Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Seamus Heaney: Five Fables

Touchpress have always been one of iOS’ best developers, turning books and media content into fantastic interactive apps. I’ve been a fan since The Elements, which takes the periodic table and turns it into a treasure trove worth of pictures, information and other content, which was released back in 2010. Since then, they’ve been releasing more and more great apps, two of which are Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Seamus Heaney: Five Fables. Two different apps, yet both sharing the same interactive nature and love that goes into all of their apps.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is in partnership with Deutsche Grammophon, where musicians Hope and Richter present a recomposed version of Vivladi’s classic piece. Following on from other Touchpress music apps which won the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Music Award for Creative Communication, the app also contains a 1981 recording by by The English Concert under Trevor Pinnock. The main features include a Beatmap, a visualisation of the performances that shows different sections of the orchestra pulse in time with the music. In addition, you can also see the recomposed recording from three video angles.

It’s just got so much content that wouldn’t be possible in any form of media, such as the ability to separate out each section or instrument as well as text, video and audio commentary – from around 50 experts and from Richter himself – or the ability to follow along with the music at the same time. It’s a really enjoyable experience that’s really fun and it’s certainly easy to have a quick play and then find that a few hours have passed as you just listen to the music. One problem is that the app is 2GB, possibly an issue for those with 16GB devices, but if you think of the app like a book that can just be deleted once you’ve explored it all and then re-downloaded when needed, it’s not really an issue.

Seamus Heaney: Five Fables is a repackaging of Heaney’s wonderful versions of Henryson’s poetic fables. The app includes “The Two Mice”; “The Lion and the Mouse” and “The Preaching of the Swallow” – Henryson’s retelling of Aesop’s fables as well as “The Fox, the Wolf and the Carter” and “The Fox, the World and the Farmer” – poems by Henryson based on the medieval tales of Reynard. Each fable is narrated by Billy Connolly and includes a wealth of other content including an animated video, notes and videos from Heaney or other experts discussing each one.

One of my favourite features is being able to easily move between the original Scottish version and Heaney’s English translation when listening to each fable. Despite all of this content the apps are easy to use and you don’t feel that you’re overwhelmed at all. While a lot of the content isn’t new for the app, with animation from the BBC or Heaney’s notes from a television interview before his death, it’s a great way to catch-up on tidbits that would otherwise be missed, such as how Heaney describes why Connolly was chosen for the narration.

Overall, these apps follow on the Touchpress tradition of leading the way. They’re both packed full of interactive content that provides a combination of fun and fascination as you go through the apps. Both apps present old content in a new way, reimagining them for a modern audience using the iPad instead of the CD or a book, while ensuring that they both take advantage of the iPad’s strengths. Either way, four years on from The Elements it’s a wonder why more developers haven’t created similar apps. Despite this it’s great to see Touchpress themselves, and the partners for each app, releasing hits more often than before meaning that they can provide the interactive fix we all need by themselves. Both of the apps are worth picking up to explore!

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