Mobile Music: Band Geeks Play iPhones, Not Instruments


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Once upon a time, orchestras required instruments. Then computers reproduced the sounds of symphonies. Now, band geeks are playing iPhones.

Stanford University's newest ensemble is called MoPhO, short for Mobile Phone Orchestra. Its conductor, Ge Wang, is a veteran of Princeton's Laptop Orchestra (see issue 14.04) and is obsessed with making electronic music as mobile as possible. “The iPhone holds a lot of potential for what kind of music can be made and how it can be made," Wang says.

MoPhO plays mostly improvisational pieces using an app that Wang built (and hopes to make public soon). Each player touches a button onscreen to select a tone, then tilts, twists, or shakes the mobile phone to change pitch and timbre. The group also performs chamber music and pop covers using one of his other apps, Ocarina (available from iTunes), which turns the iPhone into the 12,000-year-old wind instrument.

In MoPhO's first show at January's Macworld, 10 iPhone players rocked the intro to “Stairway to Heaven" wearing fingerless gloves with Altec Lansing Orbit speakers sewn in.* Wang envisions a day when they'll perform dressed in speakers from head to toe.

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