Posted by PH on November 02, 2008
Music & Technology

Released on October 10th, RjDj is one of the most interesting pieces of software that I’ve come across for some time. It’s difficult to describe what it is exactly, so you’d better watch the video (over 9 minutes but worth it, believe me):

I downloaded RjDj this afternoon and begrudgingly dragged my unloved and unused Apple headphone set out of the box—the software only works with this headset at the moment. It all worked perfectly first time, and within five minutes I was tapping, banging, clacking, and, yes, even singing along to “the soundtrack to my life.” Live and interactive: John Cage would have loved it.

Cooking the Sunday dinner became an experimental sound workshop: peeling potatoes, kicking open the flip-top bin, using a knife to create glissandi on the grill rack, whistling, thumping the worktop, running the tap, the clanking of saucepans, all became melded into some futuristic ambient-techno soundscape. Great fun!

At the moment, the number of scenes available is limited (5 only) but the website promises another 18 coming shortly. It could do with a way of exporting your recordings, and of course people posting comments on the RjDj site already want programmable delay times, use of better headsets, access to the individual audio channels, etc., etc.. Like a lot of iPhone applications, it borders on being a gimmick: something interesting and exciting for sure, but we’re not quite sure what to do with it…

BUT: what we’ve got here is an application that is sampling in real time, performing DSP on the input, playing that back and recording it at the same time. On a mobile phone. (In fact, RjDj makes the phrase ‘mobile phone’ suddenly seem redundant, out-of-date.)

Something important is happening here. It seems like one of those tipping-point moments, a paradigm shift. The gestural interface of the iPhone is exploited by RjDj in such a way that it allows not only a new way of making music, but a completely new way of experiencing music where our behaviour generates the events that become both the raw material and the gestures that shape our listening.

In fact, one could envisage a future where we no longer primarily bought music performed by other people. Instead we would buy new ‘scenes’ and build up a library of software that would transform the music we listen to and the sounds we experience according to mood, behaviour, whim, or conscious control. All ‘recorded music’ would become permanently fluid, open to improvisation and gestural control.

RjDj costs £1.59.

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