Hello friends! How is the future looking to you? A little uncertain? A little bleak? For musicians and athletes and other live performers it is especially grim. Will there ever be orchestras again? Will people ever want to gather in large crowds to watch something again? Here is something that just brightened my future a lot:
Last night the Portland Social Distance Ensemble, part of the 45th Parallel Universe, presented a tandem livestream of flutists Martha Long (Portland) and Tim Hagen (Chicago). Not only was it a fabulous performance, but to my mind it was a remarkable technological accomplishment as well, tantamount to breaking the sound barrier or escaping Earth’s gravity. They were able to play live with each other from different locations, staying perfectly in sync and responding to visual cues from each other. (Unless there was some magic going on in the headphones that we don’t know about.) The performance was captured and you can still watch it here.
You might say, “oh com on, Adrian, Zoom and Skype have been doing that for some time now.” But as a musician I can tell you that Zoom and Skype don’t cut it when it comes to live ensemble performance. There is just enough of a delay from point to point to make it impossible to interact with each other and still be playing in sync with each other. You don’t notice it so much just speaking, but try to play a duet together and forget it. When person A gives a cue and plays a downbeat, by the time person B sees it and responds and the sound gets back to person A, it sounds like person B is behind, making inter-active ensemble playing impossible.
So big contrats and thank you to Martha and Tim and their engineer/programmer, Danny Rosenberg. I hope this technology makes it into a place where more ensembles and individual musicians can access it. We need this to keep live performance alive right now.