The sound engineer who works at Universal Audio in Scotts Valley is also a part-time musician and, as such, he's made a new album — entirely on his iPhone.
OK, so it's not anything that's going to remind anyone of Sinatra, but it's a complete musical work with percussion, bass, synthesizer and various sound samples, combined for 25 continuous mix tracks of cool-to-the-touch electronica appropriate for any chillin' party.
"I was pleased by how it turned out," said Freeman, a bass player and producer who goes by the moniker "Freematik." ''The sound is like something you'd get from a legit recording studio."
Freeman said it took him several months to finish the product, but, he found, it was something he could do anywhere. "I'd do it at motels, on the beach, waiting for tables at restaurants. That would be just enough time to make a beat."
Using such apps as Beatmaker, iDrum and Flare, Freeman meticulously created first a percussive beat, then a bass line, some synthesizer swells and melody lines and even some DJ scratchs. Scratching is a popular technique in which a DJ creates rhythmic sounds by scratching a needle in the grooves of a vinyl record on a turntable. An application called Flare Scratch allowed him to simulate the act of scratching, on the tiny screen of his iPhone.
"You're physically using the same motion," he said. "Scratching is really hard to do. It's not something I've ever been good at. But this made it easier for me."
From there, Freeman added any number of sample sounds, downloaded from his own computer. The biggest problem with the project, which is dubbed "iMatik," was that Freeman could not overdub his various tracks. The iPhone allows for only one open application at a time, so he did the overdubbing on another workstation.
"For production, it's great," he said. "The app on the iPhone opens immediately and in 10 seconds you're ready to get to work. And the sound, it's pretty close if not equal to anything in a big studio."
The "iMatick" album is available streaming on Freeman's Web site, www.freematick.com. A download costs $5.
Freeman said he is familiar with artists who've created sounds, beats and textures on the iPhone — the project could theoretically also be done on the iPod Touch — but he has heard of no one who has ever gone to trouble to create a whole album.
Ironically, Freeman's Scotts Valley employer, Universal Audio, re-creates old-school recording equipment using both analog and digital technology.
If Freeman is the first to make an album on his iPhone, he may be the last as well. Certainly, more music is bound to be created using these new technological tools. But soon there will be an easier way. Apple's impending release of the iPad — the new units ship April 3 — gives would-be music producers much more screen space to work with compared to the tiny iPhone screen. There is little incentive then for anyone to repeat Freeman's feat.
"There are real limitations with it," he said. "It doesn't have pressure sensitivity, for instance. You can't push buttons to create different hard or soft sounds that make it more expressive. And it doesn't have the functionality to record music very well. But sometimes, it's nice to see what you can do with limitations."