A PDA based Instrument

With the launch of Tenori-on I’ve been thinking more about more about what makes a handheld instrument. Part of this is thinking about how you would play live with handhelds and portable devices.

I was interested / encouraged by the Electroplankton quartet and I'm sure we might see Tenori-on groups appearing over the next months, but with ordinary handhelds I'm not sure it is as easy, although I could be wrong.

With the Tenori-on there is something inherently visual to the device that makes it watchable and a performance instrument. PDAs or handhelds don't have that ability, they lack any kind of performance dimension to them, which is a shame.

So what kind of interface would make a generic PDA into a performance instrument? I've been thinking about that question for a while now, and I don't have a definitive answer, but I think that there must be a way to give the lowly generic PDA an interface for performance and collaboration. Something really startling.

I'm sure someone will dream it up one day. I just hope that someone out there makes it work.

1 comment:

dScott said...

I've been thinking about similar things for a while, and there are 2 main challenges: the 1st is how to communicate among disparate devices, the 2nd is to design a simple interface that can work across platforms and yet provide adequate control.

So, would you go with 'classic' PDAs, or the 'latest' PDAs and/or smartphones? If 'old 'school', then a device akin to a multiport MIDI router would be the ticket; if we're up-to-date, WiFi is probably the answer.

The interface is the instrument; this one has 2 areas of interest. First, what resources do you contribute to the "co-op"; 2nd, some manner of choice and control for contributed sounds.

Choose your control method:
Live - each sound from the coop (excluding your own) is assigned to a key. If someone offers a timing reference (click or MP3 loop), that's nice, but not essential.

Program - You list the coop down the left side of screen (A-Z for a player, 0-9 for a contributed sound = A6 is whatever player "A" contributed as #6), then use a text list beside each resource to determine its loop. It might look like this (assuming I'm on a smartphone with 5 lines down and 12 chars across)

A6: X-XX--XX
B2: -XXX-XXX
C4: X-----X-
C7: --------
F3: -X-X-X--

Of course, adequate bandwith might let us combine methods.

Upon receiving signals, each phone plays their contribution as directed by the coop.

Worth a try, or does this exist?