‘In C’ Gets an iPad App

July 10, 2014 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

That video above is a demo of the “In C” iPad app, which lets one person command a mini-ensemble through Terry Riley’s seminal piece, the composition that helped turn minimalism into a movement.

“In C” turns 50 this year, and to celebrate, sfSound ensemble leader Matt Ingalls teamed up with Professor Henry Warwick of Toronto’s Ryerson University to create this app.

I missed the app’s concert debut, which was the other night at The Uptown in Oakland. Warwick came out to the Bay Area, playing the app as his instrument in a larger ensemble that played “In C.” It’s all a little bit meta, isn’t it?

If you’re not familiar with “In C” … the composition consists of 53 composed phrases, all in the key of C, none of them very complex. More than one consists of whole notes, indicating a drone effect. What makes the piece is that the players move forward through the 53 phrases at their own speeds. They do stay in tempo, as I understand it, but they don’t have to stay synchronized. You want the overall ensemble to keep up — no one should be stuck on Phrase 2 if the rest of the group is on Phrase 17 — but you also want them to be playing different phrases.

The overall effect can be like a gentle showering of bells. It’s one huge major chord that’s splintered into snowflakes that land softly on your shoulders and hair and shoes. Alternatively, I’d imagine it could be a drone, or — in the hands of someone like Acid Mothers Temple, who recorded “In C’ along with companion pieces “In D” and “In E” — a blissful psych explosion that just keeps exploding.

And now you can do all that with just a couple of fingers and an iPad. The app appears to be free, so have at it.

 

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