Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rock Musicians Tackle CD-ROM with an Eye on the Future No One Can Predict How Big Interactive Entertainment Will Become, but Some Are Trying

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rock Musicians Tackle CD-ROM with an Eye on the Future No One Can Predict How Big Interactive Entertainment Will Become, but Some Are Trying

Article excerpt

PETER GABRIEL has often been described as an art-rocker, video pioneer, and promoter of world music and human rights.

But these days, Mr. Gabriel is also known as an "experience designer" - to use his words.

Enter "Xplora 1: Peter Gabriel's Secret World," an interactive CD-ROM that allows any user of a Macintosh with a CD-ROM disc drive to participate in various "interactive" experiences that Gabriel has, in fact, helped design.

A click of the mouse and voila: You can get a behind-the-scenes look at Gabriel's "Real World Recording Studio," for example, and remix his song "Digging in the Dirt." Then, you can "travel" around the world and sample music, talk to musicians, even try different instruments such as the Darabuka, a pear-shaped drum from Egypt.

A CD-ROM looks like an ordinary audio compact disc; ROM stands for read-only memory. But this relatively new technology can store massive amounts of information including video, music, text, still pictures, and graphics.

While Gabriel is considered a pioneer in this evolving medium of interactive, multimedia rock-and-roll, he is not alone.

Todd Rundgren was one of the first with his "TR-I: No World Order," which allows the user to remix and change an entire album. David Bowie has created an interactive disc scheduled for release this spring. Thomas Dolby, Billy Idol, and U2 are producing or experimenting with CD-ROM projects. Rumor has it that Prince, Michael Jackson, and Madonna are also looking into the technology.

In addition, many major record labels have recently created interactive divisions.

All this suggests that just as popular music branched out into video (read: MTV), it may also go interactive.

Not surprisingly, moviemakers are keeping a close eye on interactive technology, causing insiders to buzz about "Siliwood" - Hollywood meets Silicon Valley. But what exactly will sell in consumerland remains to be seen.

"Nobody's really figured out where the big bucks are yet. They know that it's coming and that they can't afford to be left behind," says Fredric Paul, features editor for Electronic Entertainment magazine in San Francisco.

While some applaud the efforts to make entertainment more interactive, others wonder if music listeners, specifically, want to exert themselves to be entertained.

"A lot of people are paying for {audio} CDs because they want the artist's vision, and they don't want to be actively challenged to participate," says Jim Willcox, senior editor for TWICE, a consumer electronics magazine in New York. People in the industry are still trying to discover the degrees of interactivity that consumers are really going to be looking for, Mr. Willcox says. "The technology is captivating right now, but it's too soon in the marketplace to see how they are going to vote on these things."

Electronic Entertainment's Mr. Paul predicts that the future will bring the best of both worlds. "In five years, there won't be much of a difference between regular audio CDs and multimedia interactive experiences. …

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