Music students and classical music lovers will soon be able to access a wealth of musical history with a swipe of the finger. A new app developed by Ithaca College alumnus Drew Schweppe provides users with interactive timelines, composer biographies, sheet music, program notes and audio examples.
Schweppe, who graduated in 2012 with a degree in music composition, started thinking about creating the Informusic app after completing coursework in music history at Ithaca College’s School of Music.
“I kept wondering why there wasn’t a smartphone app for music history because everyone who goes to a music school needs to take a music history course,” said Schweppe.
During an independent study course with Mark Radice, professor of music theory, history and composition, Schweppe created a timeline of important events in the lives of Western art music composers born from 1800–1900. After graduating from Ithaca College and pursuing a graduate degree, Schweppe used his timeline to create Informusic, which allows users to quickly and efficiently access information that they would normally need to consult multiple books to find.
Context is crucial to understanding a piece of music, according to Radice, who now serves as the chair of Informusic’s advisory and review board. This resource helps users to contextualize musical events with other disciplines such as art, history and politics.
“Depending upon whether a composer is writing a composition for the Lutheran Church in Germany or the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, that composition is going to have very distinctive characteristics because of the situation in which it originated,” said Radice. “In Mozart’s situation in Salzburg, he was writing for the Catholic Church, but the archbishop was clear that he did not want music to take over the service and that it was only to enhance it. And so, Mozart was restricted to what we call the missa brevis, or short mass, which can have a duration of about 20–25 minutes but no more.”
Aside from its use in educational settings, Radice says the app can also be useful for music lovers in general.
“Say you’re flying in to San Francisco to hear the San Francisco Symphony perform a particular composition. If you have a smartphone, you can go on and inform yourself about the piece you’re about to hear while you travel from the airport to the symphony hall,” said Radice.
While Informusic currently features only Western classical music, Schweppe plans to expand to other genres, such as jazz.
“We’re building the landmarks of Western art music that you would have in your first music history course and we’re going to add a large amount of new content come the fall,” said Schweppe.
The Informusic app is currently available for iOS on the App Store for $0.99. Schweppe says that several colleges and universities have expressed interest in making the app available to their students.