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Classical App-titude 101

February 10, 2011

There might be few things more punishing to a pseudo Type-A than having to fill 8 office hours with the appearance of busy-ness when there’s nothing going on in work-ville that would birth paperwork – the painfulness of which is only compounded by a boss who is in a philosophical mood today, and when in such a mood tends to hover & engage in aimless verbal rambles while standing by my cubicle opening.  (Don’t get me wrong:  I’m crazy about my boss, but this frustrates my patience levels to no end!)

The answer?  Subversively write a post in sporadic bursts of frantic typing whenever boss retreats back into his office across the hall.  So, sorry ahead of time if it’s a bit disjointed.

Anyway, I got myself a belated Christmas present this year.  I’m now the proud parent of an Apple iPod Touch 4G!!  Sleek, slim (looks like its mama ;)) and swaddled in a streamlined black case…  it’s a joy to behold and has already in its short, yet meaningful life given me new wide-eyed-wonder-ful delight at the world it’s opened up for me.  (I can actually download ALL my music and there’s still room for me to feed it more!!!)

Due to my recent overbooked calendar, getting to know this new addition to my life has been a slow process.  But now that my iTunes library is satisfactorily organized and updated, I’ve finally gotten around to exploring the app side of things.

So, last night I spent that hour between getting ready for bed and actually being tired enough to go to sleep checking out classical music apps.  Here are a few free ones that I downloaded.  (All write ups are directly off the Apple site and not actually wordsmithed by me.)
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1.  Bravo Gustavo (free) – “The Los Angeles Philharmonic presents Bravo Gustavo!  Ever wonder what it is like to conduct a world-famous orchestra?  Spend some time in the shoes of Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil’s new music director, and experience the rush of a maestro.  Transform your iPhone or iPod Touch into a conductor’s baton, or set the tempo by tapping the screen.  Your audience awaits!”  More…
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2.  Karajan® Beginner Music & Ear Trainer (free) – “Karajan Beginner is the free version of Karajan, and easy-to-use music and ear training application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  It provides lessons for learning to recognize intervals, chords, scales, pitch, and tempo (bpm) with detailed statistics.  Karajan is a great tool for music theory students, whether they are in junior high, high school, or college.  It is also very useful for every hobby musician.  Karajan beginner has all the features of Karajan, but is limited to one level.
Features:  intervals, chords, scales, pitch, tempo (bpm), 5 built-in instruments, detailed statistics function, reverse play, and 4 different play modes.”  More…
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3.  Composer of the Day (free) – no Apple write-up on this, although it does note it won a “Top 5 Classical Music Apps” award from WQXR (“the most listened-to classical music station in the US”).  Imagine one of those tear-the-page-off desk calendars with a short blurb highlighting a different composer each day.  Except this one links you to excerpts of their music through iTunes.  More…
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4.  Classical Music Lite (free) – also no Apple write-up for this app.  But this link explains it in full detail.
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I’m getting these apps with my niece and my upcoming 3 weeks overseas in mind.  Distance means I’m not often lucky enough to get this kind of undivided time with her, so hopefully by combining the new-fangled fun of my Touch with classical music I’ll be able to further lure her into the dark recesses of this rebel world.  Her mind is miiiiiiine!!! (insert evil *mwa-ha-haaaa*

Now if only someone would come up with an app that would help me figure out my classical music earworms…

On a totally different note, I stopped in at our local Salvation Army store after work yesterday and found Arvo Pärt’s “Miserere” (ECM Records 1991, with the Hilliard Ensemble, and the Orchester der Beethovenhalle Bonn) for $1.99 hidden on the lower shelves of the CD offerings.  Jackpot!!
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Update: Feb.11

Want my gut-level response to these apps after having 24 hours to play around with them?

1.  Bravo Gustavo – it definitely helps to have some knowledge of the 4 excerpts they give you to conduct, even if just to get the basic starting tempo of the piece; otherwise it easily becomes a fiasco of unbridled tempos.  Beyond wishing they had more selections, I also wish the excerpts were longer – they loop in segments that seem far too short to really get any long-lasting excitement out of the app.  Have to give a shout-out to the LA Phil though for trying their hand at something like this.  The idea behind it is great and offers promise for future games of the sort.  Since it’s a free download, I’m keeping it for a while longer, even if just to watch Gustavo’s hair flop around in the accompanying pictures. (The LA Phil also has a guitar-hero-type game on their website that I think is a lot more fun than the app.)

2.  Karajan® Beginner Music & Ear Trainer – a lot more technical than I thought it would be.  It’s set up like it could be a game, but only for the nerdiest of the nerdy (which is why I think I might actually have some fun with this).   The challenge comes in trying to figure out what pitch they’re playing, or how many beats per minute it’s tapping out, or whether the chord is major or minor, etc… basically, it engages the player in your standard beginner ear training excercises.  Boring if you make it boring; fun if you make it fun.  My niece will get a kick out of this, especially if I bribe her with 30 seconds of hand massage for every answer she gets right. :)

3.  Composer of the Day – this might actually be my fav of the 4.  Every day highlights a new composer born on that date, which, with 365 dates to cover, will take you far outside of the boundaries of the familiar composing superstars.  For example, today’s composer is André Ernest Modeste Grétry and up until this app informed me about him, I had no idea he even existed.  Yesterday was the American composer, Barbara Kolb; and the day before that was Alban Berg.  It offers you endless new territory to get familiar with.  The neat thing is that this app links you to samples of their music for further exploration.  It’s exactly the kind of stuff that gets my sonicgypsy heart racing.

4.  Classical Music Lite – good thing this app was free, cause it’s not going to be sticking around for very long.  The expanded Classical Music app is probably worth the $1.99 for its list of 50 pieces (which would make the challenge more fun) vs. the 5 pieces used on this freebie, but the Lite gets old really fast.  In essence, this is a fat-free version of the actual main course.  And like fat-free anything, there’s just not enough substance to the Lite to make it worthwhile.

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