I’ve begun to dread the appearance of iPad jams in my inbox; you may feel the same way. When affordable digital synths were new in the 80s, there were various embarrassing videos as vendors like Casio showed off the new capabilities. Listen! Who needs a real trumpet when you can use a keyboard that sounds like a trumpet? Sort of! Not really! But – it sure is amazing for what it is! Kind of! It sounds awful, but it is cheap and fake! It took years for people to appreciate those instruments for what they actually were, and then on entirely different grounds. (I nabbed the first Casiotone I owned on eBay. Appreciate it as a uniquely digital instrument, and it sounds completely different. I think I like it more now than I did then.)
I could draw an analogy here, but we’re seeing the iPad fad repeat that exploitation of novelty verbatim.
All of this misses the beauty of digital technology. Tech is at its best as the presence of the device falls away, leaving musical instincts and expression. And at that point, it really doesn’t matter what you use. The iPad will be successful not when it’s front and center, but when it’s invisible.
So, I was pleasantly surprised as UK hip hop celebrity Tinchy Stryder and crew take over ten iPads at The Carphone Warehouse in London. After parades of dorky demos, this gang of young people owns those gadgets. Yes, they could probably have done the same with ten drum machines – that’s the point. Even the iPad’s somewhat primitive touch input sounds great, because this group of people plays together.
The video comes from Jon Morter, a musical personality who has of late become a kind of viral master, launching campaigns to send Rage Against the Machine to Christmas number 1, and to save BBC’s superb 6Music station when it was threatened by cuts.
In contrast to awkward string quartets and painful Christmas melodies, Tinchy Strider and friends bring the iPad what it’s sorely been needing – some chops.
The rest of us better get practicing. And while it flies in the face of viral engineering and videos, maybe the aim isn’t to be first. Maybe the aim should be to make the novelty wear off, and get back to music.
Thanks, Jon, for sending this our way.