We probably shouldn't have been surprised when David Cope excitedly asked us if we'd like to see his new iPad app, as we began packing up our shoot for a forthcoming Engadget Show episode. After all, the former UC Santa Cruz music professor's name has, over the past several decades, become closely tied to the world of computer-generated music -- it figures that the journey that began with punch cards would have eventually led to tablets and smartphones.
Jambandit hit the App Store a couple of weeks ago. It's the first offering from Recombinant Inc., a small company co-founded by Cope in Santa Cruz a few years back as a "commercial extension of a body of [his] academic work." His time in the field began during one particularly bad bout with writer's block -- tasked with writing an opera, Cope eschewed traditional paths for the earnest development of a new system for creating music, working to create a software program that could generate scores in the styles of different composer -- a move that, unsurprisingly, opened up a slew of questions on the subject of creativity.
Developed in the 90s, the Emily Howell program built on the lessons of earlier versions, allowing a programmer to better guide it through a series of associations. Emily, a play on the name of its predecessor, Experiments in Musical Intelligence (EMI), has since generated a number of scores performed by flesh and blood musicians, which are available through the standard means (iTunes, et al). Those hoping for a pocket version of Emily, however, will sadly be a bit disappointed -- you're not likely to generate any Bach concertos on the thing.
Jambandit does, however, offer some realization of Cope's desire to make music composition a bit more accessible, letting the user solo over backing tracks from classical to funk (and beyond, by way of in-app purchases). It's not the most advanced music creation app in the store, but there is a certain appeal in its simplicity -- we picked it up almost immediately and had some trouble putting it down. At the very least, it'll help keep us busy until Cope sees fit to gift the world a tablet version of Emily Howell.
For more on David Cope, be sure to tune into the next episode of the Engadget Show.