For his contribution to seven Dream Theater albums, Jordan Rudess is regarded as one of the finest keyboardists of all time. In fact, MusicRadar.com bestowed that top honor upon him back in 2011 (over Elton John and Stevie Wonder), in a ranking of the top 27 keyboardists ever.
These days the synth wiz is applying his technical savvy to the development of new apps that allow fans to unleash their own musical masterpieces. Along with his company, Wizdom Music, Rudess recently released Shapesonix and Maestro. Shapesonix lets users can create stunning audio-visual extravaganzas with the movement of a finger. With Maestro, users can play conductor to an orchestra of 3D classical musicians. These follow on the heels of such successful releases as the top-selling, multiple award-winning synth app MorphWiz, along with Sample Wiz, GeoSynth, Tachyon, and Space Wiz.
Additionally, Rudess recently joined music tech company Recombinant as Senior Artist in Residence. In this capacity, he is currently creating songs and samples specifically for their Jambandit app, which allows users to jam along to such insta-classics as "A Different Sun," "The Inner Door," "Pocket Change," and "Funk Bandit."
Now Rudess chats with Download.com about his new role at Recombinant, his new apps, and about achieving more recognition as a musician--and a developer.
What made you decide to join Recombinant?
I really respect the Recombinant group. They are top-notch musicians, programmers, and business people--something I really wanted to be part of!
What will you do as Senior Artist in Residence?
I will be an evangelist for the company, spreading the word far and wide about the cool products we design. I will contribute my personal songs and sounds!
Why is an app like Jambandit so important?
The concept is to put the fan in the band! Interactivity is an important movement in the music world today. The way Jambandit does it is really exciting to me. It allows the user/player to play really great-sounding instruments along with their song choice, while it automatically dials in the correct scale needed at every moment the music plays. The end result is that the novice (as well as even a professional musician) can have a great time!
Does allowing the listener to jam along within the app make the artist's (your) work less precious to fans? Is that a good thing?
I think it's awesome to open up the ability for the listener to interact. There is always the choice to just listen, but bringing the magic of making music to as many people as possible is just exciting!
What made you decide to start developing apps, yourself?
I knew the first time I touched an iPhone touch surface that there were so many possibilities for music-making...The multitouch of something like an iPad or iPhone opens up so many creative possibilities for music-making and control!
What makes Maestro and Shapesonix must-haves?
Maestro is a very fun, light app that allows you to conduct 3D animated characters playing classical music, while Shapesonix is a graphically-rich and musically-cool, generative music app.
What inspired the creation of MorphWiz? Were you surprised by its success: first place in the category of "Best Music Creation App" at the 2010 Billboard Music App Awards, "Best Musical App" in the Best App Ever Awards, and best "IPhone/Ipad/Itouch" app in the Electronic Musician's 2011 Editor's Choice Awards?
I'm very pleased that MorphWiz has had such a huge impact on the music world. For me it was very important to get that app out there because it is a goal of mine to keep bringing the world of audio and video together. The success encourages me to continue down that path.
What's the app development process like for you?
I work with different developers on many different levels: everything from the initial vision to the sounds and marketing. I like to find a concept that inspires me and then build things from there. A lot of things change once a process begins, which is really interesting. I've met so many amazing, creative people since I started working on apps!
Dream Theater just got their first-ever Grammy nomination. That must have been exciting. We were very excited to receive our first Grammy nod. The world is opening up to Dream Theater! We were going along just fine on our prog metal planet but when the Grammy thing happened, we got really excited that the rest of the world was acknowledging us!