The use of Mobile Technology for Music Composition

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1


The use of Mobile Technology for Music C
omposition

I
an

J Cole
:
Music Research Centre, Department of Music, University of York
,

Heslington
,

York YO10 5DD


1. INTRODUCTION


Throughout history,

musicians and composers
have been

interest
ed

in the
latest available
technology for the
composition of
music

(Ueda & Kon 2004) but since the mid
-
20
th

Century the use of computers has helped to
bring musicians and computer scientists together to se
arch for new ways to make music.

In

1970 the League of
Automa
tic Music Composers
(Bischoff et al 1978)

used networked computers to
assist in group composition
and as computer technology has got smaller and more mobile
,

musicians and computer scientists have strived to
make the
latest
technology work. According to Bl
igh et al (2005) one of the main stumbling blocks in this area
has been the reliance on musical notation software such as Finale and

Sibelius
,

whereby there is a need for the
musician to be able to understand musical notation before the co
mputer software c
an be used although there has
been successful research into overcoming these problems for novice musicians (Bligh 2005

:218)

2. MOBILE MUSICAL AGENTS


Ueda & Kon (2004

:54
) defined the concept of Mobile Musical Agents

(MMA)
which are computer programs
that

can be paused while executing and transferred to another compu
ter on a network to complete its

operation.

These MMAs form the core of Ueda & Kon’s
Andanta project

which is
“an open
-
source software infrastructure
which allows the construction of distribute
d applications that use mobile musical agents to compose and
perform music
”(2004 :
53). This system is designed to work across networks
,

so composers and musicians do not
need to be in the same room at the same time, it can also be used for distributed perf
ormance with each musician
being in different locations (
2004
:
54)
. Musicians using the system
still
have to learn to use the software
interface
as

the software architecture cannot be modified or changed be the user
,

which
does limit

the
capabilities of th
e system
.



3. FROM PDA’S TO I
-
PHONE’S


When we start to look at the
handheld

portability of systems for musical composition
,

t
here
was

some
interesting
work in 2001 by Mark Polishook (2005) into the use of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and how
undergraduate and
g
raduate

music students
spent a year using
PDA’s
to assist in their

music composition
. The
PDA’s were loaded with three specific software pac
kages to assist students

in composition
, Notepad which
allowed students to write musical notion on a small stave. Beatpad a pattern based sequencer that could be used
as a simple drum machine

and Theremini a software application that allowed students to draw
on the PDA
screen
along an x and y axis to make sounds not dissimilar to
that of
a theremin
.

A matchbox sized midi
2


application called SwivelSystem was
also
connected to the serial port of
the PDA to allow midi sound
s

to be
generated. The outcome of Polishook’
s research was that most of
the students

enjoyed using the technology
with

one student commenting that

“We’re

composing in a way we never thought we would’ (page137)
but
the
ultimate ou
tcome was that
handheld devices could never replace full featured computers running
software
programmes such as
Finale or Digital Performer

but can work as a

go anywhere


collaborative compositional
sketchpad
.


4. THE MOBILE ORCHESTRA


Since 2001 when
Polishook

undertook his research the adoption of music software for PDA’s and Smartphone’s
has remained small (
Elsdon

2007)
,

we have seen a number of samplers, synthesisers and sequencers be
developed such as Bhajis Loops (
Chocopoolp
2009), PocketJam

(HPC.
net 2009) and
PsyTexx by Warm Place
(2009)

as well as the applications already mentioned by Polishtook
,

Notepad and Beatpad
(
although Theremini
is no longer available
). I
t seem that since the development of the iphone and the
current generation of

mobile
phones that we are starting to see
advances in

the way the technology can be used for
composition

and
performance
. I
n January 2008
,

we saw the first public
performance

of
‘MoPho’

the

Mobile Phone Orchestra of
CCRMA (
Wang
,
et al

2008)

which has 16 p
layers
,

each using a Nokia N95 smart phone as the primary musical
instrument
,

although the group are open to using other mobile devices and have
currently


a repertoire of 8
publicly premiered pieces ranging from scored compositions, sonic sculptures, to
structured and free
improvisations
’(2008 p4). Interestingly the Orchestra

only using the mobile phones speaker output without
amplification because they wish to keep to their

original idea of
performing
‘mobile electronic chamber
music’(2008 p4)
.

Georg Ess
l one of the original members of MoPho is currently researching the sensor,
gyroscope and motion detection elements of
current
mobile phone technology (
Essl
and

Rohs

2009)

as a way of
enhancing the interactivity when making music with mobile devices
.

5
.
CONCLUSIONS


In this paper on the use of mobile devices for musical composition, I have only scratched the surface of an area
of music research that is fascinating and interesting
to me
and with
the development of the array of

iphone
music applications tha
t are around from playing guitar and piano (
MiniMusic

2009)

to using Beatmaker
an
iphone digital audio workstation

(Intua 2009)

to ‘Band’ (Moo Cow Music 2009) a collection of virtual
instruments to play that includes an audience with applause
, it will be
interesting to examine the usability and
usefulness of some of these application
s for composition

as the technology develops across other mobile

phone
platforms.


3


R
EFERENCE LIST
:


Bhajis Loops website.

<http://www.chocopoolp.com/bj_index.php> (accesse
d 31
st

Oct 2009)
.

Bischoff, J. Gold, R. and Horton,J. 1978. Music for an Interactive Network of Microcomputers.
Computer

Music Journal
, 2(3), 24
-
29.

Bligh, J. Jennings, K. Tangney, B. 2005 Designing Interfaces For Collaborative Music Composition.
In:



International Conference on Multimedia, Image Processing and Computer Vision
, Madrid:

International Association for the Development of Advances in Technology, 218

222.

Elsdon,A. 2007. Mobile Music Creation using PDAs and Smartphones.
In Proceedings of th
e Mobile Music



Workshop.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: May 6
-
8 2007(MMW
-
07). Available online at



<http://www.mobilemusicworkshop.org/docs/Elsdon_mmw07.pdf>.
(
accessed 24
th

Oct 2009)
.

Essl, G. and Rohs,

M.

2009.
Interactivity for
Mobile

Music
-
Making
.

Organised Sound
, 14
(
02
).
197
-
207
.


Intua Beatmaker website <http://www.intua.net/products.html> (accessed 31
th

Oct 2009)
.

Moo Cow Music website. <http://moocowmusic.com/Band/> (accessed 31
th

Oct 2009)
.

MiniMusic
-

Pianofly web site <http://www.minimusic
.com/pianofly.html> (accessed 31
th

Oct 2009)
.

PocketJam website. <http://www.hpc.net/file.asp?ObjectID=95649> (accessed 3
0
th

Oct 2009)
.

Polishook, M.
2005:
Handheld composing


Reconceptualizing artistic practice with PDAs
, in:



Kukulska
-
Hulme, A. Traxler, J (Hrsg.): Mobile Learning


A Handbook for Educators and Trainers,

London/New York. 2005, 133

138.

Ueda, L. K. and Kon, F. 2004.
Andante
-

Composition and P
erformance with Mobile Musical Agents
.

Proceedings of the 30th International Computer Music Conference
, Miami: 604
-
611.




<
www.sbc.org.br/bibliotecadigital/download.php?paper=95
>

(
accessed 25
th

Oct 2009)
.

Wang,
G.
Essl,
G.
and Penttinen
,

H. 2008.
MoPhO:
Do Mobile

Phones Dream Of Electric Orchestras?
In the


Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference
,

Belfast, Northern Irland: (ICMC
-
08).

Warm place website. <http://www.warmplace.ru/soft/palm/> (accessed 3
0
th

Oct 2009)
.