Apps for Art?

Jonathan Miller

  • Reading Time  Min Read
  • Publish Date October 25, 2012

Even in the 21st century, it is not cool to pull your smartphone out at a concert.

That would be every concert except ones where Dan Deacon performs.

Deacon, an electronic music artist, is renowned for his live performances which include audience participation and obligatory visual effects.

Dan Deacon’s Mobile App

In conjunction with Wham City Apps, an extension of Wham City, the art and music collective he helped create, Deacon has released the Dan Deacon app to accompany his latest tour and in support of his new album, America.

The app plays sounds through your smartphone’s speaker while bright colors transition to different hues on the phone’s display. During the chorus, the LED flash of your smartphone acts as a strobe light by flashing on and off.


Creating a smartphone app to augment a live performance is a new and exciting way to leverage a device that most people are already carrying around on a daily basis. But how many have probably thought how smartphones could be used as an instrument for art.

I was there, man…

I had the pleasure to witness a large crowd using Deacon’s smartphone app during a recent tour. As if on cue, Deacon asked everyone to open the app, hold it in the air, and enjoy the performance. The app, which does not use WiFi, ‘listens’ for callibrating tones and then understands when to display bright colors and sounds and when to activate the strobe.

The experience was fun and engaging and almost made me feel like part of the performance—if I hadn’t been so worried I would drop my phone with all of humanity dancing around me. The app’s creation is a masterstroke that fits perfectly with the aesthetic Deacon consistently creates at live performances.

Fully excited about the potential of an app that can contribute to art and engage audience participation? In an upcoming post, I’ll speculate about how this app was probably created.

Jonathan Miller at Dan Deacon

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