Thursday, March 14, 2013

The virtue of free

Last year I released two apps for iOS: BreakOSC! and OSCNotation. Both used Open Sound Control (OSC) to accomplish very different things.

In BreakOSC!, the user plays a game of Breakout to change parameters in their music software based on what occurs in the game. I thought this was a great idea… I spent a couple months polishing this app and tried selling it for 0.99$. Twelve people bought it. No one reviewed it and I received no emails from its users. The only reason I do not consider this project a complete waste of time is that I make use of the app in my own music, from time to time. I do not plan to do any further work on this app.  (I have since made it available for free and over 200 people have downloaded it in only a few days)

OSCNotation has been a very different story. For my main ongoing musical project, I needed to display programmatically generated musical notation on the iPhone. Once I found a way, I realized that other musicians and composers could also find uses for this and I packaged this part of my project into a simple app that displays notation based on messages it receives via OSC. It took me very little time to create this app and I did not polish it to the level of BreakOSC!. Consequently, I made it available for free.

The response has been amazing. CDM reviewed it and Music Tech Magazine spread the news to its readers. To date, over 500 people have installed OSCNotation. Furthermore, users also contributed back… Carl Testa created a tutorial for Supercollider and Joel Matthys created ChucK code for a performance of Riley’s “In C”. Joel also coded an Android version of OSCNotation that mirrors the features of the first version of my app.

I have also received many emails from users describing their intended use of my app to teach, compose and perform. I look forward to hearing the music they create with my app.

Further, this interest in OSCNotation brought some attention to my own music and art. Indeed, my blog and bandcamp stats show a spike surrounding the dates of the original release.

Given all this, it is not very surprising that I felt it worthwhile to continue the development of this app. Today, I am very happy to announce the availability of OSCNotation version 2.0!

Some of the new features:

  • Note beaming
  • Triplets (half note, quarter note and eight note)
  • User can choose to display accidentals as flats or sharps
  • User can specify beat duration (affects note beaming). 

You can refer to the user guide page on the OSCNotation website to see how that works. Enjoy (and please share your music).