Padworks – Building a solo live performance with iPad

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Sound in New Media
102 + 4
In the early Spring 2012 my friend asked me to join his project: a band of three iPads. I did, and we started a band called Autokomplete. We played one gig, a short medley of songs in a publication event of a news reader iPad app. We used three iPads, and six or seven different apps. It was a success: the audience liked us, we had great fun, and most importantly the iPads worked very well as musical instruments. As far as I know we were the first band of iPads in Helsinki in 2012. Playing the iPad was welcomed by the public as something new and exciting. I was excited about it, too. I liked the possibilities that the big touch screen provided, the new sounds that I was about to create, and the new ways of interacting with the music and band mates. This has lead to several occasions where I’ve played iPad live, one of the highlights being a performance of iPad Orchestra in Sibelius Academy in 2014. Now in 2016 I’m still excited. Playing the iPad has become a fixed part of my musical setup. It raises interest in other people and actually iPad as a musical instrument is still regarded as something fairly new. In last few years, the amount of musical apps in the App Store has increased in number and iPad’s have become faster. But basically it’s still the same device with same possibilities and defects: it’s a portable touchscreen computer with modest computational power and enough memory to run a few apps at the same time. It’s not a musical instrument by design. However, as a musician I find it intriguing. It is the apps that make the iPad an instrument, together with the different built-in sensors. The apps can be used to produce interesting music and that music can be played live as a solo performance, using the iPad as the main instrument. This master thesis discusses how it’s possible to build an interesting live solo music performance with iPad. The research is anchored to the ideas of research of computer music and New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME). I use my own practice and experience as a basis to this research. I list factors that influence the creative process of a musician who uses iPad in the live setup. Based on these factors I compose a live performance for the iPad. As a conclusion I reflect different approaches to build a live composition with my own experiences, personal background motivation, attitudes and ideas. The conclusion sums up different factors that constitute a musical live performance done using iPad as the main instrument that I find interesting. This research can be used as groundwork for defining what iPad musicianship is.
Ikonen, Antti
Thesis advisor
Romanowski, Otto
iPad, NIME, electronic music, musicianship
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