Ostinato for 8 iPods – ‘Switched On’ iPhones?

Sunday Synth Jam: The DigiEnsemble Berlin performs Ostinato for 8 iPods, a piece of music, in classical style, composed especially for mobile devices.

Ostinato for 8 iPods is for eight players with iPods, iPhones or iPads. The piece is designed to be easy to perform, exploring the idea that any group of musicians, with iOS devices, could perform it. 

For this performance, the DigiEnsemble plays the iOS app ThumbJam.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the DigiEnsemble’s performance of Ostinato for 8 iPods:

The DigiEnsemble is an experimental study group, founded and led by Matthias Krebs, that follows a systematic approach to playing on mobile devices (iphone, ipad & co). Regular meetings are held for group practice as well as discussion and refinement of the approach.

via DigiEnsemble

27 thoughts on “Ostinato for 8 iPods – ‘Switched On’ iPhones?

  1. The funniest part of your comments is how you are commenting about the better USE OF REAL STRINGS ON A SYNTHESIZER BLOG!

    Lol 😀

  2. I still think that the missing components in a performance like this is the relationship of the performer's gestures to the music being heard as well as the relationship of the performer to the audience. The big missing thing here is a feeling of the human attachment to the music, which isn't achieved by people sitting almost like statues while their fingers twiddle a tiny screen.

    I think having a MUCH larger gestural interface and the ability for the performer to make eye contact and interact with the audience (make the emotional connection between performer-music-audience) will help move this type of performance past the experimental stage.

  3. Good points

    One of the fundamental challenges of performing electronic music in an expressive way is connecting the dots for the audience between what they see and what they hear.

    By performing music in the classical style, DigiEnsemble is intentionally setting themselves up for comparisons, like this – so it seems that they are saying 'this is what is possible now'.

    Judging this approach, or something like Wendy Carlos's Switched On Bach, solely on its weaknesses, though, is missing the point. What are the strengths of this? What makes it worth trying?

  4. THANK YOU! I sometimes feel like a Luddite saying so, but yes, human attachment… I started on piano, took some lessons, tried a few other instruments, but was drawn back to the keyboard. When synths came along, I dove into that as well. Now I find myself feeling an uneasy "bias" against what I call "grid music." What these folks did was lovely, all due respect, but it IS lacking, because it IS too easy.

    Then I think, well, YOU just did a piece using a Korg and MOTU Symphonic Instrument, how are YOU any better? I think its 'better' because I have the advantage of a connection you only get from many hours spent learning how to make a traditional instrument speak well. The leap from a keyboard to a string bass in your head is far shorter than from a touchpad to that same bass. Its about the hands. This doesn't mean I don't think people should enjoy music in their own ways, but I stand by the idea that even just dabbling at that reality of touch, away from your iStuff, is important.

    IMO, so far, the best musical use for iPads IS as computers, not self-enclosed instruments. They are very appealing as DAW controls, editors or stashes for sheet music, but I just can't yet accept that pecking away at a small screen isn't less like playing an instrument and more like a chicken trying to hit the button and get a food pellet.

    Please pardon any appearance of hypocrisy. I used to make collages by splicing reel-to-reel tape and now I have everything on USB sticks, so I'm trying REALLY HARD not to be close-minded, HONEST, heh heh!!

  5. I can see a bunch of schoolchildren(and their audience) getting more out of this than making those awful squawking or scratching noises with recorders or violins (although ukuleles are a great improvement nowadays). Seriously, if kids could be got into making "real'" music like this without having to commit to the purchase of a musical instrument, it would help those kids to identify if they had a real interest in music early on. Others could identify that they had more interest in the technology, and take a different route. Everyone wins.

  6. Good point.

    With this approach, too, it would be easy to do impromptu playing, because anybody can play any part. No cellist? Doesn't matter – anybody can play that part.

  7. That was utter bollox…………fuckin rubbish, maybe it was a crap morbid piece of music , to remember the dead in macs factories? critically dull………..is everyone trying to be so avante garde
    Where I come from the word wank would be understood fully!!!

  8. ah, but i think you're missing the point. i'm not one for EMULATION. i love the sound of synths, and i love the sound of real strings too. my point was…why take a newer technology and use it to perform more traditional forms of music if the result doesn't yield a sound as good or better than the original, and sounds expressionless and clunky (behind the beat). If it was a piece that called for synth strings and wasn't emulating the sound and playing technique of a traditional instrument I'd be more for it. This is why composers think of the instrument they're writing for and make considerations for note durations, rhythm & tempo, phrasing, etc. in relation to the limitations and strengths of the instrument and the technique used to play that instrument. This is why a piece like 'Flight of the Bumblebee' will always sound better on a stringed instrument than on an iphone, and why it is more fun to watch a violin bow moving rapidly, than someone merely pressing a button repeatedly. I'd rather hear a new application for a new instrument or sound, rather than a rehashed emulation. Besides, if the sound isn't exciting and the performance isn't so interesting, then it just draws my attention to the blonde girl that looks like Beavis and Butthead's kid sister.

  9. i guess it's cause many people dont want to hear and watch a performance of an iphone making that kind of sound. especially when all it demonstrates is that a competent performance is possible. it certainly has nothing to do with art. it's dull, expressionless, and therefore – pointless in its current application.

  10. I would be more willing to listen to this type of ensemble if they had better sounding, more expressive software. Since sample libraries can get huge on a desktop/laptop rig, when you play a reduced phone version having only a couple layers and hardly any real-time expression controls, it sounds a little cheesy and non-expressive.

    The way to go for this group I think would be physically modeled virtual instruments. The excellent Wallander Instruments portable orchestra, WIVI Band, with optional breath control for wind instruments (as demonstrated by our beloved Jordan Rudess 🙂 ) would take the emotion and expression up a notch, which this group is in need of.

  11. It's not about what sounds better.Sure the real strings sound better!But it's all about that it is easy and cheap!That's why! I can play basic violin with my iPad even I don't know violin!

  12. Focus guys! Art it's about fantasy! Everything it's about inspiration and innovation! The way dosen't matter! Don't stuck to the details!

  13. i agree that 'cheap' or low-cost is nice, but i don't think most musicians are willing to sacrifice the sound. novices and general consumers won't care though. i get that you want to play a violin even though you don't own one..and it can be fun but i don't think so in a live performance situation. and most likely it will amount to noodling around more than anything.

  14. Because they are sliding their fingers over tiny touchscreens and making the classical equivalent of Heavy Metal Guitar Face, to show that they are >>SERIOUS<<. Its the equivalent of 4 guitarists, using wah-wah pedals and opening and closing their mouths in time to the wah, like gulping goldfish. It doesn't seem to come from the heart.

  15. Actually this software is quite expressive and exploits the movement sensors to add vibrato, pitch shift and amplitude. Its the musicians who have not developed much technique on the instrument yet. I didn't find this any more boring than the average string quartet, which also make little or no connection to the audience. It's not pop music which is more about persona than art.

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