In the first of an occasional series of technology features we speak to Gwilym Gold – an artist involved with the Bronze format – a unique way of creating and hearing music that offers a one time, non repeatable performance of any song created for the platform.
As the ways and means of distributing music change, so does the music itself. Reacting to and interacting with digital technologies the very fabric of music itself becomes an opportunity for unique, individual experiencea. A genre specific experience becomes a format specific experience. From multimedia artist such as Fatima Al Quadiri (aka Ayshay) to Bjork’s latest multi-platform album Biophilia – digital technologies and the internet have combined with the artistic impetus to push forward into an exciting new landscape that we only just beginning to explore.
For the current generation of artists who do not have the ingrained experience of purchasing physical or digital copies of music, it’s not even a decision to be made – you cannot miss what you have never experienced and so you look to what can be done with digital technology in order to present music in new ways instead of locking platforms and formats as futile attempt to trap some cash flow. This creative litmus test has already appeared with Bjork’s Biophilia – with it being noted that unless you have an iPhone, you cannot really enjoy the full experience. However as the proliferation of smart phones increases, so through ubiquity they will become the norm with the time between being a creative and technological petri dish for ideas. Now is the time for new frontiers.
Currently download-able for your Mac desktop, the Bronze format will soon be available across all Mac, PC and mobile devices. I caught up with Gwilym to find out some more.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background
I’m Gwilym Gold. Before coming to writing songs my musical background was mainly as some kind of Jazz musician. I am now just finishing work on my first album of songs as a soloist.
What is the Bronze format?
It is basically a new way of both making and playing back music that allows the finished piece not to have to exist in a ‘static’ form. It puts the music into a constant state of regeneration.
Who is involved in the project?
Myself and the producer I’ve worked with (Lexxx) developed the idea to a prototype stage and from there we worked with Dr Mick Grierson and a small team based at Goldsmiths to develop it to where it is now.
Where did they idea come from?
The idea came whilst working on my music. It was born out of a desire for things not to be fixed in place in the final piece. For things to feel like they are constantly in motion as they do when processing a sound in real-time or in a live performance. Of course the idea of ‘generative’ music is not a new one but no systems that we knew of seemed to work with the power and flexibility we wanted..
How long did it take from concept until the first useable version?
Lexxx started building the prototype straight away and we had one song working in it in a matter of weeks. It’s taken a lot longer to get it from there to where it is now.
What do you think is attractive about the Bronze?
I feel that when it works, it almost breathes life into a piece on every listen and pulls the music away from decay. It creates a space for a song to live within. After having listened to songs in Bronze next to fixed recordings of the same songs we just feel it is a more engaging experience.
How do you see Bronze developing?
The exciting thing is that it can go in so many ways. We want to make the interface for authoring music in Bronze as flexible and intuitive as possible and then see what other people do with it.
Do you see the project going off on different tangents – for use with video perhaps?
Yes definitely. I’m no expert but I think there is a lot of interesting things being done with visuals already along similar lines. I think the more people start working outside the dictated channels the more interesting things will hopefully get. We are looking for people to collaborate with on this side of things.
Bjork’s’ Biophilia had similar aspects – do you feel there is a groundswell amongst artist to develop these kind of interactive media technologies as they certainly don’t seem to be being developed by the ‘tradional’ industry/
Perhaps in contrast to Biophilia, Bronze came about more out of a want to enable the music itself to exist in a new way, which by its nature was more engaging on an aural level and not really out of a desire to create a more interactive experience. But yeah, It does seems quite natural though that all these sorts of things are coming from artists, as most industry led things and even a lot of artist led things seem to be about new ways of selling the same thing.
Can you describe the user interface – is it similar for the interface to creating music in the format?
Currently the interface for the listener is very minimal. It consists of a play button and a stop button. We wanted to keep it focussed on the aural experience and avoid distractions. We felt that the important creative decisions should remain in the hands of the artist. While the idea of the listener being involved in the final piece is interesting it wasn’t really something we wanted to do with the first incarnation of Bronze. It was more about creating a new way for the music to exist on it’s own accord.
How do you see the user experience developing?
The possibilities are endless. Once you take recorded music away from the idea of just the capturing one instance and add the idea of having something built into the delivery format that can manipulate the music then it really opens things up. Any number of transmitters could be used to affect the instructions sent to the music. Bronze in it’s current form and the music we’ve made so far with it is of course only one interpretation of this idea. It will be interesting to see what other people do with it and also to see how it can combine with other new ideas.
I would like to add that my main concern is the musical output. As interesting as the process can be, if it doesn’t improve how the music feels then…..