For many musical artists, the frontier of reactive, interactive music has been a long time coming. RjDj, an app which we first saw as a series of interactive musical scenes on the iPhone, is now being expanded by its developers into a mini-ecosystem of interactive music tools for creation and distribution. I don’t think it’s likely to work for everyone – some artists may have their own ideas about how to distribute such work, or may take this concept in different directions for performance. But it’s nothing if not stimulating to watch.
Here’s the basic formula:
1. Authoring: The RJC1000 looks like an MPC-style drum pad, but it’s actually a tool for assembling scenes. (Currently Mac-only, but I believe built in Python so it could show up on other platforms.) In “expert mode,” you can write your own modules in the free patching environment Pd (Pure Data).
2. Playback: The RjDj on the iPhone and iPod touch, and now the Voyager app on iPad (top) provide “player” mechanisms – whether for your own performance, or as a way to distribute your work as “interactive albums” to listeners/users. Check out the RjDj apps for more. (Little Boots and AIR each did their own, exclusive artist app based on the same tech.) Lest you think this is all about Apple platforms, there’s also an “RjDjroid” Android app.
3. Network of music: The RjDj network is a means by which artists, for free, can get their work in the hands of users.
4. Open-source tools and patches you can
steal use: Not everything the RjDj crew have done has been open sourced, which I have seen generate some disagreement. But there is some very nice stuff in the developer sandbox, a public API, and best of all, a brilliant Composers’ Pack chock full of Pd goodness. In fact, it’s probably the most useful set of Pd patches I’ve ever seen, a whole mess of useful macros for building usable instruments.
Check out the Voyager app, in particular. I love that it breaks out of the traditional interface paradigms — even those RjDj themselves are exploring with the MPC-style authoring tool. Voyager reimagines music listening not in lists of tracks or grids of beats, but in the liquid, alien landscapes of your dreams.
RjDj isn’t enough for you? With the open source tooling behind RjDj, there’s the possibility for an “ecosystem” beyond just the RjDj universe. (Pardon the use of that ecosystem word again. Let’s translate to “other good stuff could be happening,” or “general hoopla is involved,” or “see also: awesomeness.”) It means if you like the idea but not the implementation, you can try your own ideas. And it means, thanks to Pd’s ability to run just about anywhere (thanks to support for ARM architectures and Linux and not just the narrow world of x86 on Mac and Windows), the future isn’t dependent on one company’s vision. It can depend on yours.
I do think RjDj and the Pd development team that worked with them deserve some credit here, though. For the first time, we’ve seen an interactive “label” that’s devoted to making music dynamic and changing for the listener. If they’ve got it right, that means there’s far more to come.
And seriously. Go “steal” those patches. That’s the whole idea.
Here’s a look at the authoring app, in video demo form, running on the Mac:
Michael Breidenbrücker of RjDj has more to share with CDM. He writes us:
Scenes produced with the RJC1000 can currently be distributed into two different apps that have different interfaces and use cases. This is a strategy that we will increasingly apply. I think with the RJC1000 we have a very powerful authoring tool for reactive music. Music which is produced with the RJC1000 can be listened to or consumed in different ways on different RjDj apps. For example we implemented a very simple paging interface in our iPhone app because we think that is a good interface for the device. On the iPad though we did implement a drag and drop and twist and push interface for scene playback. The important point for the producer is that he only produces once and cans distribute his creation into several apps. The next app we are working on is a music game…
With the RJC1000 we are releasing a free authoring tool which is the tool to get your music into the RjDj network http://more.rjdj.me/make-music/ . We will continue development on new apps even on different platforms and the RJC1000 will increasingly be our main tool for that.
The RJC1000 runs on Pd (like everything we do which means it is a very powerful tool. You know we have started off with Pd as our main authoring tool but soon discovered that it is way too abstract for many musicians and their approach to music. I think with the RJC1000 we have found an elegant way to get musicians and producers on board and at the same time keep Pd very close.
Got questions? Made anything cool with those Pd patches and macros? Let us know.