6 min read 🤓

Ten years stuck on my iPad

march 19, 2021 - ...

A recent email from Jeff Zeromoon enquiring about my use of the iPad for musicking, and about apps that I think are good for that, made me realise that it has been some ten years now that I have and use that Apple tablet. All that while indeed it remained among my instruments of choice. With the ookoi of course. But also in solo, duo, trio and other live performances this past decade, as well as—and most notably—in many of our unPublic sessions. It slowly—but indeed slowly—now is sinking into its pre-programmed obsoleteness and un-useability, as, like all new media tools that they sell and we buy, it was put together using hardware components and software that are totally—but indeed totally—beyond any individual consumer's control and reach.


As such it is subjected to the continuous and relentless upgrade & update blackmailing that usually already starts the very moment you buy the thing. Partly (but that's just a very small part) this is for legitimate reasons of innovation and development. Mostly it is just to ensure continuing sales and increasing profits: only a very small portion of users would see valid reason to buy a new laptop or cellphone, were it not that the one they currently 'own' after a few years of use will break down beyond repair and/or become increasingly un-usable because any notion of backward compatibility for consumer software has been barred from coders' and developers' books of instructions.

All this notwithstanding, most of the music apps on my iHarsPad are still operational, though not always fully so, as the Pad itself is turning into an increasingly slow and cumbersome interface, subject to quite a bit of random crashing.

Now don't get me wrong! An awful lot of brilliant ideas and creative energy is being put into the development of apps enabling you to do amazing stuff with a such Pad. And there are a great many of them that actually could—nay, should—be considered as compositions, as works of art, all by themselves...

I probably at some point, despite the complaining and ranting, will acquire a new model, and then download some of the newer things, what has become impossible on my tablet, being near to 10 years of age and running on an operating system that has not seen an update for I-can-not-even-remember-how-long (the iHarsPad is actually running on iOS 8.4.1, I see, an iOS version that dates back to 2014 or 2015).

There are many different apps on the Pad, and in live impro contexts I usually switch from one to a next and then to another and another nexy, intuitively, at random, happenstantially. Which is the reason that I got into the habit of just referring to 'iPad' as my instrument, without further indication of any one specific application. Some of which I master, others that I never really gave the time they would need (and merit) to really get to know them.

It would be sort of interesting indeed, I thought when reading Jeff's email, to list and document them. As the iHarsPad also for me already feels as some sort of a media-museum.

That's what this page's about. Starting with an almost-copy of the email I sent to Jeff in reply, and screenshots of contents of the 'Muzsick' map on my HarsPad, which is where I keep the apps I use in performance. Later maybe I will add more detailed descriptions and thoughts on individual apps, whenever I find time and/or reason to do so.


email to Jeff Zeromoon, February 25th 2021

« Yeah, iPad is great for sound making, and there’s avalanches of audio apps, coming and going, some mere gadgets (and interesting as such) some amazing and deeply thought out creative tools that would merit (and sometimes do need) quite a bit of time to really get to know how to use them and learn what it is that they do (though you can in almost all cases easily generate some sort / all sorts of—interesting or not—sounds and noises out). Some of them are free, a lot will cost you just a few dollars, and then there is a couple pretty expensive ones.

I have not really been following anymore what’s new out there in the App store since a few of years. My iPad is a model 2 (A1395) that I got in 2011, so it’s about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, which makes it sort of an antique. Our hi-tech tools turn vintage ever faster ;-) … It also means and implies that the thing is totally unfit for the latest operating systems, which in turn are a sine-qua-non for the latest generations of apps.

But I do have a small library that is still (almost) fully operational: a handful of gadgets, a couple of interestingly ‘deep’ tools (though I have to admit that I never really gave those the time necessary to really get to know them), and the wonderfully handy & useful lot that sits in between.

Here's some screenshots that'll show you which are the ones that sit on my iPad2 (some of which may very well no longer be available as the bulk of these things come and go like early morning dew or fog). »


Apps that I continue to use in unPublic sessions are:

- Borderlands (amazing granular looping tool with a fascinating graphic interface)

- CagePiano (a simple library of prepared piano samples)

- DJay (very effective for manual manipulating -scratching etc- of sound files in the form of a virtual two record players DJ kit)

- PhonoPaper (very rough & noisy real-time sonification of what the iPad’s camera sees around you)

- Pixelwave (noisy vintage synth thing that lets you mess up wave envelopes on the screen with your fingers)

- Sector (beautiful geometry, a variable looping/jump-playback tool)...


I like Gestrument a lot, it is very 'musical', let’s you play and mash-up all sorts of synthetic stuff, from Indian ragas, via cool jazz bands to full string orchestras. [[You can hear me use it in the unPublic track Dancing the be-hop, that I recorded with Laura Wetherington in the summer of 2014, in the basement of the American Library in Paris.]]


Reactable is sort of a famous one, I think, but I never took the time to find out why, nor how to properly handle it. Same for NodeBeat, TheWablet … but especially Reactable is probably well worth some time.

But there’s surely a whole lot more recent interesting apps … More than any one mortal can handle :-)

My ookoi and Raudio-mate Æ’PcM in Amsterdam in many cases was the one that pointed me to to this or that interesting app, and he moreover seems to remain pretty much up to date with the latest, always urging me to finally buy a new tablet and get going with this or that novel app...

And sure that he is right. The iPad is an amazing machine, and unlike the iPhone, it is big enough to be comfortable as an interface for your live sound making. »


On a final note: the app that is by far the one that I fire up most on my iPad (for just a bit less, but still also almost a decade now) is also a music app. 'Scape', it is called. Not really an instrument, some will say. In a certain way, however, yes, it is even though I did never yet use it as such. It's a truly wonderful creation, I think, and its sounds continue to be the soundscape of many of my nights, always at a near to un-hearable volume, as I want its sound to be like a never-ending ghostly whisper, a mere modulation of the hissing of my tinnitus. Over the years the quality/fidelity of the app's sound also seems to degenerate. I think that must be caused by the ageing iPad, but it is one of the many things I like about (un-)hearing 'Scape', though I do not have a good explanation for its sound becoming ... unpredictable in different manners ... it gets shaky, quivers, seems full of non-intended grains and hics... 'Scape' is a generative ambient music-cum-images application by Brian Eno and Peter Chivers, allowing the user to endlessly create h.is/er own audiovisual collages composed of fine colored geometrical shapes that each trigger different sonic... I'd also like to call them: shapes... that then merge into meandering ambient and endlessly varying sound scapes. Always different, yet always the same. The picture shows the app running on the iHarsPad as long ago as in October 2012. That must have been just days after the app's original release. I have always wanted to write more about it, in some way or other. But then I never did.
I may be mistaken, but I do have the impression that not so many know this work.
'Scape' is a generative / ambient masterpiece.


tags: iPad

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