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Interactive Digital Music: enhancing listener engagement with commercial music - Dr. Rob Toulson


Historically, interactivity with recorded commercial music could take a number of forms. Listeners have long been inspired to interact with music and create new representations of popular releases. Vinyl offered many opportunities to reappropriate chart music, from scratching and tempo manipulation to mixing multiple songs together. More recently, artists could engage their audience to interact with their music by offering mix-stems online for experimentation and sharing. With the extended processing power of mobile devices, the opportunities for interactive music are dramatically increasing. Embedding music in a bespoke app allows the listener to manipulate musical or technical aspects of the playback, and algorithmic playback systems enable a song to be subtly (or substantially) different on each listen.
This presentation discusses research that demonstrates a novel approach to interactive digital music. The research looks at the emergent format of the album app - as explored by artists such as Bjork, Peter Gabriel and Francois and the Atlas Mountains - and extends the existing paradigms of interactive music playback. The novel album app designed in this project presents a new opportunity for listeners to engage with recorded content by allowing them to explore alternative takes, renditions of a given song in multiple genres, and by allowing direct interaction with embedded mix-stems. Throughout the real-time interaction, the resultant audio remains true to the artist and producer’s studio vision; it is user-influenced, but machine-controlled. Further, the app is used to collect first-hand quantitative data of how the audience responds to the interactivity and the greater album app format itself, allowing the artist to tailor and refine their subsequent outputs in response.

Dr Rob Toulson BEng PhD CEng MIET FHEA

Director, The Cultures of The Digital Economy Research Institute

Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, CB1 1PT