Are iPad Orchestras In Play?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - 05:51 PM

What do you think about iPads as instruments? A few months ago the pianist Lang Lang came to our studio and played Flight of the Bumblebee on one. That's possible because of a three-dollar application that simulates a keyboard. Now there is an app that simulates the violin.

The notion of iPads as instruments raises many questions. They could be a gateway to the learning a real instrument. Students could both practice and do their homework on them. And maybe they'll even be used in concerts, replacing authentic instruments. After all, isn't music about sound and how it affects the listener as opposed to how that sound is produced? What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments box below.


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Comments [10]

The oddest electronic instrument I have heard of is an app for the I-Phone that turns the phone into an ocarina. The screen displays circles that represent holes in the instrument; the "player" blows into the microphone and fingers the "holes" to play a tune. Entire concerts can be found on You-Tube.

Dec. 02 2010 12:51 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Speaking of things seen on Net gadget sites ..

The Q2 puts a new twist on Internet radio -

Do I see an IP fight in the future? You know. Little Apple Computer promising Apple Records that it would stay out of the music business.

Nov. 24 2010 07:48 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

In terms of technology the only thing that represents a new feature in the iPad is the multi-touch screen. Otherwise it's a weak computer without the better text input device - a keyboard. This is just hype, an Apple mainstay.

Personal computers have had music oriented interfaces for probably almost as long as there have been personal computers. I remember when people programmed the mini built-in speaker on the original IBM PC to play tunes. It was only intended to beep warnings. I just saw an item on Engadget which simulated a violin's bow.

As for the future, who knows. I see no reason to restrict our sense of sources of beautiful sounds to those instruments from the past.

When I hear on WQXR the Rachmaninoff piece that's "newly" recorded based on a computer analysis of an original recording of Rachmaninoff made with the old technology of the day I think, why do people have to be physical virtuosi to create masterful renderings? It's rare enough to have people that can create superb music. Combining the talents of creation and captivating rendering is far rarer still. Why not a five handed piano piece?

But we'll always want the human touch. People still play and compete at chess even though computers can beat the best.

I recently saw a film of Gould playing the Goldberg variations, version 1981. He was a middle aged man with a paunch, thinning hair and the appearance of a rounded back, from his playing style. But the emotion he put into the playing - the possession - isn't something which can appreciate from a machine.

But then there's that old line, "Sincerity, if you can fake that you've got it made."

Nov. 24 2010 06:27 PM
Richard Biernacki from Belford, New Jersey

I am an organist and have played the Kanon many times; this is strange - and I don't think these will ever replace the real thing. These folks are better than this....put those things away and use them for email!

Nov. 23 2010 11:51 PM


The phone number for Listener Services is (646) 829-4000.

Nov. 22 2010 12:29 PM

This reminds me of Glenn Gould's prediction that concert halls would be obsolete in the (very near) future because everyone would hear recorded music and nothing more. When did he say that? Fifty years ago???

Nov. 21 2010 12:48 AM
Kath from NYC

No worries, folks. There is no way that electronic music can reproduce the richness of tone and expression humans get from the vast array of acoustic (and some other) musical instruments.

Electronic instruments have been around for a while and have their audiences, meanwhile, many people are discovering/re-discovering the beauty and variety of musical instruments throughout the world and throughout history and treasuring them.

The electronic world (internet) helps spread the news (and sounds and views) of them just as this article spreads news of new electronic toys.

Nov. 20 2010 11:37 PM
Jonas Dastine from Brooklyn, NY

Please, is there a phone number to call.

Nov. 20 2010 06:32 AM
Michael Meltzer

Electronic instruments can be useful substitutes, late-night with headphones, on the road, playing a wedding on a boat, many ways where an acoustic instrument can't happen, and of course, as fun toys.
Pedagogically, they work poorly, because they omit a vital link. The way the anatomy is used correctly in playing an instrument is rarely the way it is used in everyday life, so that first attempts at playing anything are usually the seeds of bad habits, leading to eventual pain and discomfort down the road in practicing and performing. The saver, with an acoustic instrument, is that doing something incorrectly usually results in something ugly in the tone produced. The teacher picks that up instantly, and the reasonably talented student eventually learns from the teacher to discern problems using his or her own ear. In that way, the acoustic instrument becomes a kind of teacher, too.
There has never been an electronic instrument made that could provide this feedback. In fact, it is a selling point that the worst banger at the piano can make as beautiful a tone on an electronic keyboard as a pianist with the most sensitive touch.
The electronics are best used by people who already know how to play.
Finally, if the practical choice has to be between an unreliable cheap acoustic instrument that won't stay in tune and a decent quality electronic one, go with the latter, understanding that it should be only temporary. Junk will make the student quit.

Nov. 18 2010 01:27 AM
Caroline Cooper from New York

Hi Terrance,

The notion that these devices could one day REPLACE wonderful, actual, instruments troubles me. One aspect of what I love so dearly in any performance are the extraordinary, and often unexpected, sounds that an actual cello, trumpet, or trombone can produce. These new devices seem so programmed, so exacting, that we would miss out on the great moments of true innovation and discovery that come about when things do not go exactly as planned. Isn't that how some of the worlds great discoveries came about, in so many different fields?

Thanks for a great show!


Nov. 17 2010 10:19 PM

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