Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Panaiotis – a one-name composer, performer of computer-assisted music and University of New Mexico research professor – has yet another credit to add to his résumé.
He has created something he calls Bandojo, an electronic musical instrument or software that can be downloaded to any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and allows virtually anyone to create music.
Users can choose among several instruments, rhythms, scales, volumes and even types of music. “This is a little complicated and hard to explain, but if you turn it on, it’s beautiful and easy to use,” Panaiotis said. “One thing that’s important is how accessible it is.”
Although Bandojo enables anyone – those with no musical training, children, people with physical or intellectual disabilities – to create original melodies that are automatically harmonized to a wide variety of accompaniments, Panaiotis insists it is “not a toy for kids.”
There is, after all, a lot of technology behind the instrument, as well as quite a bit to understand.
The app costs $2.99, although a bigger and more elaborate version, Bandojo Professional, goes for $30.
Panaiotis and Michele Spiro, his wife of 20 years and chief collaborator, demonstrated Bandojo for the Journal last week. They focused on its versatility and user-friendliness, even for people who don’t play an instrument.
Panaiotis is also a research professor with UNM’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.
When he showed his new creation to STC.UNM – the university’s intellectual property arm formerly known as the Science and Technology Corp. – the people there quickly introduced him to Travis Kellerman, a former student at UNM’s Anderson School of Management. The two formed a partnership, Bandojo LLC, with Panaiotis as the creative inspiration and Kellerman as the business head and CEO.
Kellerman has a somewhat different definition of Bandojo than Panaiotis’ “electronic musical instrument.” He calls it a platform or single interface for playing multiple instruments. “It’s a smart instrument,” he said in a telephone interview, “a music-creation app.”
Panaiotis’ motivation for developing the software stems, in part, from something he was born with – a congenital condition called arthrogryposis, an abnormal muscle shortening in his arms that limits his ability to use his hands.
When he was a fourth-grader in Los Angeles, a school aptitude test revealed he had a predilection for music. Despite, or perhaps because of, his limited hand use, he learned to play a small, tuba-like instrument. Later, as a music major in college, he took the required piano courses, he said, but came away somewhat dissatisfied with only a partial understanding of harmony.
Ultimately, he earned a master’s degree in music from the New England Conservatory and a doctorate in musical composition from the University of California, San Diego. His works have been performed around the world. Two CDs he collaborated on have made it onto the New York Times’ lists of the top 10 CDs of new music, he said, in 1989 and again in the early 1990s.
A few hours before they sat down with the Journal , Panaiotis and Spiro, along with two children and another colleague, demonstrated to another audience Bandojo’s far-flung ensemble capabilities. They were in different locations but hooked up to Panaiotis’ central computer. Together, they played a rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Kellerman said Bandojo is being considered for use in more than 20 public schools in Albuquerque and is already up and running at the Adelante Development Center, a nonprofit agency that provides support services for New Mexicans with mental, physical and developmental disabilities.
He said Bandojo LLC has no plans to stop aggressively marketing Bandojo the software. “We’ve only just begun.”