Closing the Gap Between Traditional Orchestral Institutions and the Contemporary Audience:
How might a symphony-goer’s experience listening to an orchestra be enhanced by an iPad app that quietly suggests salient materials to support the performance? The Symphony Interactive (SI) v2.0 represents the second phase of our research into that question. This prototype iPad application uses mobile tablet technology to deliver supplemental information and media in real-time to audiences attending live musical events. Its development was made possible by support from the Offices of the Vice President of Research and the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
The SI team began developing this improved version of the application in the fall of 2012. Data from the initial focus group using SI v1.0 revealed that participants found the the supplemental information to be useful but thought the interface, especially the virtual score, was too distracting. This second phase of production aimed to develop a less intrusive interface while maintaining easy access to supplemental information, and push the potential for further synthesis between the live performance and the media on the iPad.
Linda Dusman, Ph.D., Professor of Music at UMBC, selected a new score, Erik Satie's Parade, for its rich history of artistic associations dating back to the original 1917 performance as the score to a ballet by Jean Cocteau, with brilliantly painted sets by Pablo Picasso. Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at UMBC and former IRC technical director Eric Smallwood completely redesigned the visual interface, replacing the original scrolling score with a minimalistic "pinwheel" that combines simplified visual elements inspired by musical notation with clock-like mechanical motion. Undergraduate computer science major Wallace Brown made technical improvements, including the development of a new Java application for improved WiFi network connection stability and the addition of a simple interface for inputting annotations.
In May 2013, a focus group was held for SI v2.0 during the UMBC Orchestra's performance of Satie's Parade. Firsthand accounts and qualitative reaction surveys indicate that the more subtle approach to delivering information to users seems to have worked. Users described the app as "engaging," "fun," and "easy to use."