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Sónar 2024: Highlights, a journey into electronic music, audiovisual & digital culture

Text by Irem Erkin

SonarVillage, BlackCoffee. Photo credit: Nerea Coll

It’s that time of year again. Electronic music and audiovisual enthusiasts from around the world are gearing up for the immersive experience that is Sónar 2024. Tickets are booked, plans are made to rendezvous with friends from distant corners of the globe in Barcelona, lineups are being meticulously analysed, and new albums are spinning on repeat.

Sónar 2024 promises to reunite friends and bring together pioneers of electronic music, micro-scenes from across the globe, AI experts, and innovators in digital and audiovisual culture. This year’s festival is set to be a perpetual celebration of progressive creativity and technology. Sónar Festival’s lineup is a testament to the influence of dance music on popular culture, featuring standout performances by artists like Air, Jessie Ware, Kaytranada, Vince Staples, Charlotte de Witte, Sevdaliza, Folamour, Paul Kalkbrenner, Soto Asa, Judeline, Laurent Garnier, Ben Böhmer, VTSS, Olof Dreijer & Diva Cruz, Kerri Chandler and Floating Points

In addition to the musical acts, Sónar+D serves as a hub for digital creativity. The program particularly focuses on the mass adoption of AI in the creative industries and its implications for the future. It also tackles how immersive entertainment and expanded reality (XR) push the boundaries of creativity. This year, the festival will expand beyond the main venues with Sónar Week, taking over various locations throughout Barcelona from 12 to 16 June. Highlights include OFFSónar at Poble Espanyol, the +RAIN Film Festival at UPF’s PobleNou Campus, THE CUBE at Casa Batlló, and the SonarMies installation at the Mies van der Rohe pavilion. These events offer a comprehensive overview of electronic music and digital culture.

Sónar Festival assures an eclectic fusion of dance music pioneers and hyperlocal microscenes, enhanced by radical aesthetics and stage designs. This year the festival celebrates the rich diversity of genres and subgenres defining electronic music in 2024, extending from ambient to drum’n’bass, happy hardcore to post-punk, and including black metal, deconstructed club, memecore, gabber, and hyperpop. Beyond the headline acts, Sónar 2024 will showcase a broad amount of international and Spanish talent. Attendees can look forward to Aïsha Devi, Marie Davidson, Yerai Cortés, Loraine James, Toya Delazy, and La Goony Chonga live performances.

Sónar+D, the festival’s digital innovation and creativity hub, is integrated into Sónar by Day and focuses on the widespread adoption of Artificial Intelligence. This year’s program will explore how AI shapes the creative industries’ present and future. Sónar+D begins with an inaugural conference titled Generating Panic?, which will explore the implications, risks, opportunities, and questions surrounding the use of AI in the arts and creative sectors. In her talk What’s Immersive Anyway? Legal expert and gamer Micaela Mantegna delves into the complex world of generative AI and copyright. AI is also at the centre of talks by writers Tim Maughan and Joanne McNeil, who tackle the subject through the lens of fiction and critical thinking. Festival goers can expect a series of debates, forums, talks, and performances throughout the weekend. 

Music_Response, Casa Batlló
Photo credit: Nerea Coll
Stage+D by MEDIAPRO. Photo credit: Nerea Coll

Standouts comprise contributions from artist Marta Verde, who will give the AV conference Surprise! AI Feedback and the Unexpected, Nicole L’Huillier, researcher Sasha Costanza-Chock (presented by SEIDOR), and legal expert Micaela Mantegna. Additionally, representatives from creative agencies such as Superblue and Moment Factory and curators from TED, The Conference, OFFF, and A MAZE will provide further insights. This diverse lineup ensures a comprehensive exploration of AI’s transformative impact on the creative industries.

In a unique forum titled Curating the Curators, Sónar+D shines a spotlight on some of the most innovative minds who typically work behind the scenes: the curators. Attendees will be able to learn about their inspirations and methods for assembling compelling programs of speakers, talks, and panels. One featured curator is Hildreth England, who organises The Conference, a two-day event in Malmö, Sweden, that gathers thinkers from diverse backgrounds. As a designer, her work incorporates research, community engagement, and creativity to tackle food, health, social mobility, and environmental justice issues for public and private clients, including the USDA, the State of Texas, Ferrero, and Toyota. 

Another notable participant is Ida Faldbakken, CEO of KatapultX and co-founder of Katapult Future Fest in Oslo. Her festival brings together tech entrepreneurs, impact investors, and changemakers committed to driving positive global change. Faldbakken views conferences as essential venues for promoting inclusivity, diversity, and collaboration. And Laurent Bigarella, director of the Ideas department at Arty Farty—the organisation behind Lyon’s Nuits Sonores—curates the European Lab program, which hosts debate forums in various European cities. He also coordinates the Reset! Network, a coalition of independent media and cultural organisations across Europe supported by Creative Europe.

This year, Sónar+D also hosts a special showcase of immersive visual and digital art from Catalonia. In a specially designed closed cube, Onionlab, Desilence, Eyesberg, Claudia Maté, Sevi Iko Dømochevsky, and Jordi Mass will showcase their work across the three days of Sónar by Day. The AI & Music powered by S+T+ARTS programme debuts at Sónar by Day this year with Lee Gamble’s Models with Candela Capitán and Myriam Bleau & Nien Tzu Weng’s Second Self. The programme also features an AI Performance Playground Hacklab led by Peter Kirn and Cibelle Cavalli Bastos. The programme is rounded off with the debate forum We Are the Music Makers and Tardes de Prompting sessions: one hosted by and Boldtron and another by Josiah Taylor.

Furthermore, a notable new collaboration at Sónar by Night features the updated SonarLab x Printworks stage, bringing the spirit of the iconic London venue to Spain for the first time. Sónar Week 2024 pledges to spark a celebration of innovation and creativity, solidifying Barcelona’s position as the beating heart of the electronic music and digital arts scene. Are you ready?

(Media courtesy of Sónar Festival)
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