Music For Shuffle

Sketch #15

Been playing around with Unity a bit. It’s got amazing potential as a musical tool. So far, I’ve not done much – I made a crappy little room you can walk around. All the coloured objects and surfaces have loops of music attached to them, so you can go and listen to things by walking up to them, or whatever.

As you can (hopefully) see/hear, the rotating pillars act as a kind of droney ostinato; the two little yellow cubes have little melodies attached to them, and the big flat canopies play bass lines when you stand under them. Super simple at the minute, but you get the idea.

Attention-aware music

I’m always banging on about this, and I like the thought that this sketch could turn into something that adapts to how much attention you want to give it. There could be free exploration, where you make all the effort, walking around, prodding things, or, after a period of inactivity, it could just wander around by itself. It could follow a random path, or a set, structured path. Maybe your footsteps could determine rhythmic qualities – if you marched or danced around, it could sound different to just wandering around aimlessly.

Gardening and busking

It’s also interesting to think about how this could turn into some sort of live experience. Maybe I could recreate this with live musicians, and people could be free to wander around it as they like. What scale would it work at? A café? A gallery? Multi-room? Street-level? Perhaps it could be a mesh network of buskers – a group of buskers could take over entire city blocks, playing one massive piece of modular, non-linear music. That’d be interesting.

Now I’m thinking of spatial metaphors, Brian Eno talks about this sort of thing a lot – I read an interview here a couple of months ago, and this quote stuck in my head:

“We should think of composers nowadays as being more like gardeners than like architects. When you build a building, you finish a building. You don’t finish a garden; you start it, and then it carries on with its life … composers should think of ourselves as people who start processes rather than finish them.”

There’s also something about music in urban spaces – specifically the notion of busking – that I’d like to tap into at some point. It’s a really flexible musical form that allows for both fleeting moments of attention (walking by, largely ignoring it, maybe chucking some change in the instrument case), or longer episodes of listening (stopping, maybe listening for a song or two), and so on. The relationships between performer, audience, site and so on are all in flux, as opposed to more brittle forms like hushed concert halls and so on. Lots to chew on there.