Musicians explore the brave new world of multimedia discs

December 27, 1993|By Michael Saunders | Michael Saunders,Boston Globe

Peter Gabriel, musician, is preparing for a career change.

As he sees it, he and other musicians who fuse sound, video, film and theatrical stage shows will have a new role and a new way of working.

The first step toward that future is "Xplora 1, Peter Gabriel's Secret World," an interactive CD-ROM disc that combines about 100 minutes of video footage, more than 30 minutes of music, more than 100 full-color photographs and a book's worth of text.

"The CD has a lot of those capabilities already besides just playing music, so you might as well take advantage," Mr. Gabriel said. The disc, for use on Macintosh computers with a CD-ROM drive, debuted last week.

Music industry analysts compare the trend toward multimedia to an advancing glacier: slow, steady and impossible to stop.

"We're all interested in becoming more of experience designers, to allow people inside the work. This is just scratching the surface, in a way," Mr. Gabriel said.

Todd Rundgren, long a devoted student of electronics, released earlier this year a disc on CD-I, an interactive disc-based format that uses a VCR-like player to display sound and images on a regular television. Jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty has also dipped into multimedia releases on CD-ROM.

Unfortunately for Gabriel fans without Macintosh computers, "Xplora 1" will not be released for IBM-compatibles until well into 1994, if at all.

The disc's most interesting feature may be the simulated four-track mixing board. With it, the user can customize tracks by tinkering with bass, drums, guitar and vocals.

The bells and whistles are interesting, but Mr. Gabriel says they're all to help his music have a social and political impact beyond entertainment.

"It's a chance for people to be better informed on whatever they're interested in, and when you've got some sense of movement and discovery, people are more motivated to explore," Mr. Gabriel said.

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