October 8, 2017
I recently attended a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra where I was actually encouraged to leave my cell phone out for the first piece. The piece was Wayne Oquin’s Resilience and featured the amazing Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ. The playbill had a full page with instructions for downloading the LiveNote app to my phone, an app that “allows concertgoers to access information about the works they are hearing, following the music with real-time musical, emotional and historical highlights” (see article). This short video below highlights what the app does during a performance and what information it provides.
I was fascinated by the information that was scrolling across my cell phone as I listened to the performance. Although I have played an instrument since the fifth grade and was a part of my university orchestra, there were pieces in the score that I would have missed if it wasn’t for the information in front of me, timed with transitions and movements. There were also interesting pieces of background information, images to enhance the text, and links to a glossary to look up the definition of musical terms.
Did I miss some parts of the performance because I was focusing on reading the screen of my phone? Certainly. But did the LiveNote app provide me a more enriched experience at the orchestra? Absolutely. I was disappointed the LiveNote App was only enabled for one piece that evening, but I’m pleased to see it will be available for the Halloween Organ concert I’m attending later this month.
While I was exploring and experiencing LiveNote, I was wondering if there could be any applications to communicating science. I started thinking back to all of the conference keynote sessions I’ve attended, from talks for scientists and talks for the general public. If a keynote is scripted, I could easily see there being a similar app with information pertaining to the topic of the talk. There could be a glossary with scientific terms, and additional background information on research projects or organizations. There perhaps could be links to journal articles referred to in the talk. There could be brief bios of scientists that are mentioned. I could go on and on with suggestions for what could be included.
I don’t know if scientific conferences are ready for their own version of LiveNote, but if the Philadelphia Orchestra could figure out a way to work with Drexel University engineering faculty to be at the front of technology innovation and implementing new ideas, is it that far of a stretch to rethink what we provide audiences during our own science keynote sessions, beyond listening to a “sage on the stage” for an hour?