Charles Martin, iPad-band

Charles Martin and his Neural iPad Band entertain. Photo: Gunhild M. Haugnes/UiO

It's time for the Ipad band

A concert is being planned in a lab at the University of Oslo's Department of Informatics. Get ready for the Neural Ipad band.

This time the band members are not called Paul, John, Ringo and George - or Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland og Michelle Williams.

Three Ipads are lined up, and researcher Charles Martin has another one in his hands. When he moves his fingers on the screen, a mixture of high and low tones emanate from the device.

You can also read this article in Norwegian

The Ipads join in

Suddenly he is accompanied by one of the three Ipads, while red and blue rings appear on the screen. After the last to Ipads join in, the sounds in the room are like an ensemble – a touch screen ensemble. There is a "concert video" at the bottom of the article.

“My goal is for everyone to be able to create music on their Ipad and develop it further by receiving feedback from others. This will enhance creativity”, says Martin.

The system is based on machine learning and developed by the robotics and intelligent systems group at the University of Oslo.

A modelled reply

Humans are better than computers and robots at perceiving things with their eyes, ears and other senses – and in combining this with previous experiences in order to make the right decisions.

The researchers draw from human-made data and biologically-inspired algorithms to train computer systems that can predict future actions.

Technically, the band uses artificial neural networks that are written using open source software libraries for numerical computing.

The Ipad band listens to a human player’s performance, in this case Martin’s, predicts appropriate responses and creates accompaniment on other Ipads.

Creating music with a social app


Martin has also developed a social app for tablets and smart phones, called MicroJam.

“It’s possible to create music together via MicroJam”, he says eagerly.

When using the app, one can choose different instruments – like drums, string instruments or a synthesizer.

Martin will present MicoJam at the Cutting Edge Festival at Oslo Science Park on the 26th of September.

“Is this an app that can be downloaded and used by anyone?”

“No, there is still some research and development to be done, but hopefully it will be ready at the end of the year”. Martin smiles, convinced that this will lead to more positive everyday creativity among people.

“Ordinary people can easily create music. And they can do it together”.

Take a look at how MicroJam works:

Not the end for composers

“Is this the end for human composers – will there be no future Beethoven or Bruce Springsteen?”

“Far from it. We will always need brilliant composers and musicians. This is a tool that can help them be more creative as well”, he says, pointing out that a group of composers tested the app and are thrilled.

“It’s just like the fact that though people write something on Facebook, it doesn’t mean they will win the Nobel Prize in Literature. There will always be room for creative artists of different kinds”, Martin suggests.

In developing these tools, he has been inspired by John Cage and John Luther Adams. The latter is an American composer who developed music based on nature, especially the scenery in Alaska.

Cage was a pioneer in electro-acoustic music and non-standard use of instruments.


Postdoctoral Fellow Charles Martin at the Departmnet of Informatics

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