The legendary electronic musician and software developer speaks about Ableton Live and the formative period in Berlin that helped birth it.
If Robert Henke never made a single record, he would still be one of the most significant figures in electronic music. Along with cofounder and collaborator Gerhard Behles, Henke developed the earliest version of Ableton Live, the digital audio workstation and audio sequencer that, among other things, allows musicians to store and trigger samples during shows. Henke has also recorded several innovative electronic albums. On Gravity, recorded under the name Monolake, he mined the intersection between abstract computer music and dance-derived techno; on Floating Points, released under his own name, he used digital noise to reconstruct the ambient sounds of our natural world. Henke has most recently been experimenting with lasers to craft mesmerizing audiovisual installations. This episode of Couch Wisdom is taken from a wide-ranging lecture at the 2018 Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin. The focus here is on Ableton Live, the at-times improbable story of how it came to be, some of its more creative uses and much more. But we begin by hearing a bit about what Berlin was like when Henke first moved there, which set the scene for the software’s creation.