The 2009 Creativity 50: Ge Wang

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Ge Wang has conducted orchestras in lots of different places, from a sculpture garden on Stanford's campus to Macworld. But if he has his way, it won't be long before he's leading a worldwide chorus of iPhone players. Wang's company, Smule, released the most popular music-making software in Apple's App Store, the Ocarina. The breath-activated software functions much like areal ocarina, yet lets you tune in to players all over the globe and hear their compositions. Over 500,000 people have purchased the 99-cent application; at one point it was the top app in 20 countries. More than a thousand posted fingering diagrams to the company's website for all manner of tunes, from hard rock to favorites from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Wang is an assistant professor at Stanford in the university's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, or CCRMA(pronounced karma), where he leads a group of students who make music manipulating the physical position and software of their Macintosh computers. Meanwhile, as the tech lead at Smule, he's helped to launch five different products, including the Ocarina. Every one, according to Wang, is based on the expressive potential of audio, people's desire to express themselves and a social component to allow people to connect. Next up is the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra, or MoPhO, which may eventually lead to a global orchestra for Wang, recruiting players like YouTube user hrdrockgrrl, whose arrangement of "Oh Shenandoah" on the Ocarina recently won her a $1,000 prize in a Smule contest.

Wang, on the social aspect of the application: "We've only begun to scratch the surface of the social element. There's such depth to this, which is why we're exploring it both at Stanford and Smule. We can't always say we know what we're doing; if we did, it wouldn't be research. But we're having a blast, investigating how to change the way people think, do, and relate, though creative uses of technology. I don't know when we're actually going to have a conducted symphony orchestra across the globe, but it might happen sooner than we'd think."

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