over 2018 and 2019. We are pleased to announce that London Design Festival will be the next destination of the ISM Hexadome, and more locations will be announced over the coming months. Aside from that, we will be working on further installations and exhibitions to further contextualise and showcase the mission of the ISM. Stay tuned!
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Tarik Barri and Thom Yorke
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Lara Sarkissian and Jemma Woolmore
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Holly Herndon and Mathew Dryhurst
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Brian Eno