• 05.13.11

Wanted: OscilloScoop iPad App Makes DJing A Video Game

Scott Snibbe’s app, a product of 15 years of research (and input from Brian Eno), lets you sculpt electronic soundscapes out of spinning shapes.

Wanted: OscilloScoop iPad App Makes DJing A Video Game

Most of the electronic “generative music” apps we’ve written about before are flat — not in terms of their musical tones, but their 2-D interface design. A new toy called OscilloScoop adds a little depth to the scene, by letting you scoop, scratch, and swipe electronic beats out of rotating cylinders. The interaction is kind of like that infamous pottery scene from Ghost, but a lot less messy. Check it out:


OscilloScoop was developed out of 15 years’ worth of research by developer Scott Snibbe and designer Lukas Girling. Along the way, Snibbe crossed paths with experimental-music demigods like John Cage and Brian Eno. The pair wanted to create a playful way of generating and manipulating electronic music in real time — like a musical instrument crossed with a video game. Indeed, as Snibbe writes, “Among Lukas? many insights is to turn the relatively impenetrable world of music software such as the ReBirth, Lemur, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and other hard-core musician’s tools, into something as effortless (and fun) as Super Mario.”

Snibbe created OscilloScoop’s clever UI with Girling and video-game developer Graham McDermott. “We had used video game controllers as the low-barrier gateway to control music, but now with the iPad, we are able to be entirely intuitive, touching music with our bare hands,” he explains. Users skim their fingertips over the edges of three cylinder-like “crowns,” which changes their shape. Each crown is mapped to an aspect of the music — one for pitch, one that adds a filter to the music, and one for volume. As the crowns spin, manipulating their 3-D shape produces live changes in the musical loops — not unlike a DJ scratching a turntable.


“It’s literally as easy as turning a volume dial,” as Girling explains to “But instead of just making music louder or softer, you are able to create endless variations of the music itself, within recognizable electronic music genres.?

[Buy it for $1.99 at iTunes]

About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.