‘Apps On Stage’ Documentary Looks At DigiEnsemble Berlin & The Challenges Of Music Performance With Mobile Devices

Reader Matthias Krebs, a composer and sound artist, let us know about a new documentary, Apps On Stage, that looks at the DigiEnsemble Berlin & the challenges of music performance with mobile devices.

The DigiEnsemble Berlin, founded by Krebs), is made up of classically trained musicians that work to explore to challenges and to push the limits of live performance with mobile devices.

The DigiEnsemble’s performances are provocative and raise many questions. Why perform classical music on mobile devices? What apps are they using? Why not use real instruments? Is this more than just a gimmick? 

Apps On Stage, by Andrea Wieczorek and Lukasz Fabijanczyk, answers some of these questions. It follows the DigiEnsemble Berlin’s preparation for a recent live performance and offers insight into some of the challenges they face in creating performances built around mobile devices.

“The most complex thing is how to play on mobile devices in a way that people love the show as a musical performance, not as a technical gimmick,” says Krebs.

Here’s an example of the DigiEnsemble Berlin at work. In the video below, they perform the aria Ombra Mai Fu from Handel’s opera Serse (Xerxes), with vocalist Anna Gütter:

Krebs posed this question to us: “What do you think, will there be more musicians with apps on stage in the future?”

Check out the documentary and the live performance example, above, and let us know what you think!

11 thoughts on “‘Apps On Stage’ Documentary Looks At DigiEnsemble Berlin & The Challenges Of Music Performance With Mobile Devices

  1. I’m impressed by their classical arrangements, like the aria, but their pop arrangements sound wooden.

    Maybe it’s their classical background, but it seems like they’ve worked very hard to use expressions and gestures (and pedals) to bring a vert expressive quality to the classical arrangements. When they do pop stuff it feels like they don’t capture the groove.

  2. I’ve been having trouble with the pad world ever since it started taking off musically and I finally figured out the WHY of that. Its because equipped with only pads, Handel would never have written this. The time, effort and performance gestures required (and denied by the form) would have colored it deeply. There is an element of sweat required to write good music and how you make sound defines PART of the result when its played. A thing has less value when it comes too easily and in a realm where Easy has become a vital feature for many, it dampens the wow of pads for me. It still feels like a dog trick, because no one has yet stepped out as an original performer, offering something besides sound washes or covers. Those should be the stepping stones to the more personal and hopefully unique spot the thing will have to occupy to have a rep as good as that of a trumpet or a Strat. I’m impressed enough, but I have yet to be WOWED. If you’d never heard a guitar, you’d need a Christopher Parkening or a Stevie Ray Vaughan to show you its VOICE. I haven’t seen that person appear to become the pad equivalent so far. That’s why even as a synth lover, I’m having to wrestle with my weird little prejudice! 😀

    1. You seem to have the impression that these apps make it easy for musicians to play. That’s not the case – it’s still a huge challenge to play expressively with mobile devices.

      And that’s what make this ensemble interesting to me – they are trying to push the limits of these devices and find ways to play expressively. They’re all pro musicians, so of course they could probably play the aria more beautifully on classical instruments. But they’re excited about pushing the tech forward and performance with tech forward. And when you see the Handel performance, they’re doing a hell of a job of it.

      Remember that the goal is not to replace old instruments but to create new options. These people can play music anywhere they want to, on the spur of the moment – which seems like a great new musical skill to develop.

  3. A Jordan Rudess iPad performance its not, but an interesting video none the less, and I appreciate the posting of it.


  4. In case anyone is curious: the hot blonde in the pink dress disappears a few seconds in and re-appears at about 9m40s.

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