Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another transcendent iPhone moment: a new musical instrument

The iPhone still annoys me, it crashes all the time, and the long litany of annoyances goes on, but it still more than makes up for it with transcendent experiences. One recent one was the latest app, Smule's Ocarina, the top selling app for $0.99.

I remember the summer I spent in Paris, six weeks of glorious travel, but there was a dull emptiness, that I came to appreciate when I walked into a music store, on one of my random excursions perambulating about (flanning) Paris (or perhaps it was Reims), where I picked up a tin whistle, and realized I missed music. I had still been playing clarinet/saxophone regularly back then (something I managed to continue up until mid grad school) but had left it behind on my trip, and realized I missed it. Thereafter, I would pick up flutes (tranverse and otherwise)/recorders and other instruments whenever I traveled. That has something I've mostly left behind but now with my iPhone, I will never be without one.

The Ocarina is an ancient primitive medieval flute, that they have recreated faithfully on the iPhone a real musical instrument, not a game like guitar hero, but an instrument that replicates a classic medieval arcane fingering scheme that you play by blowing into the microphone. Like a real instrument, it responds to subtle shifts in breath and tonguing, and changes timber based on how phone is positioned.

The really magical part of it though is the interactive part of it. It uses the gps to get your location and then broadcasts whatever you are playing around the world. You can switch to a 3-d model of the world, and from points on the globe, you can see streams of music flying into into space which you can zoom into and hear, real people around the world playing their ocarina, magically broadcasting. Some are fumbling like myself, but some are playing recognizable tunes, and I'm sure with time, you will find virtuosic performances, broadcast into the ether, like Link's ocarina of time.

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