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Mobile Phone Orchestra: Music On The Move

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Mobile Phone Orchestra: Music On The Move

Mobile Phone Orchestra: Music On The Move

Mobile Phone Orchestra: Music On The Move

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The Mobile Phone Orchestra plays as a quintet. Brett Ascarelli hide caption

toggle caption Brett Ascarelli

The Mobile Phone Orchestra plays as a quintet.

Brett Ascarelli

Watch A Video

Ge Wang Helped Design Ocarina, An Application That Transforms The Mobile Phone Into An Ancient Clay Flute

A group of researchers at Stanford University has formed a new kind of orchestra to push the boundaries of how music is made. Its compositions are written for an unusual instrument — one that's more likely to be found in a handbag or briefcase than in a music store.

The Mobile Phone Orchestra performs "Drone," a piece composed by Director Ge Wang. Ge Wang hide caption

toggle caption Ge Wang

The Mobile Phone Orchestra performs "Drone," a piece composed by Director Ge Wang.

Ge Wang

It is an orchestra of mobile phones — but not just any mobile phones. These are smart phones.

One of the directors and composers of the Mobile Phone Orchestra is Ge Wang. He is a professor at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.

Smart phones have all sorts of high-tech tools on them. Depending on the model, they can come equipped with GPS systems, multitouch screens or tilt sensors. Wang and his colleagues write code that hijacks these tools to reveal their musical potential.

The Mobile Phone Orchestra, or MoPhO, is made up of anywhere between two and 20 people. Each uses a phone to shake, scroll and stipple his way to new tones and textures of sound.

Through exploration of the smart phone's potential, the researchers hope to answer a question: "How can we provide new ways of thinking in terms of how people can go about making music or playing music together, or performing, or composing?" Wang asks.

You can think of the phone as a pocket synthesizer. Wang and his colleagues have also programmed the smart phones to respond to sounds around them.

Jieun Oh, a member of MoPhO, played the flute in the Stanford Symphony Orchestra through her undergraduate years. Although she still loves classical music, Oh now plays music with fewer physical limitations than a traditional orchestra. At first, she says, she thought mobiles had a narrow musical vocabulary.

"I thought of things more in terms of ringtones," she says. "But I realized it's not so passive like that."

Ge Wang pulls out his iPhone and says he is about to go "world surfing." With a few taps on the multitouch screen, he has connected with iPhone Ocarina players from all over the world.

From this type of technology, Wang says he hopes to one day see live orchestras so large, they will span entire regions, continents and beyond. Maybe someday, you'll be able to play a four-part harmony with someone thousands of miles away.

To learn more about the iPhone Ocarina, go to Smule.

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