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raVdio splash Attention Raudio-listeners and -artists! This month it is precisely 5 years ago that, in front of the Amsterdam RAI building, we launched Raudio. Relentlessly time has continued to pass. Many a sun set and rose again, and an awful lot of other things besides have happened since. Sort of as an elaborate hattip we decided to have 5 years of Raudio culminate in one brandnew megameta audio-thing: together with programmer Daniel Stalber and designer Donald Beekman (who also did the original Raudio flyer graphics, five years ago), we are now in the very final stages of the development of Raudio IIIII: a free one-pure-sound-thing that will give you streaming access - worldwide and 24/7 on any 3G or WiFi network from your iPhone or iPod Touch - to the full collection of five years worth of Raudio audio web streams. Including the widely acclaimed leve ookoi!, including the penetrating Back to Berlin, and including Raudio click hit specials like Sound Injury, Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch and the original uptime published BioPub-JamKaret... We will submit Raudio IIIII to Apple's app store any day soon now, and hope for a quick approval. Of course you will be among the first to know when the app is publicly available. Watch out also for the extravagrand presentation, some time soon after some where - in Amsterdam ...

Project Icarus OST

october 10, 2009.

The ookoi pictures that follow were taken a couple of weeks ago by Simon Claessen, one of the hackers at the Social RFID Hack Camp at PICNIC 09. It shows the ookoi ShakeNRoll-ing their iPhones in the aftermath of the mini RjDj sprint that we organized there together with Mediamatic on wednesday september 23rd.

ookoi picnic rjdj ookoi picnic rjdj
ookoi picnic rjdj ookoi picnic rjdj

RjDj-er Florian Waldner came flying in from London for an evening and a day, to do the mini-sprint. We had a drink in my Pijp home late tuesday evening where together with £PcM we toasted (the very first Raudio IIIII β-version that earlier that day iPhone developer Daniel Stalber had sent us), talked about reactive music and about global and local politics (the Amsterdam Noord/Zuidlijn), before getting some rest. We started sprinting on the Westergasfabriekterrein early wednesday morning.

With coffee and theory.
For me, that is a combination that works.

There cannot be enough coffee at hand early in the morning to propagate the theoretical prospects of currently available means to successfully challenge the established practice of producing and consuming music (or sound in general) - a practice that for many, many decades we had to take for granted. And these prospects are extensive. At the risk of massive flames and being loudly booed: I am convinced that the current advent of ever more powerful handheld consumer communication and computing devices, like Apple's iPhone or those running Google's Android, is a technological leap forward that will come to signal a turning point also in the history of music production and consumption, comparable to those epitomized by the introduction of musical notation, or - in late 19th century - by the invention of the phonograph.

For pretty much anyone currently alive on this planet the concept of music cannot but be indissolubly linked with the possibility of the unlimited identical repetition of a relatively limited number of sound recordings. We call them songs, or tracks, numbers, pieces, compositions. These you may hear again, and again, and again. The listening to (which significantly differs from the - soundless - 'remembering of') music at any time other than that contemporary to its creation (when you're at a concert, or playing the piano) roughly has been a common practice only since technologies of recording became available for the public. This consumption of music recordings is a consumption of music as an immutable form; of music as rigidly filled out stretches of time; of intervals that permit the identical displacement of themselves, both in space and in time: you may listen again, at the place and time of your choice. This will not change the music, at least not objectively: it is the important contract that comes with a recording, that the music will remain and sound the same. (Note that analog sound recordings - different from digital ones - have the additional characteristic that together with the listener they grow older. They will age and be subject to a gradual degradation over time, due to physical wear of their carrier. It is thus, as e.g. Paul Hegarty observes, that analog media "seem to take on characteristics of having lived" ( * ).)

Of course most of us are very much aware that prior to its fixation in the form a sound recording, 'music' is hardly an immutable reproduction of some predetermined pattern, of some shadow in Plato's cave (nowadays recordings often function as a such a platonic ideal). Indeed, the immutability of recordings seems strangely at odds with the way in which 'music' is seen to evolve in the course of a complex dynamical process at the time of its creation.

The recent possibility of delivering 'music' to popular and widely used consumer devices not as immutable, unchanging recordings, but in the form of more or less open-ended, dynamic processes, the sounding result of which will always be different, is the potential new turning point in the way in which we consume (and produce) music that I hinted at.

rjdj picnic

RjDj, brainchild of LastFM co-founder Michael Breidenbruecker, and more specifically based upon ideas of 'audio enhanced reality' and 'reactive music', provides a good example of the direction this distribution of music-as-processes in the future may take. Though at this time (mostly for practical reason) still limited to the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, RjDj presents itself as an open platform, for which musicians and artists of all thinkable persuasions are invited to create content. The application on your iPhone actually looks a bit like the iPod player's interface, except that you have access not to a list of songs, but to a list of scenes. Each of these scenes is a 'music-in-the-form of-a-process'. Technically, RjDj scenes are PD-patches, that one may enable to interact with the handheld devices specific features, like microphone, accelerometer and location data.

I started the first ('Think!') part of the Picnic09 mini-sprint - set up together with Mediamatic at the very last moment and at very short notice - by telling more or less what you have been reading above. Then Florian took over, and explained the ideas of Rjdj and reactive music in more detail. While Florian was talking to the sprint participants, I was invited to step outside by TVents, who did a short interview on RjDj, that you can watch here @ YouTube.

Some good points came up during the introduction, as well as before and then again after it. Whereas of course in 'avant garde' and other 'experimental' musics - be it in their academic mainstream or rather their streetwise underground interpretation - there is a firm tradition of thinking of music as the result of processes based upon divers ideas (that may range from pure chance to deterministic algorithms and anything in between), this is obviously not - or far less - the case in pop(ular) musics. On the other hand, RjDj as a company, is concentrating much of its efforts precisely in that direction, hoping in that way to eventually generate the necessary returns for its investors.

andie picnicI talked some more about this with Andie Nordgren, who came flying in on thursday (only hours after Florian flew out again) for a short (five minute) company pitch as part of Picnic09's Mobile Bites program. Judged by the avalanche of tweets that followed it, Andie's talk was very well-received.
In a tweet of her own, some time early september, Andie made an interesting point, when she mentioned thinking that one of the big challenges RjDj (as a company) is facing, is that music seems to be much more about nostalgia than about looking to the future. As far as the consumption of 'recorded music' and more specifically that of 'recorded popular music' goes, she probably is right. But also, you will notice that listening to many of the reactive music scenes as currently proposed by RjDj is typically an un-shared experience; whereas of course it are typically shared experiences and their social context that unleash the powers of nostalgia and the corresponding reverence of certain specific recordings of music by groups of individuals. Currently the 'effect' of RjDj-scenes often crucially depends on the use of headphones (and the device's microphone), which puts the individual in the very center of a new world that (s)he is co-creating; which indeed may make for an experience that is of a rather solipsistic nature and profoundly un-communicable. Maybe technically not so different from that of listening to music on a walkman or an iPod, but there is (may be) a big difference in the sense that the listening to an RjDj scene in a way always is a first-time - a creative - listening, unlike the listening to playlists on an iPod, which for almost all consumers will be a remembered - a nostalgic - listening.

Exciting and interesting therefore it will be to see where in the end all of this will lead RjDj. Will the company survive, and if it does, in what form? Though, obviously, still in a very, very preliminary stage, I personally sees a very fruitful and bright future for players and platforms like the one RjDj is pioneering. But will it also be possible to explore and create markets for 'hit scenes', able to address and seduce large audiences, or will reactive music turn out to be (or remain) more typically the fringe and 'artsy' thing, whereas the average consumer will stick to his or her playlists of 'immutable forms'? Again, personally, I thinks that eventually (s)he won't, even though I would not bet my hat on precisely what formats will be needed to break out of the relatively safe fringe contexts. Will maybe Kids on DSP do the trick? Personally I think it is more likely that the changing of formats has to be pushed even further, and that a such 'breakthrough' will appear to be intimately related to the undeniable fact that the principles and ideas many are toying with in relation to RjDj and reactive music find a logical and natural place within the context of games. A link that also in the discussion at the Picnic mini-sprint readily came bubbling up.

rjdjWe are organizing a full blown Amsterdam RjDj sprint later this month, in the Mediamatic Bank in the Vijzelstraat. The sprint will start at 14h in the afternoon of thursday october 22nd, and continue until 14h the next day, friday october 23rd. Though you are of course not obliged to work through the night, you are allowed to do so, and we will try to assist you with tips and advises, and keep you going with coffee and corners to lay yourself down for a short nap. If you are interested to come, don't forget to reserve your place (you will need to create a Mediamatic profile page to be able to do so). Participation is free, but the number of available spots in the workshop is limited. You will need to bring a laptop, and - if you have one - an iPhone or an iPod Touch. Some preliminary experience in the use of PD will come in handy.

added october 19th: We had to postpone the RjDj-sprint that was planned for oct. 22-23. A new date will be announced shortly.  ]

I profited from the hands-on part of the Picnic mini-sprint to finish a second ookoi scene: Project Icarus OST. It is based upon ookoi's original soundtrack for Project Icarus, part of Dick Tuinder's Winterland. icarus We were, as a matter of fact, assez content to have this curious little gem publicly available right in time for the premiere of the film on september 29th, at the Dutch Film Festival in Utrecht. The scene allows you to endlessly create and record versions of the ookoi's soundtrack, with continuous shifting of layers and order of its 36 + 1 short samples; always different, still always quite the same... Faithful indeed to Sally de Winter's dictum that "most things never happen", no matter how hard you try, most sounds you will never hear ...
Whereas the reactivity in ookoi's first scene, ShakeNRoll, is linked to the accelerometer (shake and roll), in Project Icarus OST it is the level of the microphone signal that will determine the density of the scene's playback. Oh, and actually both ookoi's scenes in a way do contradict my earlier observation on the solipsistic nature of enjoying reactive music scenes. ShakeNRoll is a great listen when connected to your stereo, and connected to a guitar amp, it turns your iPhone into an awesome electro-acoustic instrument. A great way to enjoy Project Icarus OST is connecting the iPhone to your stereo, put it on your desk, and then just let it be ... Try it!

[ The (sold-out!) premiere of Winterland, was on tuesday september 29th, in the Utrecht City Movies Theatre, preceded by a short sketch for director (Dick Tuinder) and producer (Gijs van de Westelaken). The picture below shows the ookoi with Mme. Z., performing the Winterland Aria, a little later during the after party for crew, friends, family and fans in the Blauwe Zaal of the Stadsschouwburg. ]

afterparty

[ added dec. 16th, 2009 : In the Startling Moniker blog, DaveX picked up and reacted to my above playdoyer for a reactive music. Remarkably, Reactive Music, revolutionary sound even cites some of the lines that I left as private comments in the source code, but that on the public page are not (meant to be) visible ... :-) ]

notes __ ::
(*) Paul Hegarty - The Hallucinatory Life of Tape (Culture Machine, vol. 9, 2007) [ ^ ]

tags: ookoi, rjdj, reactive music, winterland

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