Technology is creating some unusual new opportunities for composers. Aside from producing music for video games, we can now get inside your head while you’re working out. (Well, okay, we could do that before via, erm, Walkmans and such, but now it’s more interactive.)

Electronic duo The Crystal Method has produced a continuous album called Drive designed for use in a 45-minute workout, promoting Apple’s new partnership with Nike. The Nike + iPod combination is more than just marketing: a sensor in the shoe transmits data to the iPod Nano and gives you aural feedback on how you’re doing. You can upload the results to Nike’s website and view your progress in a nice, Flash-enabled viewer. The music itself isn’t interactive, so you could use it with any player. What The Crystal Method have done is to pace their music to encourage you through your workout, down to “power phrases” repeated in the vocals. (“It’s time to get moving,” “Here we go,” “Move your lazy ass,” “Thanks for moving your lazy ass; now you are truly an awesome demigod of fitness,” etc., I think is the general gist.) And, of course, there is something about electronic music that motivates motion.

NIKE+ Product Site

The Crystal Method: Drive
The Crystal Method - Drive: Nike+ Original Run - Drive: Nike+ Original Run

This is all well and good, but it seems the technology may go a lot further in future. The iPod’s internal processor isn’t powerful enough to do much in the way of musical synthesis, but I sure would love to see generative music that adapts intelligently to your movement. The Crystal Method track may well be worth the $10 to get you motivated, but it’ll eventually get old. Imagine a composition that sounds different each time, and helps you out when your pace starts to sag. And, of course, I’d like to see us get beyond tired electronica cliches for moving your body. There have to be some new opportunities for inspiring movement.

But interactive fitness composing? Absolutely.

In the meantime, the technology I really need is something that lets me work out while I’m sitting at my computer working on all this stuff. Maybe I should just try to dance around more as I sit here. (Apologies for forthcoming spelling errors.)

  • The idea of interactive workout music is like an opposite to pzizz (generated music to help you sleep).

  • User-generated music (UGM) unfortunately won't catch on as easily as user-generated content (UGC). UGM is innately too cryptic and sci-fi for mass appeal.

    While UGM is in fact UGC, and UGC is all the rage, people will pay for good music.

    What would be more viable and vastly more interesting is a combination of UGM and preset loops that would produce "perfect" music. It could be as simple as a reaction to a user's pulse, and perhaps 2-3 other user-defined variables prior to and during workout, which could drive a dynamically driven bank of audio that would play appropriate music for the workout.

    Feel free to contact me to discuss how to make this possible if you're interested.


    sburks (at) versaly (dot) com