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Entries in Oxygene (1)

We want our iPad Jean Michel Jarre synth app, not excuses!


Our last 'not excuses!' post caused quite a stir, we are not making any promises, but there is a small chance that some form of old school arcade emulation may find its way onto the iPad soon. We'll be sure to update you with more details as the project nears completion.

In the meantime we turn our attention toward the area of music synthesisers. There is already quite an array of synth apps available for the iPad — hardly surprising as the iPad is just about perfect for music creation — however, all but a handful appear to be upgraded iPhone apps.

We think there is a place for music creation applications that are narrowly focused on replicating the distinctive sound of just one artist, perhaps even just one specific album from that artist. We'll use the seminal 1976 Jean Michel Jarre classic, 'Oxygene' as an example of how and why this should be done.

"I listened to all of Jean Michel Jarre’s albums obsessively, to the point of knowing every note by heart. His music accompanied me as I wrote « 2010 : Odyssey Two. His concerts are always a celebration of wonderment…" Sir Arthur C. Clarke

A truly defining album, not just of the 70s but also of Jarre's career. Oxygene proved that electronic music can be emotive, sweeping and even soulful. Oxygene Synth, a synthesiser app based on nothing but the musical equipment and production procedures that Jarre used to create Oxygene would be a sure fire hit and could possibly lead to a renewed interest in the music of France's most enigmatic musician.

Here's how we think it should work...

Authenticity comes first

Oxygene Synth should contain the full variety of analog synthesisers and other electronic instruments and effects that Jarre used when creating the original recording. This is vital to the whole endeavour, without the full range of authentic instruments and sounds the app simply wouldn't appeal to its target audience and would likely be seen as a cheap money grabbing exercise. We are no synthesiser experts but we do know that getting that authentic sound will require broad software emulation of the EMS VCS 3 analogue synthesiser, a 'portable' synthesiser use by Jarre, but also Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Portishead. 

The full emulation of early synthesisers is a worthy endeavour, old beauties like the EMS VCS 3 and Yamaha CS-80 — a synth also used by Jarre, Vangelis, David Bowie, Keane and Coldplay — need to be preserved for future generations. Unlike many other classic instruments these synths are no longer in production. Interestingly, the Yamaha CS-80 has already been reproduced in software by Arturia using their TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology, a technique which allows for the accurate modelling of the behavior of analog circuits on a personal computer. We've contacted Arturia about the Oxygene Synth, we'll post their reply here.

Next comes music

Oxygene Synth should include the complete album as MIDI files. This will allow the user to examine the timing and nuance of each note and effect. A Smule Magic Piano songbook style interface would make for a wonderful way for the music keyboard novice to make quick progress, though ultimately a full musical keyboard and portrayal of the original physical controls should be presented.

The icing on the cake

So far we have the full array of sounds, the musical note-by-note breakdown of the entire album and a way for the inexperienced to recreate Oxygene. Adding video interviews with Jean Michel Jarre, tutorials, sleeve notes, poster artwork, album reviews, a 'making of' documentary and social networking hooks would really make the Oxygene Synth app shine.

We think there's a big future in this kind of app. The iPad is so much more than any other personal computer, it's more flexible, more personal, and in many ways more powerful. By the end of 2011 the installed user base could be approaching 30 million. Given the right price point and advertising — surely Apple would feature the Oxygene Synth app at a Steve Jobs keynote! — we are convinced that the Oxygene Synth would be a success.

We are currently attempting to get in contact with the man himself. Stay tuned! You can show your support for the Oxygene Synth iPad app by mentioning this article on your own blog or by tweeting about it on Twitter. Let's see if we can make this happen.

Further reading:

We want our iPad Arcade, not excuses!