Mobile Phones - The (Musical) Instruments of Tomorrow?

By lwarbasselwarbasse (1259981345|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

All of the pianos, guitars, and violins out there better watch out - there is a new instrument in town. Probably not something anyone would expect either, it isn't made out of wood, it doesn't have strings, or is anything even remotely close to your "standard" instrument. Many of you are probably even carrying one of them in your pocket. The iPhone is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing instruments out there. With its ability to create such a wide variety of sounds, with numerous different methods of making them, from blowing in the microphone, pressing buttons on the screen, to tilting the phone up and down, the possibilities are endless. Stanford even has their own Mobile Phone Orchestra, which has been around for the past two years. The idea is spreading quickly, and even our very own University of Michigan has their own new "orchestra" whose first concert will be this upcoming Wednesday, December 9th.

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How It's Done

The process of making music on the phones is quite interesting. While applications for music making have been popular since the beginning of the iPhone's creation, such as the Ocarina, the iPhone orchestra takes the music making to an entirely different level. With their own programs, and special microphone enabled gloves, these phones can really create a variety of different music. At their recent concert, the Stanford "orchestra" even played their own rendition of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven.

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While playing that type of music might not be feasible with your standard iPhone application, it has huge implications for the future. The head of the orchestra, Ge Wang, a professor of music at Stanford (pictured at right, with a student who looks to be having a ton of fun…) thinks that these new instruments may make a huge impact. “I can’t bring my guitar or my piano or my cello wherever I go, but I do have my iPhone at all times,” he said. Professor Wang said he would like to democratize the process of making music, so that anyone with a cellphone could become a musician. “Part of my philosophy is people are inherently creative,” he said. “It’s not just people who think of themselves as artists.”

Thoughts From The Music Experts…

Music experts don't seem so keen on the idea of their beloved instruments being overtaken by this "new technology." "Stephen Tramontozzi, who teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and plays double bass in the San Francisco Symphony, questions whether iPhone instruments can viscerally affect an audience the same way as the vibrations of traditional instruments in a concert hall."

“The response of traditional instruments is so subtle to the movement and the sensitivities of the being playing it, so it therefore can express much, much more and be more touching than something that produces sound electronically,” he said." While some classical, or orchestral music lovers may not want to see their instruments lose popularity, Professor Wang believes that they will bring more people, who would not otherwise be attracted to music, become musicians. "He hopes that his ensemble — which builds the instruments, writes the music and performs it — will invent the instruments of the future." Whether or not this will become a tool of the future, or revolutionize the music industry is yet to be seen. All I know, is that this possibility just makes me long for an iPhone even more…

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/05/technology/05orchestra.html

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