Posts Tagged: ‘RjDj’

Sensory postcard: Downtown Vancouver in Transit

February 12, 2014 Posted by Milena D

Even though I drive now, and have been for a while, the sound of various transit and traffic vehicles are still quite forefront in my experience and my urban sensibilities. After all, even when I walk on the street, I am affronted with the sounds of various cars and public transit vehicles. In celebration of finally upgrading my phone from a 4 to an iphone 5S, I have been on the lookout for various applications for ‘urban experiencing’ to play around with. I was hoping for a newer and improved version of RJDJ which would take advantage of the new Motion+ chip, but alas, there appears to be no money in that as RJDJ have closed doors and abandoned even hosting the scenes and recordings I used to be crazy about (see previous posts and this one too). I was dreaming about even more ‘reactive ambient experiencing’ from the company, but alas. They have focused on a niche of ‘intelligent’ delivery of music. Strange, I digress, but their model originally was always that – to deliver music in the urban soundscape, as a music label company. The reactive environmental sound pickup was actually just a smart gimmick – an add-on, to promote small music labels. Yet I’m sure I’m not the only one who got crazy about the concept and idea of picking up live sound and processing it in real-time. I didn’t really need any musical accompaniment?! I mean, it *sounds* like music, once you grab sounds around you and modify and filter them in, it’s magical, everything is animated, like your otherwise boring commute is telling you a story. Well. That was that. End of rant.

Below, are two videos of an app I have been experimenting with – Speaking Photo, and later, Picle. Both  essentially allow you to snap photo + record sound. Both encourage you (seem to be geared towards) combining these tiny static videos into a ‘story’ or ‘slodeshow’. Picle is better looking but more crashy, and allows only up to 10 seconds of recording (perhaps tearing a page out of Vine’s book?). Speaking Photo is not the prettiest thing but it works and allows up to 25 secs or so of recording (taking after Instagram). I want to come clean right away – what I really wanted was Foundbite but sadly and I’m sure purposefully, it only comes for Windows Phone 8. Foundbite seems perfect – an all-in-one: location-based geo-tagged, you record sound while you take multiple pictures and the app puts it together for you in one nice, slick package – a little slideshow that gets tagged to a location on a giant (global?) soundmap. Oh well. The moral of the story is, there simply isn’t enough interest in audio-based or primarily audio-based applications for ambient, locational experience. I did dabble a bit into Digisocial, Dubbler and Hubbub, which besides the horrible off-putting names (who comes up with this seriously? why does a sound-based social network’s name have to sound like a fat bee buzzing around). But ultimately they all seem a bit silly. Dubbler allows you to change the pitch of your voice (or any sound) as you record so it’s trying to encourage a bit of experimentation, but mostly browsing around it, I’ve found people recording themselves signing, etc. Doesn’t really work as a social network. I mean, part of text-based platforms like the web (and yes, I know it has images) is the anonymity. Voice feels wayyyy too personal, far too revealing about ourselves. I just can’t see it working, and I really want to.

So once again, below is a slideshow of one of my first attempts at using Picle. It’s comprised of several typical downtown Vancouver spaces featuring….yes, the sounds of traffic. Especially when listened to on headphones, what is interesting is to hear the difference in sound levels and sound quality in the different times and conditions. That’s kind of what I like better about this approach to sound recording versus pure sound recording. The photo does provide the context I think, for fully appreciating the contrast between the different sound environments.

In this one here, while it’s just a continuation of my recordings in-transit, is interesting I think because it features richer details of the soundscapes inside different public transit vehicles. I especially like the second one because it is done in one of the skytrain cars from the old, original skytrain – the King George line. That line I find has a pronounced train-like sound, there is something about the construction of the wheels and cabin, how they travel over the rails that is very attractive and more pleasant for me. The newer lines sound very sterile inside, still loud, but somehow wooshy and ambient and hydraulic. Less like a train. The last bit in the video is actually me standing outside, in a bus loop while hearing the passing of skytrain cars overhead.

Review – Project NOW

May 15, 2012 Posted by Milena D

And to follow up – my review on RJDJ’s latest app, in beta testing, Project NOW – the “perfect music for every moment”. Basically it is a fancy, glorified version of iTunes shuffle/genius, compiles your musical preferences by your own feedback of whether they #win or #fail. The catch – it selects music based on its estimation of location/environmental/directional/motion conditions. So it reads the calendar, clock, weather, ambient level, motion, location, etc. and spits out a song selection that is “perfect for that”.

Technical note: I am using this app on an iPhone 4. Don’t bother using it on anything less than a 4, it will eat your battery like cake for breakfast in 10 mins flat.

To start, I must admit, I am not a big iPod listener (I only listen in very limited situations – now I drive, before I found transit way too loud to listen) and not a big music listener at home – as in, not constant, only when I am already in the “mood”. So, with that in mind, here’s what I found to be Project NOW’s most critical features:

  •  it is a HUGE battery drain. constantly scanning location makes listening to music – what should be a very low-bat experience – a very “expensive” one
  • too much babysitting for the app to “learn” my preferences, too ongoing. I’d rather spend some time to initially set it up, asnwer some questions, rather than constantly babysit it.
  • the changes to the environment “modes” are too sudden – in fact, several times i was happy i finally found a song to listen to and i guess i moved, and it went away….replaced by another song that was apparently “more perfect” for that next moment. Errr?#fail

Overall, pretty interface, easy to use, interesting idea vagely reminiscent of tinkering with your own Sims music universe (and all the nerdy goodness that goes along with it), but it adds up to a very battery-and-intervention heavy experience that i can replicate much more
simply by making a playlist. And ultimately, the “perfect” music for a moment in time is not so much determined by environmental factors, more so by mood, imho. And that would be very hard to do in an app. Yes, quiet/loud, still/moving can connote some different genre choices but not necessarily. Many times I saw what the app gave me for say a calm/still selection and I thought to myself – “i can totally see why it chose it, but I don’t feel like listening to this right now” And here’s an internal conflict – app asks you to rate a song selection by #win or #fail, but when I press #win and get ready to listen, if any of the monitored conditions happen to change, that’s right….the app phases out my current song – the song I was most happy to listen to – and cues in another song – a song that I now have to go back and rate, and decide if I want or not. getting back to the song I was most happy to listen to becomes an ordeal. Makes for a veeeeery disjointed listening experience. Well, what does it sound like you ask? I took the liberty of recording a small progression of songs, using Project NOW, take a listen here:

Update note: Just wanted to add a further reflection I had on Project NOW. Stumbled upon the project now twitter hashtag (and I swear, I’m not stalking RJDJ to kvetch about it! it was a coincidence, I barely even tweet) and was amazed at the feedback – everyone is just ecstatic to be getting random, weird music selections, they seem to be delighted by the randomness or pleasantly surprised and impressed by the choices. I would assume these folks are European so all of a sudden I felt kinda sad that I’ve found this app so dissatisfying, for the reason that it doesn’t read my mind. It’s like in north america it’s not ok to not get exactly what you want. If it doesn’t instantly satisfy, boom, it’s out the door. Europeans somehow have a much higher tolerance for experiences, for unpredictability, for suggestion. I mean, Project now is still too finicky for me, but I wanted to add this reflection because I think there is a real core cultural aspect to the design that might not be that well suited for a north american market, but well aimed at the european and developing world cultures. Oh, neo liberalism. You truly cripple the imagination.

From the Walkman to RJDJ

May 4, 2012 Posted by Milena D

A recent interview I accidentally came into with Co-op radio Soundscape programme hosted by Brady Marks urged me to rediscover my previous work with RJDJ. Since I’ve been driving, it’s been honestly less enticing to use soundtrips and such, and work hasn’t allowed me that much time for playing around with interactive music and process composition. While preparing some new recordings for the broadcast I came to appreciate it once more – and was especially excited to discover a ton of new user-generated scenes. I kept forgetting they show up under interactive and not soundtrips. This is a short one I did in a nosy area near my house walking to the taco place. I am having to upload these sounds to Soundcloud, because honestly, I feel like RJDJ has completely abandoned what I thought they stood for, which is building a community around creating, composing, sharing and exploring reactive music, augmented listening and such.

Perhaps I was wrong all along, but after Inception – which I’d still applaud for its clever and aesthetically/musically striking design (a little boo for using Hollywood commercial music) – after that, it’s all been downhill in my most humble opinion. The scene uploading, the RJDJ app, the RJC1000 software are no longer (or not currently, for a while) being updated due to developers being busy with other projects – Dimensions and a brand new project, called Project Now. Those however, to me, are the components that made RJDJ a community, an open-source mobile music movement, and not just a company for apps. I was expecting a newer, better RJC1000, with more options to create more striking augmented soundscapes. With Dimensions I was expecting an auditory treasure hunt – a geo/art cache app with sounds. Perhaps because of my foundations in soundscape listening and composition, and acoustic ecology, I had been wrong all along, and RJDJ is actually just an alternative music label, a support platform for delivering commercial music, I don’t know. But I do know that they started something maybe they didn’t even expect, that has now been dropped by the wayside. if there seems to be any spite in my words, it’s only passion because I care. Or I did. But I’m just one person.

RjDj Soundwalk

March 13, 2011 Posted by Milena D

After a brief hiatus where I was busy with who-knows-what…Oh, yes, being obsessed with the Harry Potter series and already planning my next Severus Snape halloween costume, ahem; I am back to RjDj with ideas for a new scene. And I’ve re-discovered three scenes I didn’t give a decent chance before – Aware and Unowis, and KDSP’s Replay Atlantis. Now, I’m having some trouble uploading to RjDj’s web interface (Error 413?) but I’ve made mmm, at least 5-6 new recordings. The trouble is really, it’s so easy to accumulate recordings, and I always have trouble thoroughly listening to them again…

The other great news is that I’ve successfully now proposed a soundwalk with RjDj through the Vancouver New Music 2011 Spring Soundwalk series. This is an excellent initiative that has a long history, and is associated with the WFAE and CASE in Canada, part of the worldwide acoustic ecology movement. I have to confess I’ve never actually attended an official VNM soundwalk, and I know the usual folks are used to some techno-geekery but I don’t know how exactly walking around with headphones in is going to pan out!

Really, the only thing I wish is that I had some more time to look at all the PD utilities and tutorials and make a new scene specifically geared towards the soundwalk, a scene that hopefully goes a bit beyond the RJC in sofistication…Next time!

Since RJDJ have now closed their product and all associated website support, including their embedded player, I can’t actually link to any of my recordings there. But thankfully, the recordings of the soundwalk (some samples anyway) can be accessed via the Interference Journal, where I published a piece with my collaborator and colleague Vincent Andrisani.

Interference Journal: Aural Cultures Vol. 1, Issue 1.


Rant – More RjDj

November 20, 2010 Posted by Milena D

I am sharing one of the latest recordings I made with also my first attempts at my own scene – The Everyday Listener. It has four pages/stages going from a more heavily processed, musical environment to a more “natural” one. I guess I was intrigued by the idea of introducing natural sounds (water, birds chirping) into an application that also samples and transforms one’s surrounding environment (which for me is often transit, traffic, street noise, etc.). I am yet to do more purposeful trips to record and preview different surroundings, not necessarily just with my scene, others too. I particularly like everything made by Kids on DSP – great stuff! And it is too bad I was never able to use “A Tool through which to experience the city” – when it actually managed to load, which was one of out ten times, it sounded terrible, and inevitably resulted in static noise. I realize the slowness may have to do with the fact that my phone is just a 3G, so a bit slower, but I think somehow it should work better.

Anyways, I am already thinking of a new scene that perhaps doesn’t use music per se, but synthetic drones and again moves towards a natural soundscape. Or, just a one-pager with some bird sounds and processed mic input. Simple but it might be fun. And then I can go out and compare a whole bunch of environments with their typical sounds. Hmm.

RjDj Universe!

November 17, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Ok, I have discovered a whole new way of experiencing everyday listening….still through my iPhone. Will the possibilities never end????? (Steve Jobs, pay me now, for free promo, or gimme cheezburgr, ktnx). After downloading this app called RjDj a while back, and wondering what the heck it does, something made me go back to it again and discover a whole new world of experiences. Initially, I only tried out the few simple interactive modules like Can of Beats and Scrambler. I have to admit, one thing that stopped me, or rather, made me lose interest at the time was, these were super quiet. Like suuuuuuper quiet. And there were only a few. I know I’ve updated it several times but I never checked back to see what was updated. And then recently I went back to discover a ton of new content, with the “scenes” separated by themes and modes of interactivity. Albeit still glitchy, probably due to the fact that most of this is user-generated content (using their great Pd-based software!!!) it contains a number of quite sophisticated, cool sound modules. The ability to record these scenes has been amazing for me. It’s like new style composition! One type of scenes called Soundtrips is especially interesting, relative to my research (I am thinkging of including it as an activity in the next two user sessions) – it contains modules specifically designed to interact with, sample and re-mix the environment around. Once again, I remember thinking about this a long time ago, trying these out at home, without headphones – “but it’s quiet here??!? I want to create music not wait for a sound to trigger something!!!”. So I thought, if I have to put on headphones at home, forget it, and if it’s so quiet, how would I hear it outside in all the noise of the city.

But now, I take this baby on the road and just listen to it go. Amazing! It was a big mental shift for me to put on the earbuds and go out. I often opt not to listen to music on the go becuase everthing is too loud and i just don’t want to ruin my hearing by turning it up too high. So the shift was precisely that – listening to a Soundtrip scene IS both like listening to music and listening to the outside environment at the same time, so the fact that they blend only adds to the experience. The whole point is ambient listening and the integration of the outside environment into that ambient listening experience. In other words, I am no longer trying to separate my inner and outer worlds, but combine them. Michael Bull could have a field day with this, but I found it first yesss!

I’ll likely blog about this a few more times, and for now here’s a little taste from my RjDj universe, a series I think I’m going to call “Commuter Music”. And since RJDJ have now closed their website, here is a bit of an oldie I saved on Soundcloud: