Computer composition pioneer David Cope discusses his iPad app (video)

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.