Thursday, April 25, 2013
MIAMI — The song Jorge Drexler is singing has no specific end or beginning.
“You were sleeping and I was watching you,” it might start. Or he might sing, “In came the daylight and the window showed a new season.”
Two strangers meet in hotel room 316. And what happens there, the listener decides. They may kiss and set sail into the unknown or gaze at each other and never touch.
The Oscar-winning Uruguayan musician with a salt and pepper beard has created a song with more possibilities than the estimated number of stars in the universe.
It’s all devisable through “n by Jorge Drexler,” a mobile phone application he created with Wake App designers that debuts three new songs. He presented the project at the Billboard Latino Music Conference Tuesday in Miami. In Spain, it’s already become a top iTunes store app.
In the first song, “Room 316,” the user chooses what Drexler will sing from rotating circles of phrases. All of the combinations make sense and no two are the same.
That’s followed by, “Driftwood,” in which Drexler sings and the user decides on the instruments in the background: A string quartet, a choir or perhaps a sole guitar. The app detects the user’s location and gives the listener access to different instruments depending on their location.
The final song, “Decima to the power of ten,” is a tribute to the centuries-old Spanish-language poetic structure with 10 lines and a calculated syllable and rhythmic count. Drexler spent nine months laboring over ten decimas in which all the lines could be fluidly interchanged.
The concept behind the work is infinity, an idea that has long enchanted Drexler and which he has written about, without having composed an infinite song itself.
He says the new odes are like a butterfly.
“A butterfly is beautiful,” Drexler says from a room overlooking the emerald waters of Biscayne Bay, a crowd of musicians, photographers and aspiring artists circling outside. “You can watch it in two situations. You can watch it fly and moving and see the beauty in the movement.”
Or: You can watch it dead, pinned to a piece of paper.
“And it’s still beautiful,” he says. “But it’s not the same thing. These songs move. I love the movement of the songs. If you stop them I think you freeze them. That’s not what they’re supposed to be.”
The Grammy-nominated artist has his doubts about whether listeners are ready to embrace a new way of interacting with music.
“I actually think it’s not the right time,” he says. “It’s too early.”
But it was the right time for him. When approached about creating a mobile app, Drexler says he wanted to go beyond a simple fan page with information about tour dates. He wanted to create a new experience. Probing the concept of technology and infinity, he drew on inspiration from composers like Brazilian musician Chico Buarque and 13th-century philosopher Ramon Llull.
Drexler was trained as a doctor before becoming a musician and frequently intertwines themes of love and displacement with ideas from math and science. The “n’’ in the name of the mobile phone app comes is a mathematical reference to the symbol that represents a series of natural numbers.
“This was exhausting,” he says. “It was a year and a half of trying to explain to everybody from record companies to musicians that this was a new concept.”
Despite the fact there are many songs within one, and users of the free mobile app can essentially create their own ballads, Drexler said still feels the composition is his.
“It’s a song that’s like a living being,” he says. “I don’t create it as a statue. I create it as a living being and I know that it’s changing and evolving all the time.”