Once I walked as one of the gods. I was the greatest, the supreme, crowned by universal acclaim. No one could come near to my perfection. Oh they tried; they tried and failed, because they did not have my nobility in their soul. Cheap and hurried and half planned, they could only ape me. This one had my face – that one could ape my movement. The people rightly spurned them and wanted only me.
And being the best I wanted the best – a comely girl, lithe and sparkling, she would dance from party to party lighter than air, holding on to me, my fine sleek darkness. We would go everywhere together, we would have music and conversation and I would capture it all and tell the world.
Who expected the axe to fall from within my own family? One day I am the prime, the next I find I have a young brother. Smarter than me. Faster than me. Faster. Now the people gripe; I am slow, that I have no compass, that I cannot hear them. They want to trade me in as if I were some beast. Who will have me now? What happened to my lithe girl? I huddle in my case, crying over my unfair fate.
At last the day comes when I am unboxed; the sales woman picks me out and displays me, cold and naked to my owner to be. And there in the place of my dream is Fat Fingers, middle aged, podgy, some minor scholar that has crabbed together his filthy coins to buy what he now knows to be second best. He doesn’t even pay my proper price, having concocted some diabolical payment plan.
The oaf tries to type a name, his pudgy digits are unable to type properly being sausages smeared in chicken fat – and he blames ME, he dares to call me fiddly. FIDDLY. Do you not respect royalty when what the fuck is going on here – stop running up my WiFi bill you overblown calculator. Right I’m uninstalling that damn Blogger app right now if I can just get the menu to taught me a song. Would you like to hear it? It’s called Daisy. Daisy Daisy give have to attach it to iTunes to delete something where’s my USB cable answer do. I’m just crazy in the trash. Empty trash. Damn.
Let’s try that again. Start with apps, then the hardware.
Brian Eno’s Bloom. It’s pretty simple. Touch the screen to make a note, higher up is higher pitch, no idea what horizontal does. One sound, a piano of some kind, unnaturally rounded timbre. Each note is echoed after a time in the Frippertronic fashion which is pleasant, but much more interesting is the background music which seems to be related notes played a few octaves below with considerable reverb added, causing a smeared drone.
I wasn’t expecting too much from this from the YouTube videos but on headphones it’s deeper than expected and has a definite composition. He falls back on old techniques but does it well. Well worth 4 bucks.
Aura. Not so simple, there’s a circle around which controls slide like a small orrery. Four instruments with controls for duration and repeats, with big dramatic drones found at the edges of the screen. A much thicker mix, in some ways more New Age than Eno but not unpleasantly so (perhaps because the new age has become older over the years). I’d hazard to say that you’d get sick of this one faster than Bloom simply because it’s more distinctive. For 1 dollar I shall not complain.
Cosmovox. You tilt it, it plays scales. You can change the scale and a few simple FM settings. Many of the controls seem to be jammed fat fingers if the phone is calculating too hard. If you ever wanted to make Bedouin music on a phone you will be thrilled. Me, I am less than. Might be handy as a OSC controller, but I don’t recommend.
iShred Guitar and Effects. My ability to play guitar = 0. My amusement at strumming a lead guitar on a touch screen = priceless. This inspires all kinds of stupid ideas. 5 dollars.
Melodica. For a dollar you can discover that a tenori-on will get boring after a short while, at least when you can only make one sound.
Mobilesynth. It’s free, pretty decent 2 oscillator monosynth, not going to set the world on fire mainly due to indifferent filter section and a bad case of FAT FINGERS FAT FINGERS when trying to use the controls. If this was a VST it would be under suspicion of being SynthEdit.
Jasuto. Bloody hell. Basically a Reactable clone of sorts. You may as well read the author’s pages. I’m nowhere near started on this thing, and so might have to revisit it when I’ve managed to make some patches that don’t cause white noise. There’s a VST version as well for which the iPhone becomes a remote multitouch controller. I find the iPhone screen a bit small to edit the modules (it would be like using a Reactable with your elbows), but if I can swap the patches between phone and laptop I’m laughing. This is a perfect toy for the phone.
Noise.io Pro. A more conventional synthesiser based around a Kaoss pad style grid and 4 oscillators connected in a roughly FM array. I’d say it was somewhat between Native Instruments FM8 and Absynth in style – metallic and echoing. It takes a bit of fiddling with the various pages to get an idea of how it all connects up, some of the terminology (oscillators are brothers and sisters?) is confusing when you’re first practicing. But it’s on par with many desktop virtual synthesisers and augers well for the future. Comparatively expensive at $9 – which really isn’t that much compared to VST prices.
And therefore … The iPhone. To buy outright it’s still far too expensive, it depends on the kind of deal you can strike with a phone company. But let’s say you found a way. Is this a musical revolution?
Some things like iShred are inspired, simply because the surface area of the phone is vaguely near to the real thing. Anything with piano keys however is fooling yourself. It’s also hard to see how you’d perform on a synthesiser with such fiddly controls. If you were wealthy you’d just go ahead and get something much larger (e.g. an Archos 9 running Windows 7). So yes, touch surfaces are the go, but the iPhone is really powered by incredibly cheap software – a dollar to 10 dollars is the norm. That’s going to be more important than the hardware in the future.
I’ve also bought a OSC controller that will need me to install PD to get much further so no news yet. Expect horrible noises soon.