Today (finally) saw the launch of Kids on DSP's "Reactive Album" (more on that phrase later). You can get it from the App Store (iTunes App Store Link)

kids on dsp

Previously I've expressed my interest how it fits in with the whole Augmented Reality thing (hint: wear noise canceling headphones). While waiting for the full album I thought I'd throw over some questions to the Kids on DSP folks. I started by asking them if they could briefly describe what a "Reactive Album" is ...

Kids on DSP: It's an album of music which is in a reactive format. Reactive music changes and adapts in real time to your actions or environment. On RjDj it includes audio from your surroundings, your movement and how you touch the device. However, Kids on DSP deliberately only used the audio input features of the format for this release.

Catt: The track I was listening to "Drowning Street" seems to follows a linear construction; layers of music and samples that build up on top of each other over time in a set order. Does the underlying software have scope for "forking" in these tracks, allowing outside noise to dictate dramatically different paths for the music to go down?

Kids on DSP: Drowning Street its actually non linear. It uses a Markov state changer to move between various possible musical mixes. In a sense its continually moving through many possible musical routes, and will never be exactly the same twice, however there are some sections ( especially at the start ) which have consistency across listens. Other tracks on the album have linear sequences but shift key in unusual ways. Dimensions has a large linear sequence, which has a number of possible forks it can take, which take the listener through different moods, or dimensions, of the music.

However the main thing that's reactive in these tracks is the real time interaction of live audio both to create sonic environments and also to affect the music directly. Tracks like Drowning Street, Departures and Dynamophone create sonic and musical textures from incoming audio. Doppelganger and Dimensions also feed an analysis of incoming audio to parts of the music which is being synthesised on the device in realtime. So when certain sounds and louder noises happen, the actual notes and timbre of the music changes. Timecruising somehow actually makes reality go backwards in realtime ?! and Urban 25 makes techno from just the sounds of your surroundings - turning them into beats.

Catt: We've seen reactive music and mixing of TV/Video streams in live music performances from various artists over the years, but this is the first time we've really had the concept of a "Reactive" that plays on mass consumer hardware that people can just carry around with them. Where do you see the future of this form of music? Do you think we'll see major artists releasing whole Reactive Albums or Singles as Apps rather than/instead of normal iTunes "music"?

Kids on DSP: This is a unique point in the history of recorded music. When the point of delivery ( the personal music player ) becomes a studio ( which RjDj is ), something magical happens. A definitive mix is no longer a necessity. Of course linear deterministic music can be a subset of reactive music. The 3 min 20 mixed down pop song will always exist, as will all other forms of linear music - but now at the touch of a screen they could also become reactive if you want them to.

The other major difference with this format is it frees music from being delivered in a single form, frozen in time - like a mp3. When music becomes software, it opens up numerous possibilities. It can be expanded, updated or changed or have elements of it unlocked with use. It can become personalised or it can become social.

At RjDj we are already working with a number of major artists to release music in this reactive format.

Catt: My favorite track from the preview of the Album was Doppelganger. Which is your favorite and why?

Kids on DSP: Doppelganger is very popular because of the cheeky animal in it. Personally I like the moody spatious tracks like Departures and Dynamophone. Timecruising is also really chilled and mindbending.

Catt: The RjDj site and software allows users to record, upload and share their tracks. Will they be able to do that with the Kids on DSP Album, and if so is there some kind of Creative Commons licensing going on, allowing people to share their versions? Cleared samples and all that stuff?

Kids on DSP: Yes you can record and share your interaction with all scenes. In fact Kids on DSP created a specific scene called We Are Listening, for everyone to vocally record their thoughts about the album. It has crazy echoes and effects and snippets of the other scenes.

The licensing of RjDj scenes is detailed on the site.

Catt: Are you excited?

Kids on DSP: Yes we are very excited about the Kids on DSP application. In many ways it is the first of its kind. We are very excited about the future of reactive music on the iPhone and beyond...

Catt: Thank you Kids for taking the time.


So where's my obligatory geo angle in all of this?

Well, it's these two things, first consider the BBC World Service's Save Our Sounds - Audio Map

BBC World Service - Save Our Sounds - Audio Map

... that's attempting to "preserve endangered sounds for future generations." And RjDj itself, that has tens of thousands of user recordings of their RjDj experiences.

RjDj: A mind twisting hearing sensation

What I'd love to see in the near/distant future are "geotagged" uploads. So we can compare what a particular Reactive Track sounds like recorded in New York at Midnight, a Busy Bangkok Street, walking past buskers in London, or the Windy Hills of Scotland Mix. The Reactive Album has a set number of tracks on it, but each persons experience of that track is unique to them and their location. Less Music for Airports and more Music of Airports.
You can find out more about RjDj at RjDj.me and Kids on DSP in the following videos: 1) Me playing with "Drowning Street" on the Nottingham to London Train ...

[flickr video=http://www.flickr.com/photos/revdancatt/3841389659/]

And some YouTube Videos ...

2) The "Ghost in the Machine" bit at 5:10 onwards is neato.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XVrL4H__dM&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6]

3) From 1:40 onwards for those with ADHD ...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQNjiK9XCmo&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6]

4) Pretty much most of this ...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWqEOzl4pzU&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6]