KUSC unveils new classical music app

As a reward to its loyal followers, Classical KUSC has developed Soundsnips, a new interactive app that allows listeners to learn more about classical music on and off the station.

Classical creator · Chris Mendez, director of KUSC Interactive, worked to develop Soundsnips, KUSC’s classical music smartphone app. – | Photo courtesy of Chris Mendez

Dedicated to making classical music a more integral part of people’s lives, KUSC was in search of a vehicle to galvanize people of all musical palates. Through Soundsnips, released Aug. 23, KUSC reaches a large audience — especially the milennial audience, which could be a bit more exposed to classical music. Even those who might think they are not partial to classical music might find a new appreciation for Haydn and Mozart through Soundsnips. When it comes to this enlightening, user-friendly tool and app, there is something for everyone.

Chris Mendez, the director of KUSC Interactive, played a large role in the development of Soundsnips. With the intent of attracting new media-focused audiences, the KUSC Interactive team wanted to provide users with a hassle-free way to learn about the music they were hearing.

“We were trying to get to the question of how to make classical music, in particular, more accessible to audiences and provide them with a new way to hear music,” Mendez said. “We found that [with Soundsnips], when we listen to something as interesting as Bach or Debussy, we can understand what is happening in the mechanics of it all. It makes the music more enjoyable and easier to appreciate in a whole new way.”

Though the app provides users with a large supply of classical music knowledge, Soundsnips is as simple and straightforward as it gets. After the splash page, the navigation menu displays four main periods in music to choose from: Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th Century. Looking for a specific artist? Not a problem. Just sort through the artist list, which ranges from Bach to Vivaldi.

Then pick a song, sit back and listen. Debussy’s “La Mer,” for instance, is a dreamy composition emulating the ebb and flow of the sea and conjures up a majestic, shining quality. Then there is Beethoven’s high-energy “Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor,” a fast-paced but delicate piece that showcases the maestro’s musical innovation and creativity. While the song plays, informative notes, akin to VH1’s classic “Pop-Up Videos,” appear onscreen, giving insight into songs that are being played.

“It’s a one-click music player. You can listen to music as you normally do, but if you wanted to learn something [about the piece], all you have to do is go to the app itself,” Mendez said.

The app, through these pop-ups, provides commentary on some of classical music’s most notable pieces and a rhetorical glimpse into the minds of these illustrious composers. The commentary on “La Mer” explains Debussy’s use of elaborate harmonies as a way “to simultaneously depict majesty and mystery here, threading a chromatic line through a huge, rich chord.” And on Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor,” the commentary informs listeners that “the final major-key episode is in C major and drips with sarcasm in its exaggerated playfulness, setting up the final explosive, agitated return of the rondo theme.”

Besides the simplicity and educational and entertainment values of Soundsnips, there’s an added bonus: It’s free.

“You don’t have to download any music [with this app] or purchase the download,” Mendez said. “We’ve already gone through the effort of providing royalty-free music that you can listen to.”

But even without the fuss and fees of having to download songs, the Soundsnips music library is somewhat limited. Soundsnips currently offers a condensed, yet influential, selection of songs — around 30 to 40 high-quality classical pieces. But the KUSC Interactive Team is currently working to expand the Soundsnips song library. Another installment of new content is scheduled to launch in a couple weeks.

“We’re particularly excited to introduce our users to one of Mozart’s most important quartets and highlighting how early America inspired some of Dvorak’s work,” Mendez said.

Even during the glory days of pop stars such as Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry, KUSC does its best to preserve classical music and its legacy. Combining music dating back to the 17th century with technology of the 21st century, Soundsnips is an app that exceeds the limits of time and music.

1 reply
  1. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    More ways to make classical music accessible is a good thing!

    I hope the app also has a good way to integrate live music events. There are so many amazing opportunities to see live music in this city – I work with LA Phil, so I’m a bit biased – but it would be great to see more students at classical performances. There are so many young people *making* amazing music in town.

    In case anyone is interested, the full Walt Disney Concert Hall season is here http://www.laphil.com. This weekend there’s an awesome concert http://laphil.com/Korngold. It’s described as “lush and loving, dark and dangerous” which works for me this close to Halloween! Music from Korngold and Mahler

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