On the eve of 2021, we reflect on one of our most challenging – and most creative – years yet. Join us as we look back on some of our students’ outstanding 2020 creations.
2020! What a flop-at-the-box-office of a year. Oh, how we wish we could have watched the trailer to this dystopia. If 2020 were a tune, it would be the cool-sounding Beatport preview that failed to reveal its jarring breakdown. Either way, we can’t say this year didn’t make an impact. It will forever be marked on the calendar of our lives as a year that changed everything.
2020 forced the whole world to step out of the hamster wheel and ask ourselves where we were going. It was a time where we learnt the innovative value of introspection and creative limitations. A reminder to cherish all the little things we took for granted. In spite of all the drama, we came out stronger.
For the Catalyst community, 2020 was a hard-won success. For our tutors and staff, it meant overcoming unprecedented logistical challenges to continue to deliver a high quality of learning and experience. For our students, it meant conquering the uncertainty and exploring new – and often game-changing – ways to create. And talking of those creations, wow, has this year been great!
Join us as we look back at some of our students’ most outstanding work of the year. Here’s to a 2021 full of inspiration, motivation and action!
Header photo: Signals Festival by Frankie Casillo
“In these strange times, with empty streets and abandoned cities, we would like to present to you our first release.”
In March, third-year Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering students David Stars and DJ Kitec banded together to release their debut track as The Hustle. We love the video, which shows Berlin in all its nighttime glory – excluding the bars and clubs, of course.
In April, second-year Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering student Olívia Mamberti took advantage of quarantine time with her graphic designer and photographer mother, Patrícia Abreu. Olívia edited her mother’s photographs and illustrations to create a stunning animated music video for her and classmate Mikko Okker’s collaborative track ‘The Hiding Place.’
“In the midst of a lot of political and social heaviness, we connected online to meditate, paint, move, and be. This is a blend of some released tracks, unfinished tracks, and sketches. An insight into my works and their states at that time.”
2020, the year of the live stream. Like many of us at Catalyst – including our Etikett Radio station – third-year Electronic Music Production & Performance student Geomi brought her performances to a whole new audience with her online event SoulBalm.
There’s been no stopping second-year Electronic Music Production & Performance student mørel this year as he continues to carve out his long-held dream of becoming a music producer. Thanks to a connection he made in Catalyst’s film school, he’s even twice forayed into film scoring!
His live performance in June was a particular highlight. Recorded at the Funkhaus by our film and music tech Rio Sierra, ‘Under the Radar’ is 10 minutes of electronic music bliss.
“The sound I wanna make has no letters in English is a blend of elements from nature ambience and field recordings, illustrating a surreal soundscape. Instead of focusing on a style with boundaries, the primary attention of the EP is how the audio sources are altered, edited and rearranged into new forms, scattering across each track in the EP. The EP introduces itself with a meditative ambient vibe, slowly building up to what it feels like a ritual happening in the jungle, taking the listeners on an emotional journey derived from her experiences in the wilderness away from the human race.”
Second-year Electronic Music Production & Performance student Gina Lo released her debut EP in August – as beautiful sounding as it is brilliantly named.
“Load your tape deck and step into our sonic time machine.”
In September, we celebrated our transition from dBs Berlin to Catalyst in the most nostalgic way possible – for musical connoisseurs, that is. We released the inaugural compilation of our collectible cassette series, showcasing a curated, multi-genre selection of the very best tracks by the musical talents catalysed at our school.
“I always push myself to seek discomfort and this collaboration forced me out of my comfort zone, and I loved it. We took the best parts of each other’s style and managed to create something we’re very proud of.”
The Interface Project – Catalyst’s collaboration with Manchester music production and audio engineering school Spirit Studios – creatively bridged the gap between two of Europe’s most progressive musical cities, despite lockdown travel restrictions.
The winners of the 12-week virtual exchange programme, Deckster from Spirit Studios and Parallel Processing from Catalyst, co-created a remarkable cinematic soundscape, The Metamorphosis Project.
A whole new way to explore Berlin – featuring the work of some of seven of our amazing music and film students and alumni: Raven Grace Janicello, Ludovic Laviec, Shehryar Ahmad, Kamilija Tekle Cizaite, Zac Roger Yeates, Samaquias Lorta and OIIA.
Eufonia Festival's Sound Circuits, which ran throughout October, was an innovative take on public spaces, supported by Ableton and Catalyst. Catalyst students exhibited their sound and video pieces across Friedrichshain, to which you could listen and view via QR codes placed at various locations.
In October, Signals Festival wasn’t just a showcase event for the up-and-coming artists in our international community. Nor was it simply a real-world course assessment for our performance students, as it started out originally. In this unprecedented time, when Berlin’s clubs, galleries and other cultural venues have been reduced to ghost towns, when keeping each other at arm’s length is the new normal, Signals Festival 2020 was a triumph of unbound creativity over all.
Electronic music performers, sound and video artists, filmmakers, workshop leaders and panellists from the Catalyst community came together – at a safe distance – to deliver an extravaganza for the senses.
Film Production HE Certificate alumna Li Wallis decided that she wasn’t going to start her filmmaking career by creating a short film or even a feature film, but a whole six-part mystery thriller series: NothingMan.
In November, we watched in awe as the ambitious project began to come to fruition with the release of both the first trailer and a teaser video, starring third-year Screen Acting students Siebe Schoneveld, Milena Rendon, Sabine Schröder and Juan Arthur.
Singer-songwriter PNKSAND’s latest track 'Master Kush' was born from a moment of creative mind fog – which she then sang about. The third-year Electronic Music Production & Performance student took a break, then “came back and sang about feeling stuck on this uptempo beat: ‘Is there art in me or is it a part I play? The answer? Still don’t know, but does it even matter?’”
It’s a perfect example of a lesson many of us learnt this year: that creativity can be found in any mood or moment, as long as you’re willing to step back, explore your emotions and open your mind to new ideas.
We couldn’t get more excited than when students from our different schools collaborate on their projects. Harnessing the Visual Effects talent in his immediate community, second-year Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering student Jo Minje tasked Leo Alvarado to animate Francesca Sardella's striking cover artwork for his ‘Lullaby’ music video.
If there’s one thing Berlin could have done with more of in 2020, it was pounding, Berghain-style techno. Thankfully, third-year Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering student Archaic Intellect came through for us with a dark-as-coal holiday gift for the city’s techno sinners, released on Christmas Eve on Black Line Recordings.
The ultimate lockdown movie night! In December, our first-year Film Production students hosted an impressive virtual film festival.
The 23 fledgling filmmakers, hailing from 14 different countries, recently completed their first semester, in which they were each tasked to co-create 10 short films in just 10 weeks. Catastream was their opportunity to showcase 12 of their best films to the public – from comedy to surreal.
“When discussing it with some of my friends, I came to understand the extent of prejudice female boxers face: harassment, difficulty to be acknowledged as a peer by male boxers, no safe space, difficulties to find opponents in the same weight-class, and so-on. I knew I wanted to address these issues but I didn’t know where to start. What a story to tell.”
Fight Like a Girl is set in 1994, the same year the International Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) lifted the ban on women's boxing worldwide. The film tells the story of Mel, a teenage girl who – driven by her passion and determination – fights against all odds to achieve her dream of becoming a pro boxer. She is helped by her father, a former heavyweight whose rise to the top came to a brutal halt. Together they try to flip the values of the male-dominated sport.
First-year Film Production student Maxime Demartin set the bar high for his filmmaking career with this extraordinary film. Having completed it in December, he is currently submitting it to film festivals.