Beatie Wolfe on the UN Women ‘Impossible to Ignore’ campaign, blending music with technology and beaming her album into space

Beatie Wolfe was chosen to be 1 of 9 innovators to represent the UN Women 'Impossible to Ignore' campaign that kicked off on International Women’s Day 2019, with the portraits of Beatie & the other UN role models appearing all across the world, from Times Square to the London Underground. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, is a United Nations entity working for the empowerment of women.
Thought March 3, 2020

Last year, you were chosen to be 1 of 9 innovators to represent the UN Women ‘Impossible to Ignore’ campaign. What led you to this moment? 

By pioneering new formats for albums that make people see music differently and exploring how technology can be employed to create meaningful and humanizing experiences that imprint on us in this digital age. Also for researching (then campaigning) the power of music and dementia with a question that no one was asking which began a movement in this area.


Why is it important that campaigns like this exist?

Because we currently place way too much value on metrics as opposed to real curation, but I believe that curation will always retain its value, perhaps now even more so, and so that’s why the UN Women initiative and other examples of true curation are so important right now. They mean something. Also specific to the campaign itself, we need to keep on celebrating our commonality as human beings rather than our differences.

What initiated your interest in blending music with technology? 

Realizing that everything I had grown up with, the physical listening experience, had been replaced by an intangible and, to me, unsatisfying one. So instead of simply rejecting the digital world I wanted to think beyond it and combine the best of the old (physical) with the best of the new (digital) presenting something that would exist in its own time and space, that people hadn’t experienced before and that still had the ability to imprint.


How did the idea come about to work with astronomer Dr. Robert Wilson to beam your album Raw Space into space? 

I had been working at Bell Labs to create the anti-stream experience for my third album Raw Space which was launched from the world’s quietest room (the Bell Labs anechoic chamber) and Robert Wilson had heard about the work I was doing and wanted to meet. I asked if we could meet at the Holmdel Horn Antenna as I was fascinated with this instrument that had captured the sound at the birth of our universe and thus proved the validity of the big bang which won Robert a Nobel Prize. While chatting in front of the Antenna I asked if he had ever used it to transmit instead of just receive and he said no. So then I asked if, in theory, we could use it to send my record Raw Space (titled this because of the anechoic chamber) into Space using the Antenna and he said no because the sound waves would not make it past the earth’s atmosphere. I thought that was the end of the conversation but then about a month later I got an email from Bob saying: “Beatie I’ve figured it out! I can do an update on the horn if you still want to do the Space beam.” The Horn Antenna is a National Historic Landmark. I couldn’t believe it and said of course said yes. So that was how that came about.

What advice would you give to someone with the goal of making their voice heard?

Celebrate your Youness. Find what it is that you’re passionate about, your own unique voice/perspective and cultivate that. And when someone says it’s impossible, it’s a good sign.


What is your chief enemy of creativity? 

Money can be, complacency definitely is, and I would also say tools for tool’s sake. I really find that you are your most creative when you’re out of your comfort zone, your senses are sharp and that often comes from being limited in some way whether that’s budget, access, or in the execution of your output. I always imagine it like a blank piece of paper. You have to start with a raw space and know exactly what to pull in and why. If you have all the money or all the options to begin with, it’s very hard to start with that same raw space

The most important aspect of anything you work on? 

Intention. Intention is everything… as that dictates and informs every decision you make.


How would you describe the music you make?

Raw, acoustic, story-led… Leonard Cohen meets Tom Waits meets Elliott Smith. Anti-tech perhaps haha! While I’m very innovative on the albums formats and experiential side, I believe when it comes to music (and art in general) the human touch is everything and we shouldn’t get caught up using technology to iron out the imperfections, which is what makes it feel real and often resonate in the first place. In this way the raw acoustic sound becomes more important as it’s counterbalanced with these avant-garde and futuristic presentations.


What’s the key to great innovation?

Knowing where to augment and where to preserve (keep it raw) and always knowing why.