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Rocker Townshend Tunes Musical Portraiture

Guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, famous for his contributions to the iconic rock band The Who, has taken the wraps off The Lifehouse Method, a new Internet-based software program which enables users to “sit” for musical portraits created in response to their interactions with the Method software. The software, developed by composer/mathematician Lawrence Ball and programmer Dave Snowden takes rhythms and audio sample input by the user (or selected from an existing library), then mashes and fabricates the material into audio portraits unique to each user. The software requires Java, JavaScript, and Adobe’s Flash player, and users should ideally have a microphone connected to their computer so they can input their own sounds and rhythms.

The project is a spinoff of Townshend’s long-developing Lifehouse project, which began in the late 1960s as The Who were developing their rock opera Tommy, and to which Townshend has returned several times over the course of his career.

The site officially opens to visitors on May 1; users will be able to sit for three portraits for free, creating their own individual pieces of music to which they will retain some copyright. After August 1, the Method will become a paid subscription service. Composers—including Ball and occasionally Townshend himself—plan to review individual portraits, and possible expand upon them, adding instruments and rhythms and maybe even making them into full fledged songs.

Townhend has said in his blog and elsewhere that he hopes the Method can help the Internet become a way that people create music, rather than just a mechanism by which music is sold and distributed.