English: Audience at a Dan Deacon concert

Smartphones are revolutionizing the way we view shows.

Smartphones have revolutionized a great deal in the way we experience live events, with music concerts very much at the forefront of this technology-driven charge. Not always to the benefit of the experience though, some would say, as a perfectly good view of a visceral live performance is all too often interrupted by an awkwardly elevated iPhone, jarringly held aloft to record an inferior version of events for posterity.

From the minor distractions of amateur photography to the deeper artistic concern over pirated recordings , it is easy to understand why many lament this particular addition of tech to the live setting. Not all feel this way, however, and some are even taking steps to embrace it.

Light It Up

Electronic artist Dan Deacon is at the forefront of the movement to integrate rather than eviscerate technology from the live performance.

Already obsessed with bringing the audience into the show, Deacon set about creating a way for his fans to augment the atmosphere of his set. Last summer he debuted the results, a mobile app that responds to the sounds of his performance, emitting an array of color from the screen that morphs and pulses with the music. Since then he has surprised and delighted audiences around the world with his unique approach to involving the audience.

Experienced live, as seen at Deacon’s packed performance in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park last month, the effect is quite astonishing. Where once the sea of tiny phone screens was a random wash of minor illumination irritation, harnessed in unison the crowd-sourced light show is quite something to behold. Add to this the fact that we have a participative use of the technology, rather than an isolating one, and the involvement of the smartphone at a show is fully flipped, becoming an augmentation of the experience.

Or, as Deacon succinctly sums up the effect of his app, “when you go to a concert you can be an element of it, rather than just posting on Twitter, ‘This band sucks.’ “

The New Normal

Although this is just one creative use of technology in this environment, it is easy to imagine more and more artists jumping on the opportunity to engage their audience more deeply with performances in this way. As the ability to design apps spreads and the cost comes down, we should see increasing experimentation in this area.

Beyond that, the potential to actually integrate mobile devices into the creation of music also comes into play. Imagine, for example, an orchestra taking to smartphones to perform a symphony –  –
A little too futuristic? Perhaps we should focus on perfecting audience participation before we revolutionize the entire performance. Either way, we can applaud the potential for technology to enhance our live experiences instead of detracting from them.
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