November 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

Musical Modern Art Masterpieces: Rain and Field

field rain app

So-called “generative” music, which creates itself anew for each listen based on various factors, has finally found a home outside of the Tate Modern, New York’s MoMA, and other modern art museums. Generative music lives (and thrives) on your smartphone or tablet equally well.

Borrowing a page from Scape (by Brian Eno and Brian Chilvers), Rainer Kohlberger, a Berlin-based freelance visual artist and designer, has released a couple of breathtaking apps that push the boundaries between generative (i.e. by a computer) and interactive (created by computers and humans) music. His apps, rain (iOS, $1) and field (iOS, $2, pictured above), feel decidedly like modern art, but they’re quite musical.

Rain is comparable to Bloom, the first popular generative music app. To generate sound, you shake the device to create colored beat stripes; tap to create black sound stripes; double tap to create phases; and double swipe to change the background loop. On top of that, you can manipulate the stripes you create, shortening or lengthening affecting the pitch with longer stripes lower in pitch.

Rain is impressive in the tradition of Bloom and Thicket, but Kohlberger’s other creation, field, is truly unique; we haven’t seen anything like it for iOS.

“In this app, the iPad’s camera reacts to light and colors in the environment and translates them in an aesthetic way in tones, sounds, and geometrical patterns,” explained the jury that awarded it the ZKM App Art Award Prize for Artistic Innovation. (It also works on the iPhone and iPod Touch.)

If you have $2 to spare and like arty musical experiments, we recommend downloading field and having a little fun — a “field day,” if you will. Just plug in some good headphones, turn on the app, and aim it anywhere, and you’ll experience audio and visuals that are out of this world. Three different “lenses” change both the audio and visuals when you double-tap the screen. You can also the resolution by pinching the screen.

That’s it. Although this app is light on the controls, it doesn’t skimp on the fantastic visualizations or the hauntingly gorgeous audio that pairs so nicely with them.

Kohlberger has created two stunning apps here that not only push the boundaries of what generative and interactive music apps can do, but also the boundaries of what modern art can be, in this age of mobile devices.