Lowlands | The Smartphone Orchestra

Sunday, 21 August marked The Smartphone Orchestra’s world premiere at renowned music festival Lowlands. Using their smartphones, thousands of Lowlands visitors collectively created a single, monumental work of music, composed especially for this occasion: a musical piece with every smartphone making its own unique contribution, thanks to sophisticated technology and an entirely new method of composition.

Ambassadors Lab was able to pitch in with an important piece of technology it had created several years ago, which is called TimeSync. TimeSync is a web technology that allows devices and webbrowsers to accurately sync its time to a server with millisecond accuracy, regardless of the type of internet connection. Once a sync is established, instructions can be broadcasted from one device to the other allowing them to act like one synchronised network of devices, or in this case: one large orchestra.

Together with The Smartphone Orchestra team Ambassadors Lab has perfected the service and stress tested it to a whopping 2000 devices. The beauty of TimeSync is that it opens up many opportunities from installations like The Smartphone Orchestra, to games and synchronised interactive mobile experiences.

Minimal music

The piece played at Lowlands is loosely inspired on minimal music, in which various patterns form a bigger whole when put together. Where traditionally musical instruments form the building blocks of a composition, in this case the ringtones and

notification beeps of smartphones are the key ingredients. Following several test sessions at Oerol, with Spinvis, and at the Sonár Festival in Barcelona with Brian Eno nodding in approval, it was now time for the official premiere at Lowlands.

Steye Hallema, initiator of The Smartphone Orchestra:

‘The smartphone is literally getting more and more “under our skin”. It makes a lot of things much easier, and I also make use of the advantages it offers. However, I regularly ask myself if it is healthy for us to be continually overloaded with information. Our brain also needs to be able to daydream and to “tune out”. This is why we wanted to reverse the operation of the smartphone and use it to get people to come together and share a wonderful experience. We are very proud that we were able to achieve something on this scale at the Netherlands’ most pioneering pop festival. It was an experience that I, in any case, will not quickly forget!’

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Lowlands | The Smartphone Orchestra

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