Bjork's Biophilia iPad app

Bjork’s new Biophilia project has begun this week with the release of the Biophilia ‘mother app’, and the first of the musical releases, ‘Crystalline’.
We first came across rumblings of the Biophilia project at the end of 2010 whilst adding the final finessing touches to the sound design for Solar System for iPad. The app included an exclusive track from Bjork that played on startup, set to an animated fly through of the solar system. We designed all the haptic rumbles, atmosphere and the homepage theme to blend with Bjork’s track so there was a tonic consistency to the user experience.
That first piece of music, and it’s affiliation with both an iPad app and the theme of the universe from cosmic to microcosmic, was the beginning of a full blown exploration into technology, music, sound and nature. So has she achieved the next step along the iPad’s evolutionary path?
Well, first of all I think Bjork is one of the very few true geniuses in music today, and almost everything she does I adore. Musically this is no exception and I believe this may be her best album in the traditional sense since Vespertine. But as a sound designer with a special interest in the possibilities of audio in apps, I’m still not sure she has achieved something particularly ground breaking.
The homepage world of a line drawn nebular wherein every star contains a piece of music is beautiful. As you fly past each star the track assigned to it becomes audible and moves around you spatially, which is great though they could have been more intelligent with the holophonic (or binaural) sound design. Many sound based apps these days claim to have immersive 3D binaural audio (last year’s Inception app for example), and are usually just simply stereo. This is no exception.
Playing in the background of this nebular environment is an eerie vocal drone, which while being both beautiful and atmospheric, glitches at the end of its loop every 30 secs or so. I would’ve though they could have worked out how to make sound files loop without a glitch (we have). I know this is a minor fact, but I feel if you’re presenting something as breaking new ground in sound and technology, you kind of have to do it well.
Within the ‘Crystalline’ track there are a few visual representations of the music. There is a game reminiscent of the blowing-up-the-Deathstar bit from the original Star Wars arcade game. It’s kind of cool as an interactive video. But personally when I’m listening to something new, I want to concentrate on listening and not be occupied trying to work out how to play a game. The other visualisations take more of a musical tablature/score form. Neither manage to create a multi-sensorial experience, but rather two separate sensorial experiences.
Overall, again grand claims have been made about a new exploration of sound, and a new use of the iPad technology, that has made me prick my ears up and wonder if someone has done something really, truly interesting. So far (and there are still several tracks to be released that could suddenly blow this all out of the water), it hasn’t quite delivered. The interface needs refinement (though it works better on an iPad 2). The visualisations are nice but don’t add anything really. The sound (again, so far) is good but not brilliantly executed - I expect more. The music and the visual direction are beautiful and very Bjork, but this is a marketing tool with some interesting content, and nothing more. I’d still rather put the album on, lay back, and do my own explorations of space.


Wine List

If you’re having a dinner party this weekend, one of the choices you may be pondering over is what is the perfect music for the occasion? Another perhaps is what wine will you serve? Well fear not as Condiment Junkie have the solution to both your problems.
Did you know it is possible to design a playlist that not only entertains your guests but can actually enhance and compliment the wine you are drinking?
Music and sound can alter our perception of how things taste. This takes into account several factors - that our emotional state affects our perception, that music conjures up strong memories, and those memories can change our mood and also evoke other senses such as smell; and the fact that we have hard wired sensory links in our brains which certain sounds can trigger.

Studies have shown playing music with specific moods or associative qualities such as being smooth, sophisticated, upbeat or light etc, can influence perception of wine in exactly the same way. For instance, a red wine was judged to be 60% more ‘powerful and heavy’ when similar music (in this case Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’) was playing in the background, as opposed to the same wine being judged ‘subtle and refined’ when listening to ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ by Tchaikovsky.

Hard wired ‘cross-modal’ sensory associations are proved to exist within all of our brains. Basically - our senses are linked, and stimulating one can alter our perception of another. Colours appear brighter when accompanied with a higher pitched tone, darker when a lower tone is played. All basic tastes - bitter, sweet, sour, salty, umami - have over many studies been shown to be linked with certain audio characteristics, from types of musical instruments, pitch, timbre and tempo

These discoveries provide us with all sorts of information that can influence everything from in-store music for food and drink retailers, background music in restaurants, advertising tracks or music at experiential events, and for designing a correct sound palette for a brand’s sonic identity.
But for now, Condiment Junkie have designed a short Spotify playlist for your listening and drinking pleasure. Below is a list of the tracks and their suggested wine pairings. We’ve given you two tracks for each wine. Be aware not to drink the wrong wine with the wrong piece of music! There’s nothing worse than accidentally making your Cabernet Sauvignon taste all citrusy. Enjoy.

http://open.spotify.com/user/russelljones/playlist/2HSz2yCCpVudLgRy8JC8tk Wine list
Track 1 - Nouvelle Vague - Just can’t get enough

Wine - Chablis or Chardonnay
Wines with zingy and refreshing qualities such as a citrusy Chablis have been proven to taste 40% more zingy and refreshing while listening to this track.
Track 2 - Blondie - Atomic
Wine - Chablis or Chardonnay
Again, the upbeat tempo will highten the zingy flavours and the higher pitched register of the track fits with the lighter wines.

Track 3 - The Jones Girls - Nights over Egypt

Wine - Cabernet Sauvignon
The smooth vibe will bring out the smoothness in the wine, while the mid-tempo will keep it lively
Track 4 - The Doors - People are Strange - Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine - Cabernet Sauvignon
clark Smith, a california winemaker and wine consultant, found after a number of tasting panels that participants described a Cabernet Sauvignon as ‘more deliscious’ when accompanied by this Doors classic.
Track 5 - Kettly Lester - Love Lessons
Wine - Merlot
This track has all the sophistication and depth you need for a good merlot.

Track 6 - Antony & the Johnsons - Another World
Wine - Merlot
The bassy frequencies are proven to be hard wired to bitter flavours, and will work well with the tannins in the wine, while Antony Hegarty’s angelic voice will bring out the smoothness, depth and sophistication.
Track 7 - Dusty Springfield - Who gets your love
Wine - Sauternes
The staccato rhythm of the keys, and the use of keyboards themselves are attributed with sweet flavours, particularly orange. Dusty’s high register will also work well with the syrupy sweetness.
Track 8 - Roxy Music - Dance Away
Wine - Sauternes
Again, the staccato rhythm and sweet vocals will work well with a good desert wine. Maybe have a nice panna cotta with this one.