One talk, 315 kazoos and Italian ‘Passione’

Imagine a festival that brings together creative agencies, inspiring production companies and influential brands such as Facebook and Google.

Now, picture that festival in Italy and, most precisely, in Zona Tortona, one of the coolest districts of Milan. Add some fun to the professional side and.. boom, there you have it – IF! Italians Festival, which this year took place on 8-10 November.

Here are some facts about my experience at IF! Italians Festival and what I learned from it.


FACT #1 
We (referring to myself and a work colleague) ended up at IF! thanks to our relationship with Davide Boscacci, Executive Creative Director at Publicis: a friend of the MassiveMusic family who has been to our party in Cannes and thought: ‘Why not bring Cannes to Milan?’. Our own Auke Riemersma, who goes by the name of Aux the Masterfader when he’s behind the decks, made sure to sprinkle some joy to Milan during IF!’s opening party.

Lesson learned: When you think a party is just a party, oh, think twice. It’s not just another day in paradise. In fact, it opens doors when you least expect it.

The festival’s main theme was ‘human intelligence’ and, since we were asked to give a talk, we wanted to do something highly engaging with the crowd. That’s when we thought of The Smartphone Orchestra, an award-winning team of creatives, storytellers and sound engineers. We had been working with them before and were very excited to see their work on a big scale. IF! seemed to be the perfect platform for their technology and for our collaboration.

Lesson learned: Treasure your connections. Teamwork is your key to success.

Our talk was called ‘From analogue human interactions to digital interactions. Brought to you by the power of music’ and given by our EU Creative Director of Music & Brands Alex Normanton. And let’s admit it: it’s always amazing to see the crowd laughing and reacting to everything. We had all full seats: 315 people from the creative industry, mostly Italian, ranging from all ages.

Lesson learned: When you have fun on stage, the audience perceives it and have fun too. Not having boring presentations with unreadable text helps a lot already.

FACT #4 
We talked about music and its strength to bring people together, how we can interact with people through music and how music can fuel that conversation. We see people being moved by music, the genuine appreciation for music and how it helps people in life. 

Lesson learned: This was another confirmation that creating important projects such as Mindscape, and other upcoming mental health projects involving sonic medicine, are doing good for the world.

FACT #5 
Right before the intervention from The Smartphone Orchestra, we asked 300 people to play ‘Hey Jude’ on a kazoo. At first, we thought this might be an actual flop, maybe a bit childish even. Not to mention the fear we had walking through airport security with so many kazoos in our bag. But as soon as we hit that climatic moment, they were all in. 

Lesson learned: It doesn’t matter what the instrument is, at the end of the day it’s all about being part of something bigger than yourself, making it engaging for the people.

FACT #6 
After the kazoo performance, we shifted to the direct parallel: The (digital) Smartphone Orchestra. Nowadays we are so focused on looking at our screens 24/7 that we lack real human interaction in our day to day life. But what if we could connect all these devices and create music through it, enabling real human interaction through the use of digital technology? So, we asked the crowd to use their devices to create music together. The workshop was an active exploration about getting human beings to be human doings by simply interacting more, all united by the power of music as the original universal superglue.

Lesson learned: We can still be truly, genuinely connected even behind a screen – if we really want to.

We had the time of our life in Milan. Everyone has been incredibly kind to us – not to mention the food and wines we tasted. 

Lesson learned: Believe you can, surround yourself with great people and great food, and you’re halfway there.

“It was such an entertaining and interactive talk! Alex showed once again that music is so much more than something you dance to or helps sell ads: it's a memory, a feeling or a whole story being told in one tone.”

Levi Rijper, Head of Creative Content at CZAR

To wrap it up..

In the age of digital technology fueling the conversations and interactions, let’s not forget to genuinely interact with people on a basic human level. 

Sometimes we should pause and say: 
“Hey, let’s go out on Thursday and have a drink together.”

 You should always have a fine balance between the analogue and the digital world.

Photos by: The Smartphone Orchestra and IF! Italians Festival
Written collaboratively by: Ilaria Mangiardi, CeCe Wyldeck-Estrada and yours truly for MassiveMusic.