Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers talk Scape, iPad apps and generative music

From The Guardian:

“I might retire, now I’ve found a way to make myself redundant,” chuckles Brian Eno, fairly early on in our conversation in his West London studio.

Hold the headlines, though. Eno is neither redundant nor packing in the day job. But working with his collaborator Peter Chilvers, he has released an app called Scape that enables any iPad owner to create “generative” music with some of his own compositional tools and sounds.

It launched earlier in September, described on the App Store as an app that “makes music that thinks for itself”, as well as “a new form of album which offers users deep access to its musical elements”.

The creative side involves creating scenes – ‘Scapes’ – by choosing backgrounds and colours, then dragging shapes onto them in various combinations. The result is ambient music that’s not under your direct control, but rather plays itself based on the scene you’ve created.

It’s the follow-up to a previous app made by Eno and Chilvers, called Bloom, which was released for iPhones in the early days of the App Store: October 2008. However, Scape’s roots go a long way further back than that.

“I got interested in the idea of music that could make itself, in a sense, in the mid 1960s really, when I first heard composers like Terry Riley, and when I first started playing with tape recorders,” says Eno.

“I had two tape recorders on the floor and one piece of tape connecting the two of them, which effectively gave you a very long echo, and you could build up sounds one on top of the other.”

Eno said what was exciting about this was the way he almost “lost control of the music”, which became a theme that he pursued.

“I felt that what was very interesting to do as a composer was to construct some kind of system or process which did the composing for you. You’d then feed inputs into it, and it would reconfigure it and make something beyond what you had predicted,” he says.

“I worked on things like that for a while: Music for Airports and Discreet Music were examples, but they represented were recordings of these processes in action. What I really wanted to do was to be able to sell the process to somebody, not just my output of it.”

Continue reading the rest of the story on The Guardian