December 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm

RjDj’s Inception App Creates Personal Movie Soundtracks with iPhone Mic

Welcome to “augmented sound,” an interactive soundscape combining pre-existing musical samples, artificial intelligence, and whatever it can pick up from your smartphone’s microphone. The result: an entirely new piece of music that’s yours, and yours alone.

Hans Zimmer, composer of music for the movie Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, sees this sort of thing as an evolution past the static MP3 that sounds the same every time you play it (see video below).

Zimmer, Inception director Christopher Nolan, and “reactive music” wizards RjDj have been working on Inception — The App for the past couple of months.

Now available for free in the iTunes App Store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, this augmented sound app (like “augmented reality” but for your ears) is based on the same basic framework that RjDj has applied to the music of bands like Clinic and Little Boots to create augmented albums that never sound the same.

This time around, the added ingredient consists of passages from the musical score to the movie Inception.

The pairing makes a lot of sense, thematically speaking. After all, Inception the movie is all about “a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion.”

RjDj founder Michael Breidenbreucker explained the situation to thusly:

“Instead of using the touchscreen to control the app, you navigate it with your real life activities and situations. New ‘dreams’ are unlocked if you walk or sit still, if you travel fast, at certain times of the day and depending on the weather.”

For Hans Zimmer, who created the score for the film and was also instrumental in creating the app, this moment has been a long time coming.

“There’s a thing I’ve been searching for and working on forever, which is a way to get beyond recorded music, to get beyond ‘You just download a piece of music and it’s just always the same.’”

Hans Zimmer talks about Inception The App from RjDj on Vimeo.

I experienced this app in my office on Thursday afternoon, and recorded the results for your listening pleasure or otherwise.

The microphone input consisted merely of me typing, talking to myself, tapping on my desk, and hitting a half-full glass with a pencil. I stayed in the same location the whole time. Your results will vary based on what the weather is like where you are (seriously), whether you’re standing still or moving around (yes, really), and the sounds picked up by your microphone.


If you have an iPhone, an iPad, or a microphone-enabled iPod Touch (second-generation or later), you can try this out for yourself; it’s free in Apple iTunes. RjDj offers several more of these “augmented sound” apps, too.

We’re with Zimmer, Breidenbruecker and Nolan: It might seem a bit zany and overly-forward-thinking to create music that adapts to people’s surroundings, but the idea has real potential as a new art form. If it were around during The Beatles’ career, Abbey Road Studio’s engineers probably would have used it.