Clapping Music, the app, is based on the Steve Reich piece of the same name. It includes a video of a performance of the piece, a video of Steve Reich discussing the piece, and access to more info about Steve Reich and his music. This is a different video than the one in the app but includes Steve Reich.
First and foremost, this is a fun and challenging app. You don’t need to know a thing about music notation or minimalism. You can just get in and play. I think that’s a great way to make it accessible to anyone. In addition to this, it’s being used as a research tool by Queen Mary University of London and a way for the London Sinfonietta to make a greater connection with their fans and potential fans. The Sinfonietta had a mini-workshop and contest event that they held for the highest scorers to come to and perhaps get a chance to perform the piece with them. I believe this kind of connection to be invaluable to keep our art form relevant. It’s always kind of bothered me that in Classical music we tend to tell people, sit there in your seat and we’re going to give you some culture. Compare this to a popular music concert where people are engaged and singing or clapping with the group on stage…in other words, participating. This may not always be feasible with Classical music but I believe that we need to find a way to have audiences own a performance more than they currently do.
A little aside here, at the moment, I think that the London groups are really getting a handle on this more than other places. The English National Opera had an app to go along with their staging of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre. The app was called Play Ligeti and had car horn samples to play and background information on the Car Horn Prelude from that opera. I’d give you the link to the app but it isn’t available anymore.
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) is also trying new ways to reach their audience including playing different concert series in bars and really trying to reach out to where the people are.
They even included members of their diverse audience in one year’s brochure.
In the United States, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra has started having orchestra members reach out more to the public. I think this can only bring good things to the groups that engage in them as long as the music is still the foremost thing.
Now back to the Clapping Music.
It has three levels to play at and a practice mode. I actually like the practice mode best since you can crank the tempo all the way up to 180 and that makes it even more fun.
If you’ve ever played a rhythm game like Guitar Hero, you already know what to do. The app keeps the first rhythm for you and you work your way through twelve patterns and back to the first pattern. If you get off, you have time to recover but there is less leeway on a harder level. If you are off, the pattern starts to move away from you, and the dots that make the pattern light up to try and help you get back on track (or make you panic, one of the two). Get too far off and the app will stop and give you a chance to restart or quit. In the practice levels, you can choose to go through the whole piece or just work on sections where you are having issues.
I like the fact that you can choose as many or as few patterns as you want in practice mode. As in most music, the trouble spots are where you have to switch from one pattern to another. How far the line goes across tells you how accurately you tapped that rhythm. I didn’t do as well on the 7th rhythm. The one thing that I wish for this app was that it could listen to you actually clap rather than just tap the screen.
I’d love to see more of these kind of apps that don’t just teach you about a piece but give you a way to experience it in a first-hand way. Maybe some Vocal Rhythm Etudes from Bill Douglas (Formerly known as Rock Etudes)?
or maybe Living Room Music from John Cage?
Both would be harder to make work for sure but I’d love to see more apps that move you from playing on your device to engaging with others in music making or being an actively engaged audience member