The WretchUp instrument I designed for Mouse On Mars is now finally available for everyone on the iOS App Store. The original idea came about when we discussed the landscape of iOS music apps and noticed a lack of apps that experimented with a certain lack of control, a risk associated with using them, but thereby gaining new ways of expression. We were searching for the freedom found in many physical instruments, where everything can go horribly wrong in the next moment, but the instrumentalist can start to learn and tame the instrument, gaining new ways of expression along the way. Think of string instruments, pianos, acoustic and electric guitars, but also instruments like the STEIM Crackle Box.
WretchUp is not the answer to this quest, but it is intended as a step in that direction. The Pd patch leaned on the great Rjlib selection of high-level construction elements, which were modified to render what is essentially a feedback instrument built on two delay lines. The patch ran in RjDj on iOS, which is sadly no longer available on the App Store. To make the instrument more risky but also more rewarding to use, we added gyro control over the base octave and an additional filter at the output stage.
Peter Kirn and Oliver Greschke then took on the task of converting the original patch into an app, while also expanding it by adding a looper and the option to choose between continuous mic input or input on touch. The app remains simple, but can generate a nice variety of sounds, which in this case mostly means soundscapes beyond the safe, toned down sounds of typical iOS synthesizers. Forcing the musician to work for control, and also to work for getting any sound out of the app at all, is part of the idea. This can be seen as a hurdle at first, but when it is overcome, very small gestures with the instrument can make huge differences, serving as a basis for an individual development of distinctively different sound expressions.
In another video by SoundTestRoom, one of the early adopters, we find a very different use case with different results.
WretchUp is available on the App Store: