This post is part of our ongoing series of app reviews for mobile devices. In September, Thomas posted our first review, which features iOS app Pocket Audio Tools. We’re pleased to expand the series to Android apps with a look at In Your Own Time.
Created by Dublin-based composer David Collier and released in August 2013, In Your Own Time is an adaptive musical composition designed exclusively for performance on mobile devices. Audiences experience the piece through the app, which uses feedback from the listener’s surroundings to alter the playback of the music, making each “performance” of the piece unique.
Inspired by apps like RjDj’s Situ music player (which selects tracks based on the user’s current activities) and Bluebrain’s location-based musical works, Collier hopes that In Your Own Time will “reconnect” users to their immediate surroundings, bringing elements from the outside environment into the experience of using a smartphone.
As a piece of music, In Your Own Time conceptually elegant. Five calming, ethereal melodies are constant elements, meaning that you’ll always hear the same tunes with each listen. Each melody always enters at the same moment in every playback of the piece. (For example, melody A always begins at the 60-second mark, melody B always comes in after 90 seconds, etc.)
Collier cites Arvo Pärt and Benjamin Britten as influences for In Your Own Time’s structure and melodic material. The tunes provide a fitting soundtrack for a variety of situations, and the adaptive elements ensure that you’ll get a faster, denser of the piece for your morning jog than you would while relaxing on the couch with a good book.
It’s in the tempo and rhythm where things start to become more complex. A built-in pedometer measures the user’s walking speed and uses their gait to determine the tempo of each new melodic line. The app also samples sounds from the surroundings and adjusts rhythmic material accordingly. As the melodies combine and overlap, differences in tempo and rhythm can create a variety of interesting soundscapes, from hocket effects to drone-like layers.
The lightweight app is incredibly easy to use — just plug in your headphones, press the giant play button on the app’s home screen, and you’re in business. I could see In Your Own Time becoming a staple for commuters or a handy companion for a stroll in the park. Just watch out if you’re jumping rope or hopping over a puddle — the app is programmed to skip a beat if the device is shaken.
Currently, the app is only available for Android devices, though Collier hopes he will eventually be able to release a version for iOS. Collier considers In Your Own Time a complete, stand-alone work of music, so no upgrades or new releases of the existing Android app are planned. However, he’s toying with the idea of another app-based musical composition that creates a “crowd-generated soundscape” based on feedback from a group of users.
When he’s not developing apps or presenting In Your Own Time at events like London’s MusicTechFest and Italy’s SoundSCAPE Music Festival, Collier also composes both acoustic and electronic music. He’s currently working on a string quartet, Smacht, that’s based on an earlier piece written for laptop orchestra.