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Brian Eno's new iPad app 'Scape' lets you build intelligent, reactive ambient music

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Scape app
Scape app

Composer and producer Brian Eno has pretty much done it all in his 40-plus year career, but one of his best-known musical traits are his incredibly minimalistic soundscapes. They're not for everyone, but those who love ambient music should enjoy his new app, Scape. The app, created with musician and software designer Peter Chilvers, lets users pull together a variety of shapes, backgrounds, and color schemes – each with its own corresponding musical cues —to create their own visual and sonic landscape. There are no proxies to any sort of traditional music creation tools; everything is based on the abstract imagery and the sounds each visual creates. The shapes (known as elements) each have their own specific, hidden musical rules, so it's a bit of a guessing game — but the elements and background sounds all intelligently play off each other and adjust their behavior to fit what is happening around them.

Visual music creation, no prior musical training required

This means it's next to impossible to create a specific composition, but the fun in Scape is being surprised at how the different pieces work together; you'll need to embrace the relative lack of control to have fun with it. The app starts you off slowly, with a relatively limited palette of sounds, but the more you create the more elements it offers you — after just a few minutes, this kept me wanting to play more to see what other sounds would reveal themselves to me. Further pushing that feeling of inspiration is the full album's worth of music Eno and Chilvers created that can be played back on the app. There's a wide variety of sounds in those songs, and it makes you want to keep exploring the app and opening up new sonic tools.

There's a host of other smart features on board, like the ability to put together playlists of your scapes (so you can sequence your own ambient masterpiece), the ability to email scapes to other users, and Airplay support for wireless music playback. If you're a minimalistic music fan, Scape offers an engaging and fast way to jump into the music creation world — while you're stuck on the rails that Eno and Chilvers created for you, there's enough variety here to quickly and easily make some unique compositions of your own.