Interactive Musical Participation: a research performance

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Adrian York, Senior Lecturer in Commercial Music Performance at London’s University of Westminster, introduces his new model for involving audiences in music performance via technology.


On Monday 10 December 2018, I presented an Interactive Music showcase of my song, Deeper Love, at the University of Westminster’s Harrow Campus.

Interactive Musical Participation

The event was the latest stage in my PhD research into Interactive Musical Participation in which the audience has the opportunity to play music and contribute to a performance using phone apps and games controllers.

The Deeper Love SoundPad app
The Deeper Love SoundPad app

Prior to the event, attendees were invited to download the Deeper Love SoundPad app from the Apple Store. The app was designed in conjunction with Professor Rob Toulson to work with my song, allowing audience members to trigger sounds during the event, using their phone speakers for amplification.

The performance was attended by 40 people who all had the chance to take part. Two members of the audience were even able to ‘play’ solos, triggering sounds via a Wiimote game controller.

The concept was piloted at the Innovation In Music and Crosstown Traffic conferences in London and Huddersfield and the data gleaned from those performances integrated into the Harrow showcase.

Follow-up performances took place later in the month at East Grinstead Jazz Club and the Toulouse Lautrec Jazz Club in Kennington, South London.

It’s been perfect to be able to do this research at the University of Westminster with its unrivalled facilities and technical staff as well as involving students directly in the research as ‘audience performers’.

A more democratic and communal experience

Distributing the sonic focus away from the stage to the audience space and allowing the audience to interact with each other and the musicians has actually been really moving. It changes the dynamic in the room creating a more democratic and communal experience.

Adrian York’s Interactive Band line up (l-r): Erik Bria, Christian Brewer, Gregton Cameron, Joon Lee and Adrian York
Adrian York’s Interactive Band line up (l-r): Erik Bria, Christian Brewer, Gregton Cameron, Joon Lee and Adrian York

‘I’ve got so much inspiration and many ideas from participating in the performance. This opens a lot of possibilities and I hope to see the technique practically used in the music industry in the near future.’

Student and band member, Joon Lee


This hasn’t been done before in this way. Imagine going to see U2 and 20,000 people pull out their phones at a specified moment and start making music together. It’s a revolutionary idea in the music industry.

Doing these research performances has given me lots of data which I can turn into ‘performance protocols’ and technical understanding to make this kind of interactivity work in practice. This will allow me to develop a system both to take out with my band and to deliver workshops later this year.


Header photo: Interactive Musical Participation in action – the band on stage during the Harrow showcase


About the author

Born into a five-generation family of musicians, Adrian York knew from his earliest years that he wanted to follow the family trade.

Adrian York © Neil Garrett

After studying composition with Jonathan Harvey at the University of Sussex, he started his professional career wearing a sailor’s hat in the 1980s boy band, Roman Holliday, a retro pop-swing band that took the world of girls’ magazines by storm.

From the late 1980s, Adrian became a fixture on the pop session, light entertainment and jazz circuits, performing, recording and broadcasting with acts including Working Week, Sarah-Jane Morris, Mari Wilson, Sandie Shaw, Jimmy Ruffin, Seal, Definition of Sound, Goldie, The Nolan Sisters, Lisa Stansfield, Ronny Jordan, Ian Shaw, Lillie Savage, Michael Bolton, Ruby Turner, Edwin Starr, Geno Washington, Paul Jones, Shirley Bassey, Paul Young, Darts, Hotei, Mark Murphy, Pattie Boulaye, Girltalk and Rebecca Wheatley. He was Musical Director for the ANC 25th Anniversary Show and Gay Pride and was featured in the BBC TV serial, Pie In The Sky.

In the 1990s, he became Musical Director for JazzFM Live Events as well as being a featured pianist and bandleader at venues including Quaglinos, The Green Room (Café Royal), Pont de la Tour, The Grosvenor House, The Dorchester, The Waldorf and The Groucho Club. He has also built a career as a media composer with many credits in TV and radio. Projects include writing incidental music for the BBC1 drama series, Down To Earth, a hip hop track for the UK Government and a host of TV and radio ads.

For many years, Adrian was a Professor at the Guildhall School Of Music & Drama and a Visiting Lecturer at London College Of Music, Brunel University London and Thames Valley University (now the University of West London). For JazzFM, he ran the JazzFM JAZZWORKS school workshop programme as well as contributing modules to the National Syllabus, working for the Prince’s Trust and, in his role as Syllabus Director, creating new exam syllabi for RSL (Rockschool Ltd). He also ran creativity, communication and leadership workshops for the Disney executive training programme.

Adrian is now a Senior Lecturer in Commercial Music at the University of Westminster, developing protocols and technological solutions for Interactive Musical Participation as part of his PhD research.

Email: A.York@westminster.ac.uk

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