Over the weekend I went to an interesting concert called “Please Turn Your Cell Phones ON” by the group IonSound, artists-in-residence at the University of Pittsburgh. The premise of the concert was to allow listeners to give immediate feedback during the concert through social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram- and e-mail) which would then be projected on a screen on the stage for everyone to see. I thought it sounded like a really cool idea, and I love my social media, so I knew it was something I had to check out. [You can see the Twitter feed from the concert at #ionsound.]
I guess I thought I knew what to expect, but the concert was actually very different from the preconceived idea I had in my head. The music, while modern, was played like a traditional concert, with the musicians in dark, solid-colored clothes, and the lights in the auditorium turned down. Initially, it was very difficult to wrap my head around the idea that I could use my cell phone throughout. (Although it ended up being okay because I could keep my eye on the NCAA selection show! 😉 )
Another factor that contributed to the slightly strange environment was that the concert was in a large auditorium yet there couldn’t have been more than about 25 people there. Thus even though I was interacting with the musicians and at some points the other attendees, I felt very disconnected from the whole experience. There were 5 pieces in the concert and it really took until the last two for people to get into participating in the “interactive” component of the night. The music was fantastic (!), but that’s not the reason I chose to attend this specific concert. Sadly, that didn’t seem to be the case for everyone there, and that really defeated the purpose for the rest of us.
I think an interactive concert is a really fun new idea, but the way this particular one was arranged was unfortunately not conducive to it working out well. In order for it to work well, more people need to participate, and I think that a smaller, more intimate environment would make everyone more likely to because it would allow people to feel connected- something that cannot happen when people have entire rows to themselves in a large auditorium. The members of IonSound are great musicians, and chose fantastic pieces to play to their strengths, but unfortunately this concert, in my opinion, did not work out as well as expected.