iPhone Music Makers: Brian Eno And Peter Chilvers Get It Right

Lucas Jensen | October 9, 2008 6:45 am

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed an iPhone drumming simulator call aDrummer, which I felt failed both as a simulator and as a game. I’ve downloaded many applications since, with names like iBand and Pianist, and they’ve all left me feeling a little bit empty. I thought I would review those, but, honestly, there’s not too much of a point. They’re all OK at doing what they do, I guess, but their fatal flaw is that they try to hard to be commensurate to the actual experience, and simulating an 88-key piano or fretting a bass is a fool’s errand on the iPhone. Leave it to Brian Eno (along with Spore co-composer Peter Chilvers) to make exactly what I’ve wanting: a democratically-minded music creator that uses the iPhone in an intuitive way.

On the screen, you find a gradient pattern that gently hums in the background, kind of like little Buddha Machines. When you touch your iPhone a little circle pops up on the screen, explodes and slowly dissolves. It’s accompanied by a tone, which dissipates only to be reborn again, a tad quieter and more diffuse. You can add as many of these tone-circles as you want with the multitouch capabilities of the iPhone, yet it manages to somehow avoid cacophony. The tones are glassy and ringing, not unlike the higher keys on a piano, or maybe a bright-sounding Fender Rhodes in the higher octaves. Each tone’s pitch corresponds to where it was triggered on the iPhone: the higher up and to the left you go, the higher pitch the tone is. The expanding circles repeat themselves in a phantom loop of an indeterminate amount of time. (I thought I had the rhythm figured at moments, but I suspect that it’s more random than it lets on because I could never line new tones up with old ones exactly.) Eventually, ambient, Eno-sounding undertones burble up from nowhere, and your circles come back (perhaps backwards?) and the color palette slowly changes. I’m not 100% sure on how it all works, but I also don’t really want to look it up and ruin the mystery right now. You shake it like an Etch-A-Sketch to clear it, which is a nice touch. I’ve had it on for thirty minutes, and, every now and again, I just reach over it and tap it occasionally to get it going again, to add something new and wonderful to the mix. To think that I created something so beautiful… it gives me chills, really, and was exactly what I needed from my iPhone.

It’s $3.99 at the iTunes store and worth every penny.