Playground: A remix at your fingertips

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If you don’t know Playground yet, you’re in for a treat! Playground is an app which allows you to create electronic beats within seconds. Simply swipe & tap your finger(s) on musical shapes & the smart algorithm will do the rest. It allows you to play and remix your own version of existing electronic music tracks, which you can share afterwards. The people of the Hermutt Lobby collective, the builders of the app, were so kind to describe Playground for us, but there’s more! All Red Bull Elektropedia readers can try their new Allta map for free for a week starting today!

Hi Jerome, what’s the Playground story? How did you come up with the idea?

"As electronic musicians since the nineties (in the Herrmutt Lobby collective since 2003), we were quite unfulfilled with what we could accomplish in terms of live performance: pushing a button here, tweaking some effects there. Not really a thrilling live experience from our point of view - not even for the audience, I reckon. So, we decided to research and develop our own live tools in order for us, as any other instrumentalist out there, to enjoy our shows fully and perform better. After 10 years of research and development and touring all over the world, we developed quite a few concepts and tools based on these 3 core principles: Real-time (no playback), expressivity, systemic (elements influencing each other). It was the right moment to share these tools with the community. Our first app called 'Beatsurfing' - an organic midi controller for iPad - was one of the first moves in that direction but was designed for producers only. The idea with Playground was to use the same concepts but with a very different purpose and target -give the music back to the people- so that everyone could interpret music without any musical background or skills."

It seems no easy task to set up such a project. How did the production process go and who helped with the process?

"It took two years of programming and a lot of testing in order for us to deliver the actual Playground experience. As for the artistic side, we contacted many artists and explained our vision behind Playground and what they could bring to the project by collaborating and becoming a part of the catalog. It’s a work in progress and we have a lot of features in the roadmap and many other artists we’d love to work with. We started as a band but in the last 2 years we are functioning as a startup, which was the only viable solution to take things to another level. It allows us to outsource work with collaborators from all over the globe. We are financed by a tech startup seed investment, accelerator and incubator called The Faktory and a regional fund called Meusinvest. We ask curators as well like D-Styles, Laurent Fintoni and LeFtO to connect us with artists, their help is so precious! And we also have a bunch of external collaborators and advisers who help us tremendously on a range of other aspects linked to our projects."

At first sight Playground seems intriguing, but also complicated. How do you translate the songs to maps and what is their structure?

"We decipher the harmonic, timbral and rhythmic rules that "make" the song. Then, we transcribe and put those into our homemade editor that allows us to "translate" the song into an interactive map. Basically, a set of geometric shapes - see them as instruments - that have different behavior.

Here’s a short video that will explain the common structure and will show you how to Playground like a pro!"

How will the app evolve in the coming months? Are there any new software features in the works?

"We have a lot of features in the works, but one that we definitely can talk about now, because it will be available soon, is the Looper feature. It loops audiovisually what you just played. A few DJ friends are already using it as a conventional looper to practice their cuts."

Apparently, you guys want to take your plans beyond software? We heard you went to SXSW to present a new Hardware product…What’s the story there?

"It started at the MusicTechFest Hackathon in London a few years ago, we were playing with our “Beatfader” (a Maxforlive patch that allows you to make beats with a fader knob), and we thought that it would be cool to add basslines on top of the beat with the same fader. So, we added some pressure sensors to the cap and found out that it was working very well. Now any dj can replace the plastic cap of his mixer with a CTRLCap to add expressivity to his mixes and musicality to his scratches. It opens a world of possibilities! We went to the NAMM show in California last January and at SXSW more recently to present it to professionals and the public. They were really impressed. We had the pleasure to meet a lot of musicians and DJs, it’s always encouraging to meet people you admire that are enthusiastic about your stuff."

Is Playground aimed at fans? Or do you believe it can be useful for producers?

"Playground is for music lovers first and foremost. But it’s also a new kind of distribution platform for producers that makes their music available in interactive format. This technological breakthrough brings passive listeners to become interpreters and that changes dramatically the relation between the audience and the music. They are now able to improvise and play with songs they like, it adds a sense of ownership if you like, that engages them on a very different level. We’d like to add functionalities in the future for producers that would want to use it as a creation tool but that will require a great amount of work and technical explanations but this day will come. For now, we really focus on music lovers."

The app already features maps by some well-known artists like Sixtus Preis, Yellowstraps, Le Motel, D-Styles, Free The Robots, LTGL and Guts. Can we expect some new collaborations any time soon?

"Of course, expect a lot of exciting new maps soon! 20syl is a long-time collaborator and we worked with him on his visionary project called “Le U- rampe sonore” which is a giant playground projection on a skate ramp. As a matter fact, today is the release day of Alltta’s map (20syl and Mr J. Medeiros) that your readers will be able to try for free for a week starting now! We are also proud to announce that we’ll release collaboration with The Gaslamp Killer/Mophono, Rhettmatic of the Beatjunkies, STUFF. who are about to release an awesome album on Sdban records, and there’s much more in the pipeline, stay tuned!"

So, 20syl, what was your motivation to jump in the Playground project?

"We played the demo and were amazed at the unique motion used to sustain the rhythm. The circular actions felt natural and fluid, allowing for more opportunities to trigger sounds simultaneously. We believe Playground is adding something innovative to the way music is performed."

Do you think, from a producer’s viewpoint, Playground can take on a professional roll in a production process?

"Playground opens new perspective on live recording, it could help to find new patterns. In opposition to step by step recording, it allows to record full performance and improvisation. Essentially, Playground is a playful app made for music lovers but it could evolve to a tool for producers."

You can stay updated or download Playground by visiting this website.

Download the Alltta map for free (trial) right after you grabbed the app! (iOS only)

Playground