The concept of matching music to imagery is nothing new, but the advent of technology such as the iPad has undoubtedly made the experience of interacting visually with music much richer. In the case of Soundcloud founder Eric Wahlforss’ new album, Ecclesia, the ancient music of religion receives a makeover courtesy of that most legendary of tablet devices.
Ecclesia, which drops on June 12, features music created from recordings of church concerts (choirs, organs, etc) and a bank of percussion noises made by wooden, stone and metal objects. Although we can’t download the disc to our iPods for a few weeks, interested parties can already check out Ecclesia in its entirety on the iPad via an interactive iPad app of the same name.
The app is a gorgeous experience — an interactive store of sound sculptures that you can subtly manipulate to change the sound issuing from your iPad speakers. Check out a demo video below:
“The concept of the album goes back a long time,” Wahlforss says. “I have childhood memories of being in the church watching my mother conduct her choir. Choir music and the church and organs — for some reason, I have an emotional connection to that sort of things. It’s been a recurring theme in my life.” Despite being interested in church music, neither Wahlforss nor his mother are religious.
Soulhack, Wahlforss’ first album (he goes by the name Forss when creating music), also features choir sounds, but much more subtly.
Wahlforss started working with church sounds in earnest three years ago, but it wasn’t until the advent of the iPad in 2010 that he found a way to package the tunes. “I’ve always wanted to do more than just put out the record,” he says. “The iPad is the perfect medium, because it’s this sort of intuitive, direct medium. It has this sort of magic about it.”
To make the app, Wahlforss teamed up with two digital artists, Leonhard Lass of the Viennese audio-visual team Depart and CGI artist Marcel Schobel of untouch.fm. “We talked a lot about [interacting with the music] and how far we wanted to go with that approach,” he says. “In theory it’s a cool idea that the user would be able to completely reshape the music, but it’s actually really difficult to do that. So what we ended up doing was something pretty lightweight. The music is playing and you can swipe around and zoom in on certain spots. Those [actions] kind of change the music in an ambient way, but it’s not fundamentally changing the arrangement or changing the music substantially. That’s the compromise that we felt was the most powerful.”
It was really important to the team that the tech not distract from the music, a failing that Wahlforss finds in apps like Bjork’s Biophilia. “The problem is the minute you start interacting too much as a user, you stop listening — you stop feeling,” he says. “If you dive in too deep; you’re essentially playing a computer game and it’s more difficult to get an emotional experience.”
What do you think of apps like Ecclesia? Would you like to see your favorite band come out with an interactive iPad album?