A modernist design playlist

Braun radio, designed by Dieter Rams

Modernist design and ambient music are two of my favourite things. I think both come from the same place: a desire for harmony, clarity, simplicity, light, and wide open spaces.

Over the past few weeks I've been compiling a little playlist of ambient pieces directly inspired by modernist design principles. Each to their own. And good stuff to work to, if you design for a living.

Here are half-a-dozen (there are others which can perhaps wait for another post):

Music For Dieter Rams by Jon Brooks

Believe it or not, an entire album inspired by the 'designer's designer', Dieter Rams. You can listen to all of the tracks on Jon Brooks' website, who describes it as:

A mini-album. A study on limited resources. The space between a second. A dedication to one of the most important figures in modern domestic design - Dieter Rams. No more, no less. Less and More.

Every sound on this record, from the melodic sounds to the percussion, the atmospheric effects to the bass lines originates from the Braun AB-30 alarm clock.

It really is remarkably good: disciplined, as one might expect, but very tuneful. Jon has since written a follow up, the mini-album Reconstructions, which consists of two long tracks.

Univrs by Alva Noto

I love this idea: an album celebrating Adrian Frutiger's Univers typeface - along, perhaps, with Helvetica, the ultimate modernist sans-serif.

This really is the music of the machine: cold, clinical, a frosty blue morning. The album can be previewed on the artist's website, and most of the tracks are on YouTube; you'll need to logon to Spotify for the full album.

And it turns out that Alva Noto - the stage name of sound artist Carsten Nicolai - has also written a couple of tracks dedicated to Dieter Rams, available on the album For 2 on Spotify.

Le Corbusier by Technicolour

I was sure there must be something referencing Le Corbusier somewhere, perhaps the most notorious modernist architect of them all, and so it proves: a little bit of propulsive electronica by Technicolour. You can listen to it on YouTube or Spotify.

Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams

Moving on to somewhat better known pieces, I like John Adams' neo-Futurist celebration of speed and technology, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, especially this version by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Tour de France and Autobahn by Kraftwerk

I'll confine myself to just two Kraftwerk tracks from the many I could have gone for. Tour de France is a wonderful evocation of streamlined cycling technology, and Autobahn a hymn to the open spaces of the motorway.

Music for Airports by Brian Eno

I've referenced this in another blog post, but couldn't resist mentioning it again. An attempt to evoke modern airport architecture in sound, Music for Airports was designed as a sound installation for Cologne Bonn Airport.

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