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TMCNet:  Interview: New Zealand digital music system brings harmony between nations

[December 04, 2012]

Interview: New Zealand digital music system brings harmony between nations

WELLINGTON, Dec 04, 2012 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The next time you see a concert performed live, the musicians might be scattered around the world playing to a futuristic disc-shaped score that you can watch and hear through your broadband connection.

That's the vision of Associate Professor Ian Whalley, of New Zealand's Waikato University, who played from the university's campus in Hamilton for the Musicacoustica12 telemusic concert festival in Beijing in October.

Whalley was accompanied in real time by another musician who was reading the same score from a screen in the Chinese capital.

The performance was the premiere of the university's Graphic Network Music Interactive Scoring System (GNMISS), which is coupled with the use of the Internet2 advanced technology research network and the Internet protocol version 6 (Ipv6) format to allow high-definition multi-channel and multi-directional digital video and audio.

The score is arranged in a circle which uses a metronome system to give cues to musicians in different countries, overcoming the problem of the time lag incurred by performing from a traditional music score.

"The score moves in real time so you can see where your entry and exit points are. It solves the timing problem caused by the distance between the performers," Whalley told Xinhua in a phone interview.

"We have a synchronous dialogue in real time." The clock-like disc is based on three layers linking emotions to color, sounds to motifs and symbols to musical gestures, which makes the performance much more visually interesting for the audience, who can be in the presence of part of the performance or following on-line, he said.

"The audience can see the relationship between the score and the parts -- it's more involving for an audience." But as well as opening up a world of trans-national performances for music lovers, GNMISS will also enable musicians in different countries to compose together in real time.

Unlike a traditional "linear" score, which is written on paper and then arranged so that individual performers can see their parts, GNMISS allows the musicians to make changes and corrections as they arise.

Whalley said it was like comparing e-mail correspondence to a Skype video call. "It's like a hyper-telephone system with visual.

" Although the full system was still only possible on high-speed, high-definition research networks, parts of it were becoming generally available as broadband speeds accelerated and the scoring system already worked independently of the Internet, said Whalley.

The next step would refine and extend the range of notational gestures to represent sounds and actions and enable coordination that might one day result in entertainments such as "interactive opera." Whalley admitted that at least part of each GNMISS performance was a live broadcast, but he rejected the idea that the best musical experience might still be off-line as part of a physical audience.

"People spend half their lives going to virtual things that don 't exist -- people have been going to the movies since 1911."

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