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Brian Lock creates app to transform iPads into classical musical instruments

Posted on 14/06/2012
Brian Lock and Susan Milan at the New York premiere.

Brian Lock performing a composition with Susan Milan.

The iPad can now be used as a classical musical instrument after a film composer developed a sophisticated new app that could revolutionise the way we engage with music.

Brian Lock, senior lecturer in composition and creative music technology at Royal Holloway, University of London and established TV and film score composer, has developed an iPad app which he hopes can be used in palliative care, to help engage vulnerable young people and to enable disabled people to create music.

As a composer, Brian has always been interested in new technology and how it can push boundaries and when the iPad was released he saw the potential for musical composition without the need for expensive mixing desks.

His app will now enable anyone with an iPad or iPhone to manipulate a piece of music into a unique composition. The app works by enabling the user to control and manipulate many of the usual parameters of music like pitch and reverb.

Brian explains: “I think music is changing. You can have all of this control and you don't really have to have much knowledge. This offers fantastic opportunities to those who are unable to learn how to play an instrument and, because you can play it with one hand, it will enable disabled people with limited mobility to create their own music. The potential for engaging people who were previously excluded because of a disability is extremely exciting.”

Brian is also looking to explore the use of the app with people receiving palliative care.

He said: “I read recently that one of the things people say they wished they could have done before they die is to learn to play a musical instrument.

“By taking this app into palliative care homes, it will help to realise this wish for people and could offer them some level of comfort. Of course they won't be learning an instrument in the traditional sense, but they will be creating music of their own.”

Brian is currently trialling his app with vulnerable young pupils from the Brighton area and has received an overwhelmingly positive result.

“Vulnerable teenagers tend to react negatively to music because they think you have to spend ages learning an classical instrument is seen as very middle class,” he says. “And yet all of the pupils like popular music. I use a lot of pop music beats and drums. They had never heard a flute piece with beats in it and they loved it. It's their sort of music.”

He added: “There's a void between serious music and what people listen to. The plan is to work with vulnerable people and experiment to see how they they react to this music composition.”

Brian is now working with Glyndebourne on a new rendition of an opera that will include this technology and on a project in Lewes Prison where it will be used educationally with young offenders.


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