Interview with Robert Thomas from RjDj – Mobile Music #7

Robert ThomasRobert Thomas is a composer, performer and the Chief Creative Officer with RjDj. Through his work with RjDj he collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the Inception the app and was responsible for composing the music for Dimensions. I contacted him to ask about working with mobile music and he kindly offered to do an interview. We got to talk about his work with RjDj and some of his thoughts on the future of mobile music.

When I think about mobile music one of the most exciting/challenging aspects is balancing creating the interactive/adaptive experience with creating something is musical. Do you think about this when you’re composing?

Yes I think this is the key challenge really. For me its really about simultaneously thinking as both a composer and a software designer. The questions which come up for me are: How important is the interactivity? How obvious do you want the control to be? When do you want to give them control and when do you want to take them somewhere? Read more

Inception – Mobile Music #6

Inception the appInception the app is a collaboration between Reality Jockey, the people behind RjDj, and Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer, who worked on the Inception film. The app provides the listener with dreams–augmented sonic experiences– featuring music from the soundtrack of the film. It comes with one dream and listeners are able to unlock others by using the app in different situations. There is a traveling dream for when you’re in a car or train or a Sunny dream if you’re using it in good weather or the Africa dream in case, you guessed it, you’re in Africa. Read more

Bluebrain – Mobile Music #4

Bluebrain The National MallBluebrain are a musical group consisting of brothers Ryan and Hays Holladay. As well as producing music in the usual way they also like to create ‘different’ ways of experiencing music and have just released their third location aware composition The Violet Crown for the SXSW festival. This comes off the back of releasing their second location aware album Listen to the Light at the end of last year. They’re the first group I’ve come across who have come from a purely musical background and unlike the other works I’ve written about Bluebrain are actively creating locative music. By using mobile music as one part of their practice they’ve expanded musical expression to include physical space. Read more

Location33 – Mobile Music #3

Location33Location33 is a locative music work set in Culver City, California that explores the idea of an album in space and time.  People listen to the album by walking through audio nodes throughout the city. A different song is available each day as the album evolves over the course of the week. As implicit in its title, Location33: Envisioning Post iPodalyptic Mobile Music, this work looks at the question “What’s next in personal stereo listening?”. It was created by William Carter and Leslie Liu at the University of Southern California. Read more

Sonic City – Mobile Music #2

Sonic CitySonic City was one of the earliest mobile music works and is regularly cited in discussions of the field. It was one of the first works that allowed the user to “play” their environment and become an active participant in their urban musical experience. The user was fitted with sensors, headphones and a laptop. Sensor readings were taken as they moved about their environment which triggered musical events. This created an interactive music experience which allowed the user to improvise with their environment. The project was created by Layla Gayle, Lars Erik Holmquist, Ramia Mazé, Margot Jacobs and Daniel Skoglund at the Swedish Institute of Computer Science. Read more

Ambient Addition – Mobile Music #1

I’m taking a break from my series on open source controllers for a while to write about Mobile and Locative Audio. At the moment I’m working on creating a mobile music composition and wanted to share some of the interesting projects that I’ve come across in the process. The first project I’m going to cover is Ambient Addition. This was the work that got me interested in mobile music originally and started me thinking about mobile devices as a compositional medium.

Ambient Addition at the Media Lab

Ambient Addition is a hardware device that augments the sounds your hear around you by synthesising an augmented version in real time. The goal of the Ambient Addition is to change the dynamic of personal stereo use. It mediates environmental sound so that people can still remaining connected to their environment while listening to something musical. Shifting the listening experience from a passive isolating one to a one that allows you to actively engage with your environment. It was created by Noah Vawter for a masters thesis at the Media Lab. Read more


The QBO is an open source controller designed and built by Guido Tamino. The project was put together in fulfilment of a master thesis and its design is centered on the idea of an open source project that can have many contributors. It plays into the open source ethos by using Pure Data as its software and the controller itself was built using an Arduino, webcam and cardboard. The controller is a novel take on a step sequencer. The idea being to move a electronic music performance away from sitting behind a laptop and towards a more interesting experience for the audience. Read more

Aurora – OSEC #3


The Aurora is an open source midi mixer with built in audio reactive lights created by Matt Aldrich, Mike Garbus and Maro Sciacchitano. The mixer is designed to integrate with an existing midi based sequencer and to allow the user to interact with audio using a physical controller, bringing a physical element to electronic music performance. The Aurora doesn’t actually mix the audio signals instead its a midi controller packaged in mixer to provide a physical interface for digitally controlling music, creating a more tangible experience for both the performer and audience. Read more

Arduinome – OSEC #2


The Arduinome is an open source controller based on the Monome design, which was developed by the Arduino Monome Project, now FlipMu. It’s functionally the same as the Monome, but the big plus/minus, depending on your point of view, is that you have to put it together yourself.

The controller

The controller is essentially a square box with 64 back lit rubber buttons that can be programmed to do whatever you want. The most obvious use is to use the buttons as a step sequencer, but there are some interesting lateral-thinking approaches to the controller. My favorite has to be Boiingg. It’s a fun implementation for the controller and a great use of the LEDs to show that duration between notes is due to the bouncing lights. Read more