NEC Launches Low-Latency Music-Making Initiative

The use of this near lagless technology makes NEC the first music institution to undertake such a large-scale initiative using cutting-edge audio-visual technology with live performance and music education

BOSTON - BostonChron -- New England Conservatory and Grammy Award winning vocal faculty member Ian Howell have revolutionized low-latency music-making using cutting edge and affordable technology for musicians and music educators. By pioneering virtually lagless audio-visual elements to enhance digital music making with a setup anyone can assemble at home, NEC's research and experimentation is offering a life-line to musicians struggling to rehearse or perform during the COVID-19 era.

When NEC went into virtual mode in the spring, faculty members went to work to figure out how to bring the world-class music education to students during lockdown. Howell and his team began testing various technology solutions that would support music making at the highest level.

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After testing numerous platforms, the NEC team discovered if they combine a free software called SoundJack with an affordable at-home hardware setup, their AV innovation allows for musicians to rehearse and perform with virtually no lag in synchronous rehearsing and performing.

Howell and his team are now advising other music institutions and colleagues around the globe on how to set up and implement the software, created by Dr. Alexander Carôt. The usage rate of this setup has soared. The system, which originally only had 60 users, has soared to over 11,000.

As long as the musicians or student and teacher are within about 500 miles of each other, and both have the AV setup installed, they are able to perform with extreme low-latency. As an example, this setup allows musicians who are within 500 miles of each other to perform or rehearse together with a lag of just 15-20ms—or the equivalent of standing about 15-20 feet away from another person. Normal music-making in person is calculated at a lag of 3-10ms. On campus, rooms are connected with a latency of about 2-10ms, which is a close as in person. So this experience is the closest to real-time that exists. Considering the lag of other software traditionally used can be greater than 100ms (or like standing more than 100 feet away), this easy hardware setup is giving thousands of musicians around the world the next best thing to in-person music making.

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After piloting this low-latency approach during the summer of 2020, NEC adopted this as part of its hybrid remote-and-in-person plan for College students and faculty. Creating a musical collaborative option that is both synchronous and physically separate has created flexibility for coachings, classes, and lessons.

Milva McDonald

Source: Braithwaite & Katz Communications
Filed Under: Music

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