In our March 2017 issue, we introduced EM readers to the Portland Synth Library (s1portland.com/synth-library). Founded by Alissa DeRubeis and Felisha Ledesma in the city’s S1 nonprofit arts center, the Synth Library’s mission is to provide a community resource for exploring electronic music— and modular synthesis, in particular—that is accessible to anyone. The organization strives for inclusiveness, and its class fees and membership costs are offered on a sliding scale (nobody is turned away). A special effort is made to engage women and non-binary people through workshops and hands-on studio time.
In the intervening year, the S1 Synth Library has grown, both in terms of the number of people who have taken part in classes and residencies, and in its collection of instruments acquired through the generosity of manufacturers such as 4ms, Make Noise, Erica Synths, and Moog Music, among many others. The success of this unique form of synthbased community outreach has led its founders to consider ways to expand it internationally.
“We have been wanting to establish a sister Synth Library in Europe to further share our mission and vision,” DeRubeis explains. The challenge, however, was to find just the right location and person to run it. Enter Mary C, a producer, music journalist, DJ, and radio host based in Prague.
During a visit to the city in April 2017, where she was invited to give a talk about gender in modular synthesis, DeRubeis was introduced to Mary C through their mutual friends at Bastl Instruments, a synth manufacturer that is also based in Prague. But it wasn’t until the autumn of 2017 that DeRubeis got the idea of asking Mary C if she would be interested in organizing S1’s first sister Synth Library. To her delight, the answer was yes.
“It dawned on me one evening that she should to be the one to run it, and I messaged her, probably out of the blue,” DeRubeis remembers. “Mary C said yes; Felisha Ledesma and Alex Ian Smith, who co-founded S1, said yes. Everything after that happened quite naturally.” In the synth library, Mary C will be joined by Pink Noise, a female collective formed from within the Bastl Instruments community.
“The S1 Synth Library and the Prague Synth Library not only share values, female leadership, and a passion for education, but we will also work together to help artists travel internationally between the libraries for residencies,” DeRubeis says. “We share curriculum and communicate regularly to talk about our experiences and grow together. We are working with the Prague Synth Library to provide information and gear, but also to learn from the visions and experiences of our Czech community.”
To celebrate the opening of the Prague Synth Library, the Portland crew will host Czech Week at the S1 Synth Library in mid-April and will be joined by a number of designers from Bastl. They are planning to hold workshops on soldering and synth patching, as well as talks, including one about how music helped fight communism in the Czech Republic.
At Superbooth 2018 in Berlin this May, the members of both synth libraries will hold hour-long workshops each afternoon— Introduction to Patching—for female and nonbinary people. From there, DeRubeis and S1 Synth Library facilitator Sofia Acosta will join Mary C and a lineup of educators and artists in Prague for its Synth Library’s opening week, featuring shows, workshops, and gatherings.