RjDj, the exceptionally cool “reactive sound platform” app from Reality Jockey, which turns the iPhone’s microphone into an audio synthesizer, just got even cooler: Now available in the App Store is “Kids on DSP,” an entire album featuring collaborations from two well-known techno artists — Carl Craig and Acid Pauli — converted for play in the RjDj app.
Audio picked up by your mic is seamlessly mixed with the music, and played back as a unified audio soundscape in your ear buds; your surrounding environment becomes part of the album. Take a deep breath, say, and it’s turned into a heavily reverbed whoosh; take your iPhone into the kitchen, and the faucet sounds like a rainstorm crescendo added to the backbeat.
The RjDj experience for “Kids on DSP” will vary from track to track, Reality Jockey producer Robert Thomas told me by email. “‘Drowning Street’ incorporates sounds from your surroundings to become a kind of tripped out sonic bed which washes over you and pumps around the music,” he wrote. The “Timecruising” track created with Craig takes external audio inputs and plays them backward, creating a bizarre, temporal rubber band effect. (This video explains further.)
All this aural wizardry isn’t just an innovative plaything, however, because it’s also being launched as a new revenue source for recorded music. Reality Jockey is developing a number of applications for “major label chart topping artists,” Thomas said. While a number of artists are selling apps of their own, he argued that “most of them are actually no different from the old ‘multimedia CD’ release — i.e. some music, some video, some web links, etc.” Thomas believes RjDj will offer a better strategy by selling albums that weave a musician’s work into an immersive, interactive experience that goes beyond mere listening. (Operating on a somewhat similar premise, track downloads for the music video game franchises Guitar Hero and Rock Band have become enormously successful. )
Still, whether this can become another needed revenue alternative for the music industry remains to be seen. Thomas tells me 300,000 iPhone/iPod touch owners have downloaded the RjDj app, which is a nice audience base to start with, but will probably need to grow much larger before it becomes a significant income/promotion channel for labels and artists. And as with music video games, the other challenge is composing music tracks customized to play well in RjDj. Thomas suggested that in order to do that, “[T]he composer needs to think in multiple possible scenarios, not just one route. I tend to call it quantum composing.”
Image courtesy of rjdj.me