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The grand doyen of American minimalism, Steve Reich, is one of the most influential and popular living composers in the world today. The musical pioneer has now collaborated on the development of a new free app to improve musical learning, based on the rhythmic patterns found in one of his most important explorations of “phasing”, Clapping Music.
Released earlier this month by acclaimed app developer, Touchpress, the Clapping Music app, aims to explore how modern, touchscreen technology can be exploited to develop rhythmic skills that can contribute to a wider understanding an aptitude for music. The app is available for download exclusively from the iTunes appstore for their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Developed with Reich by the UK’s premiere contemporary music ensemble, the London Sinfonietta, and students from Queen Mary University of London, the app challenges users to perform Reich’s iconic 1972 minimalistic piece.
Reich’s whole piece is based on one simple rhythmic pattern that two people clap together. Two clappers, initially, clap the same rhythmic pattern. However, every twelve quavers, one clapper varies the pattern by one beat whilst the other claps the same static rhythm. The result is a continuous cycle of evolving polyrhythms.
In the app, users will tap in time with the constantly shifting polyrhythm and progress through all variations till the end. If they accidentally slip up in a variation, they will find the rows diminishing into the distance at the top of their screens, redirecting them to restart their rhythmic journey. The app possesses three levels of difficulty – Easy, Medium and Hard – and offers individuals the chance to perform Reich’s Clapping Music Live with the London Sinfonietta or attend one of its master workshops with its percussionists if they reach the ‘Hard’ level by August 1, 2015.
However, the Clapping Music app is more than just a promotional tool for the London Sinfonietta’s Reich performance. The app also collects gameplay data, which is then examined by Queen Mary University researchers to unravel the hidden links between an individual’s rhythmic knowledge and his or her appreciation of music and the arts. Individuals are also offered the opportunity to win a $15 Amazon gift card once they agree to fill up an additional short survey.
Early indications suggest the success of the Clapping Music app should be similar to a previous musical collaboration by Touchpress and Julliard School of Music, creating the hugely popular Juilliard String Quartet app. As with the Clapping Music app, the String Quartet app was both an educational tool, and a means of collecting illuminating data into educational methods for the arts. “Every product we make strives to be more than just an app: we want to create premium, educational, – and thrilling digital experiences,” said Sam Aspinall, Touchpress CEO. “Clapping Music and String Quartet are excellent examples of Touchpress’ commitment to apps that matter.”