Friday, December 18, 2009

SmartPhonic Music

By Mark Burke
Websters defines "instrument" as "A device used to produce music."  I'm not sure when that definition was first crafted, but it was certainly written with an eye to the future.  Who knew back then how the "mobile device" would impact our lives?  I believe we somehow knew mobile devices would permeate most of our lives and therefore the definition was written to ensure the future of instrumental music ;-)  Everyone who carries a mobile device should now think of themselves as a musician - fantastic.

To create music of some level of complexity, it helps to have an instrument with the ability to produce a variety of sounds.  Enter the SmartPhone device and what I hope becomes a common phrase around the stage, SmartPhonic music.  Homophonic music is music with one melody played at a time with other sounds as accompaniment.  Polyphonic music is two or more musical lines or melodies interacting to create the desired musical effect. Since there is no official definition of SmartPhonic music, I'll do my best.

SmartPhonic:  Music created through the reactions and interactions of mobile technologies based on their relationship to the physical world.

The iPhone is already becoming a viable musical instrument.  In fact, the University of Michigan offers a class called the "Mobile Phone Ensemble"

You can also visit their website at the Michigan Mobile Phone Ensemble

SmartPhonic music is created, with the iPhone in the case of the MMPE, by connecting one of the many sensors in the phone to its ability to produce sounds.  So for example, as the phone is moved through space, the GPS sensor can be used to produce a variety of sounds.  In the case of the MMPE, adding multiple players and a conductor raises the production of SmartPhonic music to an entirely new level.  New conducting methods and gestures are being developed, new rules about ensemble performance no doubt come into play and on and on and....

As educators, it's now up to us. How will we harness these new musical instruments? Can we now teach and influence more students than ever to create music? 

The future of viaAcademies is wide open.  Do I see a future class in how to play a Smartphone?  Yes I do.  What do you think?  Will SmartPhonic music become a new entry into Websters?

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