Concert Turns Mobile Device Users into Interactive Orchestra

Berklee hosts thousands of performances each year, but, until now, none quite like the recent Concert for 100 Mobile Devices.

March 11, 2016

Berklee hosts thousands of concerts every year, but none of them has been quite like the Concert for 100 Mobile Devices on Thursday, March 3, 2016, in the David Friend Recital Hall. Hosted by the Berklee Interdisciplinary Arts Institute (BIAI), the concert featured a mix of traditional music performances on a stage and audience participation via iPhones and iPads as those in attendance became, in essence, a symphony orchestra of cell phones.

The concert stemmed from work that Neil Leonard, artistic director of the Berklee Interdisciplinary Arts Institute, was commissioned for last year. Leonard presented a concert for 1,000 mobile devices at Casa de Musica in Porto, Portugal. For both that event and the recent Berklee concert, Leonard collaborated with Rui Penha—a composer and performer of live electroacoustic music whose work at the Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology, and Science delves into music technology, sound spatialization, interactive installations, musical robots, autonomous improvisers, and educational software—and Carlos Guedes, head of the music program at New York University Abu Dhabi.

The concert included a piece from BIAI student composers Blake Adelman, Ian Duclos, Peder Barratt-Due, Landy Gao, Lee Gilboa, Jonathan Koh, Nikhil Singh, and Sakura Tsuruta titled “TakeOff.” The abstract composition's aim, which was achieved in full, was to sonically transport those in the room to the experience of an immigrant navigating their initial arrival at a United States airport.

“This is the first time we’ve attempted this at Berklee,” Leonard noted at the concert, “so you’re participating in a very exciting experiment.”