‘Orchestra’ to perform on iPhones

A University of Michigan orchestra is next week to perform a concert using only iPhones.

The concert will be the culmination of a course, Building a Mobile Phone Ensemble, which is taught by Georg Essl, a computer scientist and musician who has been driving the development of mobile phones as musical instruments.

Essl’s first iPhone instrument involved using the device as a wind sensor to create a sound like an ocarina.

“The mobile phone is a very nice platform for exploring new forms of musical performance,” Essl said. “We’re not tethered to the physics of traditional instruments. We can do interesting, weird, unusual things.

Essl teaches his students to program the iPhone to play back as sound information it receives from sensors such as its touch-screen, microphone, GPS, compass, wireless sensor and accelerometer. When ther musician you runs a finger across the display, blows air into the mic, tilt or shake the phone, for example, different sounds emanate.

“In order to come up with a creative piece you have to engage with the technology, but in order to make technology interesting, you also have to engage with the musicality. These are really hard to separate. We’re trying to teach both,” Essl said.

The Michigan Mobile Phone Ensemble concert is December 9 at the university’s Britton Recital Hall.

There’s a video, here.