A new generation of mobile devices is changing the way we hear music. Now we can say that, and not just be speculating are talking theory. The apps are here. Brian Eno had released a generative music album as computer software in the 90s. But this week, that idea hit a bigger audience when we saw his app Bloom, created with Peter Shilvers, running on any iPod touch or iPhone. Tap your ‘Pod, and you can add your own patterns, then let them “evolve.” (No more putting Music for Airports on repeat!)
RjDj goes one step further. Instead of just evolving and allowing inputs, it makes use of the iPhone microphone and sensors to respond to your environment. Not only does the music change, but it changes because of where you are and what you’re doing. The creators describe the effect:
The world around you will sound different or suddenly become part of a song. Some scenes sound best in certain situations like walking through the city, being alone, or making music with your friends. You can also record your mind twisting hearing sensations and listen to them later just like a normal music title.
RjDj affects the perception of your reality. It is the soundtrack to your life.
Don’t believe them? Well, iPhone users, now you can try it for yourself, on the cheap. The “single” version is free, with one scene in it. An “album” with multiple scenes is US$2.99.
This also reflects a new model for how to make, own, and price music. The scenes that drive RjDj are written in Pd (Pure Data), an open source environment for modular multimedia patching and cousin to the proprietary Max/MSP. The artists are generally releasing the code itself as open-source. That creates a really different ownership model. The music actually is software, in a more direct sense than even conventional computer music. The software itself is then priced approximately like a music track would be online, except that once you buy it, you make it your own, and it’ll sound different to you than it will to anyone else.
Each “scene” is an interactive musical creation. There’s even embedded album art for each scene, and information on the artist, so the creators can use this as a promotional tool.
Will we be covering this development a whole lot more? Yes. Yes, we will. In the meantime, go play.
Unfortunately, the app is not compatible with the iPod touch, because it lacks a microphone. There are third-party mics, but none seems to be compatible with the new 2.x firmware. That means I’m personally out of luck. Anyone got a first-generation iPhone they want to sell me, seriously? Or even better, anyone got any news about hacking those (unsupported) mics so they do work with the 2.x firmware? Support is promised, but no breakthrough yet, it seems.