jazz telemotions: a networked trio concert (2010)

Program text, Jazz Telemotions

Jazz Telemotions: A Networked Trio Concert
7 pm Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Main concert site: Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, UC San Diego, CA
Remote site: eMedia Studio, Calit2 Building, UC Irvine, CA

Mark Dresser, bass (UCSD)
Myra Melford, piano (UCSD)
Michael Dessen, trombone (UCI)
Victoria Petrovich, scenic design (UCSD)
John Crawford, telematic video (UCI)
There will be one set of music of roughly 60-75 minutes duration, with four groups of compositions, and no intermission. All works were composed by the performers during 2009-2010.

Part 1:
Telemotions (comp. Dresser)
Japanese Music*
Mauger Time (comp. Dresser)

Part 2:
Dry Rain #1 and #2*
Fifth Species (comp. Dessen)

Part 3:
Barcelona and Sagrada Familia*
Scorestream #3 (comp. Dessen)

Part 4:
Facade #1 and #2*
Canales Rose (comp. Dresser)

* Scores for improvisers based on drawings by Don Reich

Production Assistants:
Ash Smith – Camera operator and video assistant
Omar Ramos – Lighting design and video assistant
Danny Shapira – Network Audio
Nick Patin – Local Audio (UCSD)

Special thanks: UCSD Music Department, UCSD Academic Senate, Jenn Stauffer, Trevor Henthorn, Tom Erbe, CRCA, Calit2 UC San Diego, Calit2 UC Irvine, UCI Music Department, UCI Dance Department, Mike Hooker, Chris Dobrian

Program notes

We are part of a community of artists using internet technologies to facilitate real-time, collaborative concerts in multiple locations, a practice often termed “telematic” performance. Consumer products such as Skype are increasingly common, and in many ways telepresence is already widespread in our culture. We are interested in performing with high quality audio and video connections, which we are privileged to access thanks to Internet2 networks and other forms of support at our academic institutions. More than simply refining ways to use these tools to perform our music, we also want to create new artistic works that explore the potentials of this telematic space.

Our main audio technology is the open source JackTrip software developed at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), which allows multi-channel, CD-quality audio with extremely low latency. Using JackTrip, we have performed across continents and oceans, in which case the delay in sound can often be substantial. However, within a few hundred miles or less, as in tonight’s concert, the latency is often at nearly imperceptible levels, allowing us to play rhythmically complex music with tight synchrony.

Over the course of producing many telematic concerts, we have also realized the importance of the visual dimension for events involving remote performers, and so we have increasingly sought out collaborators in video and other visual media. Thanks to the contributions of intermedia artist John Craword and scenic designer Victoria Petrovich, tonight’s concert is among the most visually complex and creative that we have experienced to date. Crawford brings many years of work in telepresence and intermedia improvisation in both dance and musical contexts, and Petrovich’s scenic design moves beyond the the flatness and centrality of the screen, instead creating a more multi-dimensional and integrated environment.

Tonight’s projected video is a real-time improvised response to the music in visual form, generated by John Crawford’s Active Space interactive media performance system. Live video feeds are processed simultaneously by multiple networked computers running the Active Space software at both sites and directed by Crawford in Irvine to produce abstract, painterly representations of the performers, interleaved with drawings by Don Reich. In continuous development since 1994, the Active Space system has been used in dance and music performances, public art projects, gallery installations and teaching environments.

The stage design at the UC San Diego site is a small-scale exploration of scenic space as an expressive, flexible component  of the telematic performance environment.  Translucent screens are meant to integrate with the environment, and evoke a sense of expansion and an articulation of atmosphere through the diffusion and direction of light, i.e. video projection. The intention is to enhance the performance, rather than present a faithful reproduction of imagery on a traditional film screen.

The music you will hear in tonight’s performance was developed through a highly collaborative process that spannned nine months. As composer-improvisers with a shared affinity for jazz and other exploratory traditions, our work is already profoundly collaborative, as is the telematic medium itself. While many musicians are naturally dubious about telematic performance, we conceive it not as a replacement of conventional practices but rather a supplement to them, a practice rich with its own possibilities that will hopefully become available to more people in the future.

We began monthly telematic rehearsals in September of 2009, working from our three UC campuses (San Diego, Irvine and Berkeley). The fact that we could rehearse from our home campuses allowed us to workshop the musical material in a very gradual and organic way, compared to many other projects involving travel where the rehearsal period is more compressed. The rehearsals also provided regular practice playing together in the telematic space, which in turn influenced the gradually unfolding compositions.

This music grows out of our past work together in both telematic and non-telematic contexts. It reflects our common interest in integrating approaches that emphasize pitch and rhythmic syntax with those that come more from a deep focus on the tactile subtleties of sound itself. Many pieces also involve a sensation of multi-dimensionality, exploring the dynamic contrasts – whether simultaneously or across time – between expressing a vibrantly independent sound world and flowing within a composite, social space. This counterpoint of convergence and divergence, individual and collective, is of course an ancient musical concern, and one we experience profoundly in the legacies of jazz. We feel that telematics can offer newly compelling experiences of these and other questions that fuel our artistic practice, and we hope that the resulting music resonates with you tonight.

program notes by Michael Dessen with contributions from Mark Dresser, John Crawford and Victoria Petrovich.