Musyc – Kinetic Music Sculpture App

Musyc is a very cool app. I don’t really use this for practice or composing but the thought behind it and the way that it works is so fun that I wanted to share it. I mostly consider this app to be a digital kinetic sculpture. Though you can make some interesting music using it and it has the potential to add some fun to a performance.

When you first open the app, it gives you a very well done tutorial on using the different shapes and adjusting the sounds. They also have samples that demonstrate the music and movement capabilities of the app. The great thing about these is that even if you choose to try the free version of the app, you can see most of what you might want to pay for in action though you cannot adjust these much unless you do pay.

In Musyc, each of the shapes will give you a different sound, though same shapes do not interact with each other. The size of the shape doesn’t really matter for pitch. Each time a shape hits something else, a tone is generated. So a bigger shape might make more noise just because it’s likely to hit more things. The pitch does change depending on where it is on the screen. You can interact with your sculpture and just drop shapes or you can set up a shape generator and specify how often it drops a shape and at what angle and speed.

The basic shapes in Musyc

The basic shapes in Musyc

You use lines to give form to your sculpture and to give the shapes something to bounce off of and make noise. There are also special shapes that will do things like vacuum up anything that comes close to them, (called a black hole though this looks like a hurricane to my south Texas eyes), generate gravitational pull (planet), bounce an object away at a random speed and angle (bumper), or rotate like a paddlewheel to shoot shapes in a particular direction (cross). There are also shapes that will change the pitch, effect pieces that come within their influence or adjust the rate of something, like tempo. Most of the special shapes are part of the paid version.

Special shapes are only available in the paid version of Musyc.

Special shapes are only available in the paid version of Musyc.

Also as part of the paid version, you can make your own sound sets and record a specific motion of any of the pieces that you would like.

Some of the many soundkits provided.

Some of the many soundkits provided.

There is also a mixer that is extremely helpful when you are trying to track down an errant sound.

Audio Mixer. Tapping on a shape here toggles the sound.

Audio Mixer. Tapping on a shape here toggles the sound.

The most interesting part of this app to me is making and using your own sound kits. You can mix and match the numerous sound kits that Fingerlab provides. Or for more fun and customization, you can record from the iPad, this won’t give the best sound but you can import sounds from a variety of sources as well.

Sample editing.

Sample editing.

Here is a recording that I made using just the iPad and spoken word. If you know where these lines come from, you and I can definitely be friends.

The base scale of the Musyc app is a whole tone scale. They are very specific in telling you that this is what you need to use…so of course, I want to try this with another 6 note scale…like a blues scale. I’ll get back to you on that one.

You could also just choose to have percussive sounds. In order to test adding samples through iTunes, I added some found percussion sounds that a friend and I made. They loaded exactly as expected and I think that it made an interesting hybrid with the included digital woods synth.

There is some stuttering in the recording. This is partly a result of throwing a few extra shapes at it while it was going and partly because the app was having some difficulties. I killed all of the apps on the iPad, and restarted it but it still seemed like it was a bit too much for my iPad or the app. This latency isn’t there unless you are recording…perhaps because it is having to do the video and audio at the same time.

The possibilities here are what makes this fun. You can generate pieces of music that sound good but you’ll have to work a bit to make this happen. When you share, you can share audio or video. I don’t have the latest iPad so for me, the video is a bit stuttery as well. For example, the cross should show as turning but the video didn’t capture that.

Musyc Video Export from K. Paradis on Vimeo.

Also, make sure that you are signed in to the service that you want to use to share the video or you’ll need to transfer the video using iTunes file sharing. Also, be aware that it takes a bit of time to encode a video so bear that in mind before you try to record too long of a snippet. The only other wishes that I have would be the ability to rename the sound sample files in app and have the ability to pick the background color. The color seems to be set by which sound set you choose. I hate to choose the aesthetics of color over sound but if you want a certain color background, this is what you have to do currently.

You can use the app as a kind of digital art piece if you set something up and leave it going. I could also see using this app in a concert in certain settings. What would be really interesting for that is if you could load a MIDI file directly and be able to map shapes to it…maybe have it generate the movement based on the MIDI info. Or it could be fun to use this as a rhythm generator, show it on a bigger screen and improvise to it…or even better, let a percussionist use the app and improvise to what they are doing while also showing this on a bigger screen.

All of this together makes a very interesting and fun app that can definitely be a time suck if you aren’t careful. I recommend getting the paid version. You can pay separately if you didn’t want all of the extras but can easily end up spending more than you would if you had just bought it outright. The developer of Musyc is Fingerlab. They also make the excellent DM1 Drum Machine app.

Musyc is a plus app though it is a lot more comfortable and fun on the iPad. There are two versions, free with in-app purchases. Or the full version for $3.99. This is where the fun stuff is so I recommend getting the full version and supporting some interesting indie developers. Musyc is currently on version 2.0.1 and requires iOS 7.0 or later.

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