Why the BBC Philharmonic wants concert-goers to use their phones

The new Notes web app by the BBC Philharmonic seems like such a simple idea, and yet it’s completely revolutionary. During the concert, audience members can access a web page where they’ll get live programme notes beamed straight to their device, triggered at the relevant moment.

Ellie and I road-tested the tool a few months ago, before I shot this promo video, and we were absolutely blown away. I’m a cellist, and love hearing live orchestral music, but I’m the first to admit that I really struggle at times to concentrate on long-form pieces of music. I’ve even been known to fall asleep, and sometimes even snore. This didn’t happen once while using Notes, though. It gave me little digestible insights throughout each piece so that I stayed focused and fully engaged with what was happening musically.

You’d think it would be distracting, but counter-intuitively it’s less distracting (to me, anyway) than people flicking through paper programmes. Most phone screens dim automatically in low light, and the simple design involves nothing but white text on a black background. As an added bonus, the text is fairly large so it’s much easier to read in the dark than tiny printed type. And to be doubly sure there are no complaints, there are dedicated areas in the concert hall for using the Notes web app, out of sight from the rest of the audience.

The promo video was more challenging to shoot than it should have been, as we didn’t realise I wouldn’t be able to move around during the concert! There’s nothing like harsh restrictions to get the creative juices flowing, though, and I set to work finding some interesting angles from which I could capture people using their phones.