In the basement of a Chelsea office building , workmen wired a recording studio so new it still smelled of freshly cut wood. In the floors above, vintage instruments lay waiting to be played, and shiny cans of Red Bull energy drink were stacked shoulder-high.
All were part of the preparations for the Red Bull Music Academy, a five-week series of concerts, lectures, art installations and workshops that is one of the biggest musical happenings in New York, as well as perhaps the most elaborate example of the reach of corporate brands into popular culture.
A combination citywide festival and private musical summer camp, the academy has been held in a different international city nearly each year since 1998, when it began in Berlin. The events this year — underwritten by Red Bull, at a cost that is undisclosed but is surely well into the millions — include eyebrow-raisers like Brian Eno presenting his visual art piece “77 Million Paintings" Ryuichi Sakamoto performing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Giorgio Moroder, the pioneering producer of Donna Summer, offering what he says is his first DJ Set in the United States.
At the center of it all is the academy itself, a mentorship program convened as a kind of Platonic symposium, albeit one whose primary philosophical focus is analog synthesizer sounds and block-rocking beats. The 62 students, chosen from more than 4,000 applicants, are flown to New York, lodged in the boutique Ace Hotel and given two weeks of close contact with their musical heroes — all on Red Bull’s dime.
UDG proud to be the bag-partner for many years, provided the Red Bull Music Academy for all students a UDG DJ/Producers bag for The New York 2013 Edition.
Photography: Dan Wilton/Christelle De Castro/Anthony Blasko -Red Bull Music Academy.