A new generation of mobile devices is changing the way we hear music. Now we can say that, and not just be speculating are talking theory. The apps are here. Brian Eno had released a generative music album as computer software in the 90s. But this week, that idea hit a bigger audience when we saw his app Bloom, created with Peter Shilvers, running on any iPod touch or iPhone. Tap your ‘Pod, and you can add your own patterns, then let them “evolve.” (No more putting Music for Airports on repeat!)

RjDj goes one step further. Instead of just evolving and allowing inputs, it makes use of the iPhone microphone and sensors to respond to your environment. Not only does the music change, but it changes because of where you are and what you’re doing. The creators describe the effect:

The world around you will sound different or suddenly become part of a song. Some scenes sound best in certain situations like walking through the city, being alone, or making music with your friends. You can also record your mind twisting hearing sensations and listen to them later just like a normal music title.

RjDj affects the perception of your reality. It is the soundtrack to your life.

Don’t believe them? Well, iPhone users, now you can try it for yourself, on the cheap. The “single” version is free, with one scene in it. An “album” with multiple scenes is US$2.99.

This also reflects a new model for how to make, own, and price music. The scenes that drive RjDj are written in Pd (Pure Data), an open source environment for modular multimedia patching and cousin to the proprietary Max/MSP. The artists are generally releasing the code itself as open-source. That creates a really different ownership model. The music actually is software, in a more direct sense than even conventional computer music. The software itself is then priced approximately like a music track would be online, except that once you buy it, you make it your own, and it’ll sound different to you than it will to anyone else.

Each “scene” is an interactive musical creation. There’s even embedded album art for each scene, and information on the artist, so the creators can use this as a promotional tool.

Will we be covering this development a whole lot more? Yes. Yes, we will. In the meantime, go play.

RjDj single

RjDj album

Unfortunately, the app is not compatible with the iPod touch, because it lacks a microphone. There are third-party mics, but none seems to be compatible with the new 2.x firmware. That means I’m personally out of luck. Anyone got a first-generation iPhone they want to sell me, seriously? Or even better, anyone got any news about hacking those (unsupported) mics so they do work with the 2.x firmware? Support is promised, but no breakthrough yet, it seems.

  • Derek

    Earphones with a microphone input are going to be available soon from Apple. They will allow microphone input with the iPod Touch 2.0, so be on the lookout for when they start shipping.


  • Hmmm… those support only iPod Touch rev2. My sense is, if the software can support that, there must be a hook in there somewhere. So, odds are that could help the hackers use these (superior and more flexible) third-party mics on any iPod touch. Will have to test it out. That's not a particular project that I can help with, as I'm clueless.

  • I have to say I share your disappointment. I was really looking forward to RJDJ and I think it was short sighted not to make it available for the Touch as well.

  • Slow down, there … it's not "short-sighted," it's technically impossible! The lack of a mic and difficulties supporting even third-party mics in software meant it's just not ready yet. The underlying software itself is all built in Pd, so it'll run just about anywhere you can run Pd. (that is, the underlying patches, not the scene app itself) So I don't think this is a big deal; I think we'll see touch support once we can get a mic working.

    The problem is, at this particular moment, there is NO working mic solution for 2.0 firmware. We have two candidates, one being the hacked mics — those developers are working on patching 2.x firmware support — and the other is Apple's official mic/earbud.

    I'll be looking into this, as I'm with you — I very much want to run this on my iPod touch and NOT have to buy a first-gen eBay iPhone. 😉

  • richardl

    I have a generic iPhone headphone adapter with a microphone (designed to allow use of standard stereo headphones with an iPhone). It works fine to provide mic input to my 2nd Gen iPod Touch. It works fine with all of the mic enabled audio software I've tried – mostly sample apps from Apple's SDK (e.g. SpeakHere).

    Unfortunately RjDj is flagged as iPhone-only so I can't even install it to test if it works.

  • avi

    what an amazing piece of software… I just gave this a download and I've been listening to it at work for the past 30 minutes now. I feel like im on mushrooms or something… Its VERY difficult to get work done while listening to this alternate workplace soundscape.

  • I am enjoying this right now, and also wondering how this is getting around the iphone dev requirements as to not distributing software that can interpret other code.

    possibly because they are not distributing scenes over the air?

  • kc!

    Loev this app too!! I can only hope they will release more scenes VERY soon!!! I posted a review at LEGENDmag: http://LEGENDmag.net/thelegendonline/2008/10/10/r

  • @JonBro: This doesn't come close to violating that requirement. Pd isn't running in a usable / editable state in these apps; it's only on the back end. And, arguably, you ought to be able to do something modular like Pd if you really wanted to (though I'm not sure it'd be practical in the first place); the "interpreted" issue has to do with things like Java and it's a security issue.

    But yes, there's no reason you can't do this under Apple's guidelines.

    kc! — I'm jealous; thanks for the hands on! Expect a lot more scenes soon, from what I hear. 🙂

    And I'm still researching this iPod mic thing; I think we'll find a solution for it and I know the devs want to…

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  • klp

    so how will i add new scenes to my iphone (not jailbreaked)

  • Machines

    App doesn't launch so I guess I won't know what all the hype is about.

  • Sorry to everyone who was disappointed to have it not work for you; I know how that goes.

    We do know the devs are working on the problem, and will keep you updated on a solution / new release.

    And now that development isn't under NDA, we can share information between developers, as well.

  • @Peter Kirn That is good to hear. I was under the impression that it is not only a security issue, it is one of apple being able to control the entire executable content distribution channel.

    I think that conceptually there is no difference between RjDj, and a ruby interpreter (or a java or flash interpreter). The difference between executable bytecode running in a VM and plaintext code running in a interpreter (in the case of apps that download and execute javascript inside of webkit controls) and even apps that download new levels in the form of plaintext (see cuberunner) is just a matter of imagination.

    Not to say that I am not excited about the fact that this is running interpreted code. I am just looking to the point where I can post a zipped up scene and download it from within the player. Basically the point where I can turn my phone into a modular effects pedal. I was using this software in this capacity with my band last night and it worked really well. I have filed a feature request on the RjDj trac in regards to this.

  • @JonBro: actually, technically speaking, if you're running a Pd patch, you're not running either interpreted code (a la Flash) or a virtual machine (a la Java – Java interpreter is a non-issue as no one uses interpreted Java any more). You're running compiled C code, end of story. In this case, even that is fully bundled together into the app they're distributing. But, assuming someone did create the ability to run Pd patches on the device, even then you're still not using any kind of interpreter.

    I don't see any reason why you couldn't have a modular app on the iPhone. The challenge would be, I would expect, dealing with limited system resources on the device. That's no small matter for mobile apps — even on the much more powerful Indamixx running on a UMPC, with *much* more memory and a much heftier CPU, I found you're pretty limited in trackcounts, simultaneous effects, and the like. But if chip makers keep finding ways of making existing architectures more efficient, I think that could change.

    Think I got all that right; coffee still sinking in today.

  • Leslie

    Downloaded, installed – does not launch. Re-downloaded, uninstalled, reinstalled and still doesn't launch… 🙁
    (16GB iPhone 3G, 2.1)

  • @Leslie: see comments on our other rjdj post. The devs are working on identifying the problem. Feedback we've seen suggests some, not all, 2.1 users. Fix for some is apparently an iPod restore, not just reinstall. Good luck, and be sure to fill out feedback on the bug ticket (again, see other post)

  • Leslie

    Thanks Peter, the full restore did the trick… 🙂

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  • This is absolutely fantastic! Nice to see Pd under the hood too.

  • @Peter and JonBro: If you’re running a Pd patch in Pd, you are indeed running interpreted code. The objects available in Pd are compiled of course, but then they are activated by instructions in a text file. Nothing is compiled again, and the patches are text only. At its heart Pd is an interpreted scripting language, it just smells funny.

  • @Frank — yeah, but that's a "letter of the law" interpretation, and Apple's whole reason for doing this was basically to avoid emulators, Flash, Java, etc., certainly not something like RjDj. Ultimately, it's Apple's call, and given the specific context here, I'm in no way surprised by this. Now, maybe if Apple saw someone trying to distribute all of Pd on iPhone, not just the engine and a pre-configured selection of patches, they'd invoke that. But it makes sense to me that RjDj made the cut.

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  • AA

    RJDJ now supports the touch-but only the second generation models.

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  • Just DLed the app off iTunes, not realizing I would need a mic. *smack head* I'll gladly go buy one of the Apple earbud/mics, but will RJDJ work with a first generation iTouch?