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At our concerts, please keep your Smartphones on…

February 29, 2016 by norman lebrecht

13 comments.


Our pals at River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston are educating their audience by means of a Smartphone app called Octava.

Basically, it offers screen guidance to musical works as they are being played in concert.

Any objections?

concert phones

More here.


Comments (13)

  1. Chris Walsh says:

    The obvious problem is that, regardless of how relevant and timely the information provided by the app, you run the risk of having a significant portion of your audience staring at an LED display during the performance. Bad enough to have one rogue audience member checking their texts, but to have potentially several dozen glowing screens in the audience? Distracting to players? Distracting to other audience members who don’t want/require the information provided by the app?

  2. Frederick West says:

    It’s the old case of ‘rather look at the guide book than admire the view’ .

  3. Patrick says:

    I prefer to use a different high-tech device….

    My ears.

    1. RICARDO says:

      AAAAAAAAAAAAAMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!!!!!!

      1. Holly Golightly says:

        Ditto.

  4. DAVID says:

    I’m rather skeptical about the idea of educating audiences DURING a performance. If someone shows absolutely no interest in classical music in their everyday life outside the concert hall, do we seriously expect their taste to change by engaging with a smartphone app while a concert is in progress? Isn’t it, by that time, a little too late? Is the musical experience reducible to the knowledge once gains while perusing a museum with an audio guide? Education is an ongoing process, not a sporadic one — the real issue here being lack of exposure to certain types of music in culture as a whole. That’s where the whole thing begins. When you have absolutely no exposure to classical music through the media and through radio, and when classical composers are essentially virtually unknown by an overwhelming majority in society as a whole, it seems rather naive to imagine that a simple app is going to do the trick — as Aristotle once said (2500 years ago!), “one swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day.”

  5. Doug says:

    Regarding the LED intrusion–simple: you restrict use of the devices and program to seating in the back of the hall.

  6. Sonja Staron says:

    Not too fond of the idea, but which of us, other than professional musicians, has NEVER read the program notes while a performance is in progress? Forever, orchestra management is speaking about “declining ticket sales,” and the “greying of audiences” – so there is a chance to give more people an “in” or “insight” – if you will. Also, if you are THAT into the music, a little light next to you should be of no concern, so what??? And the suggestion that the “techies-musical-ignorami” should be confined to the rear of the hall sounds odd to me – like sitting in the rear of the bus for the lesser of the human species.

    1. Haydn 70 says:

      “…but which of us, other than professional musicians, has NEVER read the program notes while a performance is in progress?”

      This is FAR from being the same (and intrusive and rude) as someone using a hand-held device.

      “Forever, orchestra management is speaking about “declining ticket sales,” and the “greying of audiences” – so there is a chance to give more people an “in” or “insight” – if you will.”

      The classical music industry has been trying audience-building gimmicks for decades, none of which work. Most of the people (I would say 99%) that attend a concert because of a trendy gimmick will not return unless the same gimmick (or another one) is offered.

      “Also, if you are THAT into the music, a little light next to you should be of no concern, so what???”

      I am a trained classical musician (composer) …I listen very carefully and get ‘into’ the music deeply. I was at an L.A. Philharmonic concert where some idiot a few rows ahead of me was texting…and the ‘little light’ was extremely annoying.

      “And the suggestion that the “techies-musical-ignorami” should be confined to the rear of the hall sounds odd to me – like sitting in the rear of the bus for the lesser of the human species.”

      Please spare us the PC silliness.

  7. RW2013 says:

    Idiotic, moronic iphone zombies.

    1. Holly Golightly says:

      I think they’re actually rather sad – but selfish – people who just need to get out more into the real world.

  8. Adam Stern says:

    Horrid.

  9. Lauren Lynley says:

    I initially had the same response but after considering the matter I do find it a good idea with caveats. There should be specific performances set aside for interactive viewing coupled with Q & A and Meet & Greet. The truth is (sad or glad depends upon perspective) we are careening into the synthetic hive mind. If we wish for the cream of the western classical music canon to survive and thrive we need to pull the proverbial selfie stick out of our backsides and embrace the future a la Yellow Room, David Garrett and 2 Cellos and high-tech sci-fi style interactive classical arts. I think we forget people ate, drank and made very merry indeed when these composers were alive and touring the band as it were. We forget that there were fistfights, fainting spells, riots in the streets, and debates at the top of the French Gov.t over Impressionist painting. This Red & Gold, Tiara’s & Tails thing is a new and frankly, unwelcome development in classical performing arts.
    Or, we can watch the slow death of classical music, ballet, opera, literature, painting, and philosophy whither and die.
    This is the New Reality. Welcome to it.


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