The iPad Ensemble
Music Making as a Hub for Silo-Breaking and Transmedia Narratives
The landscape of electronic and electroacoustic performance ensembles has changed significantly over the last five years. Advancements in technical and creative capabilities, repertoire, expense, and logistical support have taken the model in strange and wonderful new directions—as we work to solve the problems and capitalize on the successes of the previous generation of electronic performance ensembles, the next generation of electronic ensembles offers myriad possibilities for exploration and development. The “iPad ensemble” represents an extraordinary boon for small schools, groups with limited budgets and little hardware, as well as people focused on transmedia and interdisciplinary collaboration. And with this case study at CU-Boulder, they can be developed quickly, cost-effectively, and perhaps most importantly, as a sister-ensemble to our established laptop orchestra that doesn’t pose any political or logistical threats. With a few specific goals and an effective mission statement, I founded the BISoN ensemble to be an inclusive alternative for performers with diverse, often non-musical, backgrounds and aesthetic interests. This kind of all-encompasing ensemble also allows for progressive, experimental exploration of narrative and structured storytelling in ways that the traditional laptop orchestra model resists.
Founded in 2015, BISoN is comprised a group of multimedia artists, at the University of Colorado, utilizing iPads as instruments for live performance. This workshop engages in a frank discussion of the successes and failures of developing a performance paradigm for an iPad chamber ensemble of varying size, focusing on the specific needs and abilities of its members. And in doing so, this case study provides insight into other ensembles interested in pursuing a non-standard electronic performance model—from economic, technical, aesthetic, geographic, interpersonal, and political perspectives.
Hunter Ewen is a dramatic composer, educator, and multimedia designer. During the day, Dr. Ewen teaches students strategies for digital creativity. At night, he composes, solders, choreographs, and videographs solo and collaborative projects around the world. His works rail against the faded borders that separate art from science, music from sound, and meaning from meaninglessness. Ewen values frenzy. He buzzes and sneaks and desperately loves. His work is soothing, startling, virtuosic, and absurd. It grooves with dense, layered textures. It lusts for yowls and yips and wails and squeals. For screams that masquerade as art. For clamor and deviance. His compositions swing from chandeliers. His acoustic compositions garner awards and performances from SEAMUS, Punto y Raya, Ouroboros Review, The Playground Ensemble, Manchester New Music, CSU Fullerton, New Horizons Festival, the Colorado Constitution Day Competition, EMM, Electroacoustic Barn Dance, Gamma UT, Studio 300, and his graphic scores were featured prominently in the Pulitzer Prize nominated book, Armor, Amour, by Amy Pence. Ewen’s work has been performed across North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia by groups like the Beethoven Academy Orchestra, Cairo Symphony, Silesian Philharmonic, Greater Cleveland Flute Society, Science on a Sphere, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, Third Coast Percussion, Alarm Will Sound, and by distinguished performers like Greg Banaszak, Lina Bahn, and Bill Mooney. His installations have been seen in the Denver Museum of Art and the Roser Atlas Atrium at CU-Boulder. Ewen’s compositions and orchestrations are published by Ken Dorn, Alphonse LeDuc, Music Minus One, and Theodore Presser. Listen and watch at www.HunterEwen.com.