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For the second time this year, D.C. experimental-pop duo Bluebrain has released a “location-aware album”—-an app that uses the iPhone’s GPS function to create a dynamic work of music that changes as you walk around a predetermined space. Back in March, the band created music for the National Mall. The app released today, Listen to the Light, soundtracks a stroll around New York City’s Central Park.
The duo appeared yesterday at the Future of Music Policy Summit at Georgetown University to discuss their work and plug the new app to the gathered music and tech wonks. They even brought something of a teaser trailer with them: a documentary about the making of the work that included interviews with AOL founder Steve Case, Ian MacKaye, Beauty Pill‘s Chad Clark, The Washington Post‘s Chris Richards, and others.
In that film and in a conversation with Clark and Richards that followed, the brothers Holladay pondered just how novel their app concept really is. After all, there is a long history of algorithmic composition in music. And artists certainly experiment with apps—-the most famous recent example being Bjork. But where Bjork’s Biophilia apps are ultimately secondary to her new album—-kind of like toys, Hays said—-Bluebrain’s apps are the albums. That they use a technology until recently unavailable to musicians may be ground-breaking; what’s truly canny about The National Mall and Listen to the Light, I think, is that they can only be used in one place.
All of the above has provided plenty of hooks for journalists, and The National Mall scored Bluebrain write-ups in The Washington Post, Wired, and Pitchfork’s video-game vertical. They didn’t mind the exposure, the band said, when Richards asked if they worried the app was being covered more for its novelty than its music. Clark had an answer: that nobody experiencing Bluebrain’s app projects would mistake them for anything other than art.
There’s a preview of Listen to the Light in the New York Post. Check back here in the next week, and we’ll have our own review. You can download Listen to the Light for free for iPhone via the app store.
Bluebrain has another app in the works: a location-aware album for California’s Route 1.