Mobile Phones and Max


Nathan Bowen will be leading one of nine community-driven workshops at Expo ’74 in Brooklyn this October. Read on for more information about his workshop and some history of his work.




Mobile Phones and Max: Simple Ways to Make Interactive and Collaborative Music

This workshop aims to introduce some simple applications for smart phones that integrate very well with the Max environment. In the days prior to smart phones, getting keypresses from phones to integrate with Max required a lot of extra programming via Asterisk or other telephony platforms. With smart phones now featuring WiFi capability, getting your phone to talk to Max via a WiFi LAN is now very simple to do. This opens the door for the phone to serve as a controller, and via OpenSoundControl, there is a very low latency. In this workshop we’ll create a network band driven by mobile phones. TouchOSC, OSCemote, c74, and other apps will be featured. As TouchOSC is available for both iOS and Android platforms, this app will be highlighted.

To participate in this workshop, you will need a laptop with Max and, optionally, a smart phone (iPhone or Android phones work best) with TouchOSC app (downloaded onto your device) or comparable OSC-equipped apps.

A Short Interview with Nathan Bowen

Who are you and what do you do?

I’d say that I am foremost a composer, but since being introduced to Max I’ve also become an instrument builder. In my graduate work at the CUNY Graduate Center I began to focus on the use of mobile phones as performance devices, particularly in non-linear networked and collaborative situations. In looking for ways to engage non-musicians in some way other than through passive consumption, mobile phones seem to have unique potential as controllers because nearly everyone has one.

As of late I’ve been pretty consumed with my dissertation while also teaching fulltime at Moorpark College. Here and there I’ve done projects with MELD Danceworks, the Handcart Ensemble, the Intermedia Arts Group, 60×60, and have served on the staff of NYCEMF.

When and why did you start using Max?

I started using Max in early 2006. I was intrigued by the prospect of realtime performance being incorporated into my compositions. At the time I was studying composition with Amnon Wolman at Brooklyn College via the Graduate Center, and he had me get in touch with Hans Tammen at Harvestworks. I served as an intern and took classes from Matthew Ostrowski, Luke DuBois, and tried to sit in on any other activities going on there. Right from the start I was blown away by the artistic potential Max had.

What technology or person’s work intrigues you most right now?

I’ve been pretty keen to watch what’s going on both at Stanford and Michigan with their respective Mobile Phone Orchestras, so Ge Wang and Georg Essl are pretty intriguing to me. Atau Tanaka has been very kind as a contact and I really admire his work and dedication in mobile arts. Frauke Behrendt has done tremendous research in mobile music as has Sumanth Gopinath. Kiri Miller’s research on Rock Band and Guitar Hero is fascinating too.

I’m just now trying to get a grip on musical gesture research and how to make use of accelerometers and other sensor data in meaningful ways. I feel like I have so much to learn, and there seems to be a large corpus of work that’s been done.

Kinect hacks also are pretty tantalizing. I’m very excited to see what people are doing with it in the coming years. I love the collective effort to help make digital music-making a physical experience.

What is the most exciting part of attending Expo ’74?

I’m mostly excited to see what else is going on, in hopes of absorbing as much knowledge and inspiration as possible. Though I don’t post on the Max forum often, I have benefited so much from the wisdom of others, so I’m hoping to contribute to the community at Expo ’74. Also, Max 6 sounds great, so I’m looking forward to a solid intro.

Learn More About Nathan

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