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Quincy review – A great generative app from RoGame Software

Quincy was released in April of 2014, and caught the attention of many in the iOS music world. But it was immediately apparent that the app had a little way to go before it would be a "complete" iOS music app. Thankfully, the developers at RoGame Software have been hard at work, and have updated the app to include all the necessary features that one would expect from a quality app.

Version 1.0.1 brought the essential Audiobus and IAA integration to Quincy. And Version 1.0.3, just recently released, brought Virtual MIDI capabilities. This latest update really expands on how Quincy can be used in your workflow, as both an instrument and a MIDI controller.

 Demo video, showing the hypnotic beauty of this app.

Quincy is a generative app that relies on the mathematical Conway's Game of Life. Many of us were introduced to Conway's Game of Life with the release of Xynthesizr. While these apps may look similar, they should not be confused for each other, as they are unique apps. Xynthesizer is primarily a step-sequencer that also uses Conway's Game of Life as a randomizer feature, whereas Quincy relies entirely on these "rules" to change sounds.

In a nutshell, how Conway's Game of Life works is that an initial pattern, or "seed" is placed on the grid. From there, based on the rules, the pattern will evolve on its own to grow, move, or stay exactly how they are (in the case of "still lifes"). This is all very mathematic, and not at all required knowledge to make music with Quincy, but I would recommend checking out the Wikipedia link above to learn more. I imagine that having more knowledge about Conway's Game of Life will provide you with some great results. Thankfully, the developers have included over 50 of the patterns from Conway's Game of Life right in the app, and these can be stamped into the grid with just a few taps.

The interface for Quincy is essentially one screen, with many menu and settings drop-downs available. The majority of the screen is the grid, which is where your patterns will live and evolve. Watching these patterns evolve is a very hypnotic and soothing. You can customize the colors of the app, to really please the senses. I'm not sure that I've ever been so captivated by an app's visuals as I was with Quincy.

quincy_iPad

Quincy provides a very good selection of modes for creating notes, with almost 70 scales to choose from. These are divided into "Chroma" (Chromatic), "Gregorian" ("church scales"), and "Pentrix" (pentatonic). That is a surprisingly robust selection to choose from.

There are two sound sources available with Quincy - either the internal sounds, or via Virtual MIDI. The internal sounds consist of 128 of the standard soundfont sounds you've likely already seen in various other soundfont programs (Bismarck bs-16i, for example). Playing around with these different instruments while running the same pattern returns wildly different results, of course. Some of the orchestral soundfonts work really well here, and the percussion instruments can yield some dramatic sounds.

There are twelve 'documents' included with Quincy, that provide you with some templates to get started. These cover a wide range of patterns, and similarly create varied results. While I found these interesting, I was much more interested in working from my own creations. According to the documentation, Quincy also has MIDI over Wifi, but as I do not have any external hardware or computer devices to test, I can only pass that info along.

As mentioned before, the most recent update brings virtual MIDI to Quincy, turning this into one of the more interesting MIDI controllers available. Like other generative apps, controlling your favorite synths in a seemingly random way can provide some great bursts of inspiration. I'm a fan of generative apps, as I do tend to fall into patterns when I play a keyboard instrument, for example. Same progressions, same chords. Quincy will coax out some patterns that you would not have thought of on your own. They may not all be zingers, but experimentation with different sounds and patterns can be both productive and wildly entertaining.

I reached out to the developer Arthur Roolfs for a bit more clarification on how the sounds are being created in Quincy. There are many different factors that play into how the music is generated. Depending on which mode (Chroma, Gregorian, Pentrix) is chosen, along with the scale and root note, for instance, will yield very different results. There are options to also change the rhythmic structure of the pattern, and of course altering the Game of Life rules also changes the way patterns are formed.

If you are using Virtual MIDI, there are additional opportunities on customizing the sound. If you are running Quincy through an iOS synth, the ADSR on that synth will affect your sounds, for example. There's a lot going on here behind the scenes, which makes for some very interesting results.

Using the soundfonts included will certainly keep you happy, but using Quincy as a virtual MIDI controller is a blast. I was controlling Sunrizer with Quincy, and while Quincy was playing the patterns, I was tweaking the parameters in Sunrizer on the fly. Really fun.

In summary, if you are looking for a step sequencer that you can program some notes in, Quincy will not be the right app for you. As mentioned before, Quincy is a generative app that will provide some results not normally found in other iOS apps. This is a great app to break out of your normal routine. It's a really good app right now, and now that the developers have implemented the much-requested Audiobus and IAA integrations, they have assured me that they are continuing to work on adding even more modules in the near future. If the demo video above raised an eyebrow, my guess is that you'll find this app worthwhile.

If you're thinking about buying Quincy, please consider clicking through the App Store link below. Thanks!

Quincy (AppStore Link) Quincy
Developer: Arthur Roolfs
Rated: 4+
Price: $13.99 Download

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