Inventor Highlight: Harry Connick, Jr.

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Harry Connick, Jr. - United States patent # 6,348,648

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. What may also be the case, however, is that passion is its father. Such is certainly the case with renowned singer, songwriter, pianist, band leader and actor Harry Connick, Jr. A passionate musician, Connick was never willing to sacrifice quality in live music, regardless of the reason.

In 1998, while conducting a performance of his big band in an outdoor venue, he noticed that the performers were having difficulty keeping their pages of sheet music from blowing off the stand. As a musical perfectionist, Connick felt that was unacceptable. So he began thinking, “How can I make my band’s music impervious to the wind?” The answer, of course, was through the power of technology.

Using Power Macs for the 16 band members, Connick created digital sheet music that could be read by any musician, regardless of whether the instrument required the performer to be sitting or standing. While there was initial skepticism, by both the technologists Connick recruited to help with the coding, as well as the performers themselves, his invention soon won them over. As a surprise to everyone, including Connick himself, the digital pages could be turned even more quickly and with less fumbling than their paper counterparts.

There were additional benefits that Connick hadn’t even anticipated when he began working on the system. For example, unlike many other musicians, Connick arranged his music directly on his own computer, using software created specifically for that purpose. His patented new system allowed him to make changes to a composition and they would be instantly and automatically updated into his musicians' copies of the music, requiring no additional work on anyone’s part. Prior to his invention, Connick would write out a song by hand and give it to members of the band who would then have to figure out the instrumental sections. It could take several days. With the new system, he could write a new score in the morning and the entire band would have it on their computers that afternoon.

Another benefit of the system that wasn’t originally conceived has been a boon to the entire recorded music industry: During studio recordings, it's no longer necessary for the sound engineer to edit out the noise from page-turning that typically is audible in the background. Additionally, musicians can insert page breaks wherever they want, allowing for personal preference. Plus, getting rid of paper sheet music also means doing away with music lights for the musicians during live performances. So when the lights dim, all the audience sees are cool blue lights from the computer screens, allowing everyone to focus on whomever is the main performer or soloist.
So, as is frequently the case with key inventions, what began as a remedy to a single problem has now had far-reaching impact across the entire world of recorded music. Through his patented software, Connick allowed musicians to do something that wasn’t possible before his invention. For that impact and for his passion in making music as perfect as it can be, the Innovation Alliance is proud to salute Harry Connick, Jr. and his simple, yet brilliant, solution to the problem of wind on paper.