Generative Music in the palm of your hand

In the 1950s, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop used tape loops to create bizarre sounds for special effects.

In 1964, Terry Riley composed “In C,” the penultimate minimalist composition.  Many would agree that John Cage trumped it a year later with “4’33.”

Terry Riley - In C

Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain” and “Come Out” from 1965 were early experiments with tape loops phase shifting to create a new sound that evolved throughout the piece.

Brian Eno later coined the term “generative music” and has employed it in one way or another in each album he’s released from Discreet Music in 1975 onward.

Brian Eno - Discreet Music

Three years after Discreet Music, Eno produced Music For Airports, the first self-declared ambient album.  It will forever be my favorite ambient recording.  The album was so compelling that it has been covered in its entirety by Bang on a Can and in 2010, The Black Dog recorded a reinterpretation called Music for Real Airports built from 200 hours of field recording.

If you’re unfamiliar with ‘Airports,’ you can listen to it in my previous post, Elvis on the Radio, Steel Guitar in my Soul.

Since the early 50s technology has transported generative music from engineer’s studios and art installation spaces into our homes and our mobile devices.

In 2008 Brian Eno developed Bloom, a generative music app for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Since then, he developed two similar apps – Trope and Air.

These are unquestionably the greatest apps ever created in the history of mankind.

To quote Eno: “Air is like ‘Music For Airports’ made endless – which is how I always wanted it to be.”

Being that iPods are my personal kryptonite I’ll have to wait for the eventual (read: ‘inevitable’) release of these apps for Android.

Check out Bloom in action.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Upon further investigation, I’ve discovered an app called ‘Ambient’ by Audiobulb Records available for both Mac and PC. The multi-effect software module features a granular sampler with random pitch function, amplitude envelope, pitch shift controls, tape delay and more. Not as cool as Bloom but it may serve as a temporary substitute.


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