Art Jam creates interactive, visual platform for musicians

Most instruments are played by blowing air through a chamber or hitting a taught string, but Sound Selecta Inc. wants people to play music by tapping animated graphics on a touch screen mobile device.

That’s the vision that’s led the creation of its series of Art Jam apps for iOS. The startup mobile developer based out of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone is offering musicians a way to let their fans remix their music in an intuitive and fun way on the iPad or iPhone. The app displays a series of pre-arranged scenes with animated objects, and the user manipulates those objects to affect how the embedded song plays back.

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“We’re trying to create a new platform for people to interact with music,” says Jamie Alexander, founder of Sound Selecta Inc. “I’ve always been into art, music and technology, and now they all fit together.”

Art Jam is newly available to the App Store, for free. Sound Selecta will sell users new remixable musical tracks with matching animated scenes to make money. It has plans to start targeting big-name artists at major record labels, Alexander says. Having a mobile app companion to a music album release will likely become more common, he adds.

The founder was inspired to work with Apple’s touch screen devices after winning an iPod Touch as an award from his former employer, IBM Corp. Alexander was being recognized for created a social learning system to encourage initiative within the company.

“It was a small award, but it was kind of funny how things worked out,” he says. “There was a gold rush happening at the time in app development, and I thought ‘Wow, I’m going to get in there.’”

Future Art Jam apps will be released to the App Store with a specific genre focus – there are plans for classical music, blues, baroque, and classical piano apps. One of the main challenges Alexander faces with releasing those new apps is getting enough user interface design feedback to ensure his users know how to use the interactive scenes.

“We don’t want to jump ahead with all of them until we fix some fundamental things,” he says. “Each time, we’re getting better and better.”

Sound Selecta Inc. is also working on a children-themed music app along the same lines with famed youth performers Sharon, Lois & Bram.

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