Music maestro heading to LA
A MARYBOROUGH music professor will take his latest app overseas later this month to the leading international festival of experimental microtonal music.
Greg Schiemer will travel to Los Angeles to co-ordinate the performance of his latest work in a festival called LA MicroFest.
The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22 at Lyman Hall, Pomona College Claremont as part of the 2018 MicroFest.
"I am involved in a festival in Los Angeles which is dedicated to an area of music to do with new instruments and new tunings systems," Greg said.
"They are including my work for mobile phones, which has been developed for a number of years, and the work I have been doing began before the iPhone was actually invented."
MicroFest concerts now combine experimental and traditional instruments like Indonesian gamelan instruments.
This year's MicroFest will feature a microtonal work called Transposed Dekany composed by Greg for a large consort of 80 iPhones.
The work uses an app called the Satellite Gamelan, that embodies both the musical score and the set of software instruments that musicians use to play the music.
These instruments are distributed via TestFlight to players taking part. In order to download the app and start rehearsing, players register on satellitegamelan.net.
Greg's journey to creating the app started when he was building a lot of electronic instruments in the 1970s.
"One of the first mobile instruments I built was used in a performance at the northern boardwalk at the Sydney Opera House in 1980," he said.
"It was the original instrument - like a small transistor oscillator and amplifier in a Tupperware container."
Greg's music was first played at MicroFest in 2001 when he worked as lecturer in composition and electronic music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
With funding from the Australian Research Council he began work in 2003 on the Pocket Gamelan which is some of the earliest work involving music made with mobile java phones before the arrival of the iPhone.
"One of the first performances with the iPhone of this particular work that is being done in Los Angeles, won a prize in the International Space Time Concerto competition in 2012," he said.
"In that particular performance I had performers from around the globe interconnected via the internet but they were all using iPhones - like hand bells. Basically you could use a chorus of sounds to accompany the hand bells."
Greg said one of the plus sides was instead of taking half a day or more to set up it takes 15 seconds and instead of travelling with two tonnes of instrumental cargo, he's got instruments that can be sent as software.
"There is a slight difference where the performance relies on having a good acoustic venue like something with high ceilings - like you would have in a cathedral or the Maryborough City Hall or the water tower at Ann St - where you have nice reverberant acoustics that were traditionally used in concert music before the advent of microphones and loud speakers.
"Three or four hundred years ago we didn't need microphones or loud speakers to do performances but somehow that has become a habit.
"I think this particular app is treating the phone like any other hand held instrument - like a consort of recorders or violins or something like that where you have large numbers of people doing something that is basically a sociable art rather than using it as an instrument for social media.
"The kind of individual approach to iPhones that most people have is they are usually walking around ignoring everyone around them or plugged into earphones and not listening to the sounds around them."
The Maryborough-based composer said he had been invited to Indonesia on previous occasions to workshop with Indonesia musicians.
"Of course they are familiar with the technology but had no idea what this was about," Greg said.
"They embraced it more readily than what I thought the western players did.
"Gamelan is a name for a large collection of instruments in Indonesia - it is a little bit like orchestra but the difference between that and orchestral playing is that Gamelan players don't specialise in one instrument and when you learn to play in a Gamelan you don't have to study an instrument for years to play in an orchestra.
"The technology changes so rapidly you can't afford to spend years mastering an instrument - this is why I had to approach the technology from a different musical perspective.
"Indonesian tuning is not like western tuning - that was one of the musical motivations for this whole thing.
"The fact that we have a normal system that we'd use for 300 or 400 hundred years with the black and white note keyboard where you have 12 equally spaced notes - not all music is like that - and yet the technology allows that system to be imposed on the rest of the world by retuning the instrument, albeit the software instruments, and you have got a way of including many different music traditions."