Why Lockdown Music Jams Don’t Work

We’re seeing a lot of virtual choirs and orchestras out there, as well as other groups. It all looks and sounds great, until you decide to get together with your musical friends via¬† your favourite app and do some real time jamming. Then chaos ensues! So, sometimes I hear people asking what’s the best way to pull it off? Recently I answered this in a music group (after first quipping “Time travel”), so I thought I’d do an edited version here for others wondering the same thing.

To have any success you need to be local and have good internet. The fastest anything can travel is the speed of light, which is about 300,000 km/second in air. Think about how finely we rely on timing in our music. Suppose we want to ensure that our semiquavers (16th notes) at 120bpm are in alignment. Each beat is a half second. A 16th note is 0.03 seconds. So, assuming it travels without delay, the signal can travel 9370km in that time. So, twice the distance across the USA. But, assuming most of it is via wires, these are a lot longer than the direct point to point distance, so let’s assume it’s double. That makes it about the distance across the USA. You play a note, your band member on the other side of the continent hears it 0.03 seconds (a 16th note) later and plays in time with it, but you hear what they played 0.03 seconds later again. So what they might hear being the same time, you hear with a 0.03 second delay between. So you’ll be a 16th note out. Maybe you don’t mind being a 32nd note out. That cuts us to ~2000km. But, the speed of light through copper is about half of the speed of light through air, so that brings us to 1000km. But there is overhead from the way that information travels via internet, so maybe that cuts it to 5% of that distance. Now we’re down to 50km. Your internet speed might be rubbish, there could be delays from everyone watching Netflix etc. So that’s why local is best and may _still_ have noticeable delays.

Maybe you can try something really slow with slushy timing. Or write something that works with people that are out of sync. Like improv over a drone. I’m thinking of writing/arranging something like this for my singing friends to try.

Disclaimer: These are all estimates and could be way out. You can find out the real delay with internet tools and decide whether it is feasible.

 

 

Progress

It’s been a while since I have made progress on the “Sandra Bogerd” project. Music continues in some form all the time, along with creative projects, but has mostly been in the form of choral composition or semichorus performance since the aborted SAS trio project.

But the past two weeks things have got going again via video creation. First up was a LOLcat Christmas video that started out as an excuse to put up the recording of the trio from my Missa Lolcat composition, performed in 2018 by ROCS. It then evolved to something else, as I realised the performance didn’t quite match the mood of the LOLcat story I was creating, so I recorded a canon version of the “mou mou” section of Missa LOLcat’s Agnus Dei for the first part of the video, and generated a sinsy-rendered version of an accompanying “mew” phrase of the Credo solo to provide contrast for the Happymass “storee”.

Then, feeling a bit more video-fluent, and while reflecting about my cousin Bea, who died in June, but had helped me film some footage for my Tiger song, I tackled the “I am the Tiger” music video project. I’m reasonably pleased with the results, though I wish the tiger footage was a bit better quality.

I am the Tiger is my most popular song, based on downloads and streams. I’m pleased to have finally produced a video for it. I hope you enjoy it.

On Art and being an Artist

I’ve been thinking a bit about what it means to be an artist and what art is. This is, of course, a topic that has had many things written about it over the centuries. Here’s my simple take on it.

An artist is someone who creates art, where art is something that has been created by an artist. The programmer in me is amused at the idea of mutually recursive definitions (eg. the infamous “kumquat, see cumquat” and its reverse), but I’ll expand on it.

Art includes a wide range of media, including music, visual arts, multimedia, performance, textiles, text and even code. It involves some thought and decision making on the part of the artist, resulting in something unique. For my definition of art, there is no exclusion based on quality criteria. Sure, some works of art are masterpieces, but something doesn’t have to be a masterpiece to be art. Most drawings by young children classify as art. Strictly following a pattern defined by someone else is not making art. Adding creative input to someone else’s creation, for example, interpreting a composer’s work through performance, is art.

For someone to be an artist, I think there is more to it than just creating things. An artist doesn’t need to produce “good” art to be an artist. But I think an important criterion for being an artist is to reflect on what is produced and to learn from it.

Something that the non-artist sometimes doesn’t understand is that a quick sketch doesn’t necessarily reflect the capabilities of the artist, and that it takes time to do a high quality representational artwork. It is a common and useful technique to quickly sketch down an idea. A recent video that has been doing the rounds at demonstrating the effect of time on output quality showed this very well.

In between my main projects of music and language comics, I also sketch and draw. Lately I have been tinkering with the idea of colouring books. Here is a scan of a test colouring of a scanned and printed pen sketch. I will be cleaning up the drawing electronically to better suit colouring, but I like the effect of the colour scheme I chose, and having colouring as part of the picture-making process.

condimentscoloured_scaled