New app explains music as you listen - but you need to leave your mobile ON during concerts

16 October 2014, 12:25 | Updated: 16 October 2014, 12:28

The Philadelphia Orchestra has released an app that turns your mobile phone into an interactive concert programme.

Mobile phones have long been the pariahs of live performances, but the new app, LiveNote, promises to make them as integral to concerts as the programme. 

LiveNote allows audience members to access information about the piece they are hearing in real time. Facts pop up right on cue, ranging from historical information to when to expect the next flute entry. It even provides subtitles for opera. It's all supposed to create a more immersive experience, and explain the significance of what audience members are hearing. 

LiveNote, which is available for iPhone or Android mobiles, has been designed to have minimal impact on other audience members, with white text displayed on a black background to reduce distracting screen glow.

However, some have reservations about being distracted from the experience of concert-going, and being fully immersed in the music itself. After testing the app, music critic Peter Dobrin said: "Some of Bernstein's beautiful chord progressions told you everything you needed to know about what had gone wrong for Tony and Maria, and the app's observations seemed not only unnecessary but puerile. 

"There's a reason sex does not come annotated." 

He added: "Of course, by introducing cellphones into the hall - the experiment will continue this season at selected concerts - it is just a matter of time before a delicate, mystical moment of Mahler peering into the cosmos is thwarted by an incoming call."

Dobrin need not be overly concerned for the moment. LiveNote is somewhat limited in its usefulness, in that it will only work with certain programmes on the Philadelphia Orchestra's concert diary, and must be connected to a 'live stream' in the concert hall in order to work.

Would you use LiveNote or something like it at a concert? Let us know in the comments below.