Playing the iPhone

Frauke Behrendt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


How to play an iPhone? You can talk, sing, or blow into the microphone; shake, stroke, or spin the device, ; use the camera, ; touch the screen and any of the built-in sensors, just to name a few ways. You can build on existing acoustic or electronic instruments, experiment with individual and group performances, explore public and private performance contexts, and push all the way push beyond the boundaries of what a mobile phone is meant to be used for. Artists and musicians have been exploring the use of mobile devices such as mobile phones, the walkman, or the iPod for musical interactions since the early 2000s, especially at the Mobile Music Workshop Series and at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression, held since 2004 and 2001, respectively.1 Yet mobility-in-use mobility in use has never been a constitutive element of mobile mobile-phone musical instruments, as most of them allow for musical interaction indoors as much as outdoors, in the privacy of the home as much as in public, on the go as much as in stationary environments. Similar to other mobile devices for producing sounds (including your guitar or ghetto-blaster), the iPhone—or for that matter, any mobile phone—can be played on stage, around the campfire, at home, alone, or in a group. The interesting difference to with conventional instruments is, rather, that music comes as an added function to an already existing device that accompagniesaccompanies us everywhere we go. Consumer media have been turned into musical instruments previously; just think of turntables and boom boxes, for instance, or at the ways game controllers and mobile gaming consoles such as the Game Boy have been refashioned as musical devices, becoming important predecessors to mobile phones-turned musical instruments mobile-phones-turned-musical-instruments before the smartphone “revolution” set in. Still, the popularity of the iPhone has taken made the experimental niche pursuit of playing your mobile into a mainstream leisure activity, notably through the Ocarina app. This chapter focusses focuses on those interfaces and applications that have been developed specifically for the mobile phone, and on the sonic interaction paradigms designed for the mobile. Mobile versions of more traditional computer music applications will not be considered, because their design paradigm treats the mobile phone as miniature computer, with the software often being nothing more than a downsized versions of already existing studio software. Neither will I consider those works where the mobile acts as some sort of remote control, often in conjunction with other hard- and software, using data from the phone (such as the camera stream) as an input for Max/MSP, to give just one example.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMoving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media
EditorsPelle Snickars, Patrick Vonderau
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherColumbia University Press
Number of pages289
ISBN (Print)9780231157391
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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