Pangur Brougham-Cook has lived on Hilton Head Island for almost her entire life, but she’s no beach bum. Quite the opposite.
The recent graduate of the Honors College at the College of Charleston designed a complex software program that allows users to create musical compositions simply – on their cell phones.
It’s certainly science, not mad science, but specific to a technology and a creative mind with a large dose of genius at a young age.
“In under 30 minutes, you can create meaningful, expressive music and play an ensemble with other people,” said the graduate, who earned a bachelor’s degree in arts computing with a focus on music. “It allows easy access to musical creativity… It provides a much faster avenue for people to express themselves musically…instead of spending years on techniques.”
Brougham-Cook attended Hilton Head Preparatory School and graduated from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville. When she enrolled at College of Charleston, she saw the original, primitive version of Clementine.
“It’s totally a different project than the one we started on,” she said. “I added a lot more finite control…It used to be when you tilted it (the phone screen), there would be rapid fire lots of notes at once. … Now you can tilt it and fully control how many notes you’re playing. We also added a multiplayer functionality to it.”
The digital “instrument” she spent three years working on with computer science professor Bill Manaris is a multiplayer program that allows anyone to turn their cellphone into a musical instrument with different sounds, simply by tilting the device.
“We’re utilizing a phone’s gyroscope, and we’re manipulating that data in order to create music,” she said.
“We mapped the pitch up and down movement of the gyroscope, then we mapped the angle of the phone,” she said. “If you point your phone higher, you can play higher notes; if you point it lower, you can play lower notes. The more you tilt it, the faster the notes get, so you have some control over the tempo.”
In the summer of 2019, Brougham-Cook and Manaris were invited to bring Clemetine to the Music Library of Greece in Athens. The library is home to a vast collection of books, recordings, and rare collections of music from around the world and across the ages, including works by the masters.
“It was awesome,” said Brougham-Cook. “Just knowing the work that I built is in the same building where they keep manuscripts of Mozart and Beethoven is incredible.”
When she wrote her bachelor’s essay, she said, “We hypothesized it would be a good tool for music education. And to prove that, we measured how much time it took people to actually use it. We found that people can pick up this instrument and use it in less than 30 minutes.”
The program, which is not commercially available and is used mainly by children and in academia, is all about computer programming coding.
“Coding is the newest form of literacy, which is where computers and technology have been going in our lives,” she said. “We can tell computers what to do and give them the steps to accomplish the tasks you want.”
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.