“Please Turn Your Cell Phones ON”

“Please Turn Your Cell Phones ON”

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.]

IonSound Pitt.jpg
Feedback on the concert from social media is projected live onto the screen behind the violinist.

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.


7 thoughts on ““Please Turn Your Cell Phones ON”

  1. audience participation is such a crapshoot.. you never know if people are going to react/interact the way you want (typically not!!)
    i think that it would have been more of a success had more people had shown up, but then you’d run the risk of someone being a jerk and ruining the effect by posting typical anonymous-internet comments


    1. Luckily the posts were moderated in real-time by a staff member in the concert hall. And well-moderated, I might add. I “tested the waters” with a slightly critical post about how I didn’t like the auditorium the concert was in- and it got through! So it really was just censored for crude & inappropriate things, not opinions.


  2. Really fascinating concept for a concert, a shame to hear it didn’t work out as expected. I, too, would feel ‘wrong’ texting during a concert.. I can’t tell if an intimate atmosphere would make that better or worse for me.


    1. I think that while social media is one form of connecting with people, when you’re using it surrounded by a bunch of other people it can have the opposite effect by making you feel disconnected from them. So at least for me, I’d rather have a little bit of connection with the other audience members if the goal of the concert is interactive. That’s just my take though. Have you ever been to an unconventional concert before? I’m curious to hear other opinions!


        1. Their next concert has this as the description: IonSound’s annual presentation of new compositions by University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate Student Composers will take place on Monday, April 14 at 8 p.m., also at the University’s Bellefield Hall Auditorium. Social media will also play an intriguing role for this concert. Not sure what “intriguing role” quite means, but may be fun to check out if you can make it!


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