Twenty students studying at the University of Michigan are set to perform a concert using iPhones as musical instruments. The concert results from a course entitled ‘Building a Mobile Phone Ensemble’, taught in conjunction with the university’s computer science, music and engineering departments.
Assistant Professor Georg Essl, a computer scientist and musician, devised the course to allow students to use various components of Apple iPhones – including wireless radios, motion sensors and the touchscreen – to explore and create new forms of musical performance. Essl has even named this emerging genre – ‘the MoPho’.
‘We’re not tethered to the physics of traditional instruments,’ says Essl. ‘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.’
Although the first course of its kind, it is not the first ensemble to use the Apple iPhone as a musical instrument. Essl and others involved in the project have performed in other groups at other universities. In Europe there have been similar events – in the UK the London Community iPhone OSCestra performed the Doctor Who theme on iPhones in May.
The free public concert by the Michigan Mobile Phone Ensemble will take place on 9 December at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.