Most of the world has gone interactive. We comment on the stories we read. We make video rebuttals to YouTube clips. We define words and search within ebooks. And music…well not much has really happened on that front. Guitar Hero and Rock Band reached global consciousness, but most of us still only listen to our favorite albums. There’s no easy, interactive component to the experience beyond skipping a track.
Gossamer is an upcoming album by (awesome) electropop band Passion Pit. It’s also a new app by Scott Snibbe Studio which lets you play with the band’s two most recently released tracks in some fun ways.
In truth, the entire experience leans toward the abstract, making it tough to explain. But the interface’s foundation is built upon a core touch-to-create-polygon interface. With each tap of your finger, a new polygon cuts its way into a dynamic, throbbing mosaic. Depending on the track and mode you’re playing (there are two tracks, each with two modes), you can do some interesting things with these unpredictable shapes.
One mode lets you actually create a melody through the polygons, with the lengths and relationships of their edges, which glow when played, roughly translating into a seemingly spontaneous, ear-pleasing pleasing track. Honestly, it’s tough to tell how much actual control you have–no matter how minimal your polygons, the melody finds an algorithmic excuse to progress and crescendo–but it’s interesting all the same. Each time you play, the melody appears to be ever so different but much the same in a jam band sort of way.
Another mode offers the user a preset grid of polygons, each with a pre-programmed MIDI note or loop. The result is a choose-your-own Passion Pit adventure, a means to remix their track without knowing anything whatsoever about MIDI mixing. And the whole thing is perfectly diverting for my 5-minute app attention span.
I’m not so sure that Passion Pit’s app is a harbinger of the future, a go-to model for every band wanting to engage their fan base at the creative level. But the core ideas here, the ability to reshape an artistic invention with a low level of wit and a high margin of safety, are quite solid. And maybe even more importantly, the creative level of the app brings a certain energy to these tracks that you simply can’t capture through listening alone. There’s a constant spontaneity akin to that of live performance–the possibility for a familiar melody to become something new. And it makes me wonder, in the future, will a single just be a single? Or could it be a program rich with nuance and improvisation?
If you’d like to try the app for yourself, Passion Pit: Gossamer is $1.99 in the App Store.