Morton Subotnick Introduces Pitch Painter For iPad, A Way For Kids To Learn About Composing

Electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick has introduced Pitch Painter for the iPad, a new way for kids to learn about making music music.

Pitch Painter is a musical finger painting app that is simple, yet introduces kids to sequencing, musical concepts like inversion and retrograde, the musical instruments of the world and world tunings.

Here’s Subotnick’s introduction to the app:

YouTube Preview Image

Features:

  • designed specifically for ages 3-5.
  • select 3 instrumental sounds from each of 4 different regions of the world.
  • Hear what you are creating as you paint it using up to three fingers at one time.
  • play the “canvas” in many different ways:
  • hear exactly how you painted it.
  • hear it as a normal piece of ‘written’ music played from left to right.
  • hear how it sounds upside down, backwards
  • scrub it like a DJ
  • erase notes you don’t want.
  • save and load your compositions.
  • detailed instructions for parents and educators.

While we’d love to see Subotnick develop an experimental sequencer for adults – Pitch Painter looks like a fun new app for familiarizing kids with music.

Pitch Painter is $2.99 in the App Store.


9 thoughts on “Morton Subotnick Introduces Pitch Painter For iPad, A Way For Kids To Learn About Composing

  1. >musical concepts like inversion and retrograde, the musical instruments of the world and world tunings

    Didn’t famous composers–Irving Berlin, Lennon and McCartney, Bob Dylan, all the unknown Tin Pan Alley types who write pop songs, etc.–just seem to plunk out some chords and make up melodies until a song more-or-less worked itself out? Is Morton Subotnick teaching kids about composing or about academic musicology?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

    • for every musician or songwriter who didn’t get an academic training in music, there’s one who did. academic training is neither a good or a bad thing, and from my own experience i’ve found that a certain amount of (self, in my case) training is incredibly useful for getting stuff from inside my head to paper / computer / tape / whatever.

      besides, i think anything that engages kids with music in a playful way has got to be a good thing.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      • > i think anything that engages kids with music in a playful way has got to be a good thing

        Why? Because do you think music is so boring kids have to be fucked with and fooled into getting involved with it?

        For decades, two or three, we’ve had technologies that make tricky human things “easier” and more “playful” and “engage” everybody and not just the people who feel passionate about the tricky human things. Is the world a better place?

        When kids grow up having been taught about “composing” by things such as this, will the kids do better than: “Sugar/Oh, honey, honey/You are my candy, girl/And you’ve got me wanting you” ?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

        • I’m not sure why you would think a fun, educational music app for kids would be a bad thing.

          Subotnick clearly knows his stuff, and seems to done a clever job of introducing some more advanced concepts into the app.

          Teaching kids about music means they’re more likely to be knowledgeable listeners that support creative music.

          Seems like a great idea to me, especially in parts of the US where they’ve eliminated music and art from the schools.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

        • How is it “fucking with them”. Play, as any educational psychologist will tell you, can help children learn.

          This is not meant to “teach them about composing” but let them tinker with music.

          What would you (since you’re an expert) suggest for 3-5 year olds – a flip book version of Walter Piston?

          Also, why are you so angry that you find it necessary to swear in a comment thread about software for children. You, sir, need to calm down.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    • @AndyH you wouldn’t like all the finger pointing I get from Kraftwerk fans. ++ on the nice app

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  2. This is a great looking app for kids, hopefully Subotnick will expand from “my first sequencer” into similar concepts like “my first modular” and “my first studio mixing console” haha :)

    Seconding Swarmboy’s comments regarding the importance of play for childhood development. I think this app will do well insofar as the interface provides simple and intuitive metaphors for the basic concepts of musical creation. Regarding mark’s first comment about what he perceives as the “academic” nature of the app, it appears to me after watching the brief demo video that the interface encourages an open and exploratory form of musical experimentation in the same vein as those musicians who “just seem to plunk out some chords and make up melodies until a song more-or-less worked itself out?”. I think this form of ludic play is definitely beneficial for a child’s development and in no way “academic” as mark suggets. See: http://www.mcgraw-hill.co.uk/openup/chapters/0335212999.pdf for more on the importance of play.

    markLouis: Contrary to your rather elitist assumption that by making the tools to create music more accessible we dilute the quality of music produced, I expect quite the opposite. If a child at a young age attains a basic conception of how a visual sequencer can be used to represent and manipulate the tempo, pitch, rhythm and timbre of sound, then surely this is likely to aid them in a better understanding of musical concepts later in life and thus lead to musicians with a more sophisticated appreciation of composition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. >Contrary to your rather elitist assumption that by making the tools to create music more accessible…

    I deny that my assumption was elitist. I stand by both my posts. My points are intended to be that in similar but opposites ways we lie to children almost compulsively in the modern world. And I don’t believe we help either children or our society in general by either lie regardless of what might be good intentions behind the lies.

    1) We lie to children when we tell them some tricky aspect of life is so simple that “anyone can do it” and then give them some contrived mechanism makes it appear the children are doing something complex on the belief that they will be encouraged and eventually learn the complexity themselves. My experience has been children who are lied to get bitter and either abandon an activity or expect to continue to be spoon-fed tools that never require them to learn the complexity.

    2) We lie to children when we tell them some tricky aspect of life can be intellectualized and that “anyone can do it” if they learn contrived rules or contrived conventions. This lie I find particularly pernicious because it creates a class structure among kids and “good students” move forward as “better” musicians because, maybe, they understand modal theory, say, or have a good memory for scales and chord structure. So some kind who is _mechanically_ skillful and can play chord forms well and scale forms well but without the verbal abilities to put their skills into an academic context will be trivialized as “less” of a musician under this second lie.

    Some things are just tricky and if kids like this or that behavior and it is a tricky one we shouldn’t lie to them we should just help them through the tricky reality. Music is tricky. Some aspects are very, very simple. Some aspects are very, very complicated. Music can be approached emotionally or intellectually but either approach, to be real, is going to be tricky and require parts of the other approach to be learned, too. So that’s what I was trying to say without doing such a long post. I don’t believe this particular program helps kids at all. But that is just my subjective evaluation, based on the way I see things. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s great. I stand by my posts, as qualified by this longer explanation. Sorry to take up so much space, but I feel people were ganging up on me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

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