Telematics

The terms “networked music performance” (NMP) and “telematic music” both refer to live performance via the internet by musicians in different geographic locations. Often we use NMP to mean any kind of live music making via internet, and use “telematic” when talking specifically about contemporary forms of music or art created specifically for the networked medium. These fields have been expanding steadily for two decades, with many researchers and artists exploring the potentials of high-bandwidth, institutional networks like Internet2. In 2020, the global pandemic brought new urgency and energy to exploring what is possible on public, consumer networks.

Playing music via internet in conventionally tight synchrony requires a one-way latency under roughly 30 milliseconds, and with the right conditions, this is possible at distances up to about 500 miles. But in addition, my collaborative community has also created many telematic concerts specifically for networked stages, including compositions that accommodate higher latencies and distances.

Because of the pandemic, most people associate networked music performance with frustrating rehearsals or concerts in which each musician (and audience member) is in their own home. Without the right conditions and support, the quality of those experiences can be terrible, so I totally understand why most musicians cringe at any mention of returning to that format.

But in fact, most of the work I’ve done in this field since 2007 has taken a different form: We have been producing concerts that take place simultaneously in two or more concert halls, with several musicians and a live audience at each location, and we have often worked with scenic and projection designers to create compelling concert experiences. In addition, software developments over the past few years have vastly improved the options for good quality connections even at home. Most important, I want to stress that the goal of this work is not to replace conventional “in person” music making, but to extend and complement it, enabling new forms of music and helping sustain distance collaboration.

I’ve been fortunate to participate in dozens of telematic concerts with wonderful collaborators in South and North America, Asia and Europe, including Mark Dresser, Nicole Mitchell, Myra Melford, Geri Allen, George E. Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, Sarah Weaver, Trevor Henthorn, Mario Valencia, Tata Ceballos, Juan David Rubio, Victoria Petrovich, Bae Il Dong, Jun Oh, Jungung Yang, Yoon-jeong Heo, the Black String Ensemble, Jungpyo Lee, Matthias Ziegler, Gerry Hemingway, Joshua White, Stephanie Richards, Wilfrido Terrazas, Jason Robinson, John Crawford, Shahrokh Yadegari and many others. I also co-direct Telematic Bridges / Puentes Telemáticos, a series of summer courses linking youth in Colombia and California over networks to experience creative musical collaboration in an intercultural context.

More info and software suggestions

Early in the pandemic, I wrote this article to offer an overview of networked performance. It is still my best attempt to provide a detailed introduction to the general concepts in this work, aimed at musicians and educators with little or no technology background. On my YouTube channel you can also find an video series I made in 2020, at the start of the pandemic, to offer another kind of Introduction to Networked Music Performance at Home for musicians and educators. There is much better software now (see below) compared to what is shown in those videos, but the basic information they contain on latency and other aspects of the medium is still relevant.

I don’t do software reviews and the best app depends on your specific situation and priorities, but if you want to get started with ultra-low latency musical performance via internet, I recommend trying one of these:

  • Far Play: An excellent, simple to use app for small groups, including video. Offers a free tier with full quality, and paid tiers for advanced features like unlimited time and multi-track recording. I now recommend this app to most people working with small size groups.
  • JackTrip: A longstanding, pioneering app that now has several different versions, and likely the best option if you are working with large ensembles of more than a dozen or so musicians (which is not simple, but possible). Offers free and paid options, and open source code.
  • Sonobus: Also a great app for small groups, with a more DAW-like experience and tools compared to FarPlay. Free and open source.

Videos

“All Nearness Pauses” from Changing Tides 2, California-Seoul (2020)
KPBS feature on the Changing Tides 2 project, 2020
Trailer for DVD of Virtual Tour telematic concert series, 2013
“What Peace Can We Hear,” from a live, networked performance with Myra Melford and Mark Dresser (June 2021)
Excerpt from “for instance, today” from Virtual Tour telematic concert series, 2013
Excerpt from “Threads and Promises,” from a telematic concert with Myra Melford and Mark Dresser, 2011

Photos

Selected concerts

Tele-Espacios Activos X, Colombia-USA. Performing at the Festival Internacional de la Imagen in Manizales, Colombia: Michael Dessen. Performing at UC Irvine: Willie Fastenow, Chieh Huang, Rebecca Larkin, Lisa Yoshida and Shivangi Cancean. Directed by Mario Humberto Valencia and Michael Dessen, with Tata Ceballos and Oscar Villota. Compositions by Dessen, Huang, Fastenow, Yoshida, Larkin. May 30, 2023.

Changing Tides III, A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert, CA-Korea. Performing in Korea: Jean Oh (guitar), Aram Lee (daegum), Ju Hee Go (haegum), JoonSu Kim (voice), Donghyeok Kwak (modular synthesizer). Performing at UCSD in CA: Wilfrido Terrazas (flute), Michael Dessen (trombone), Joshua White (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Premiering all original compositions created for the telematic medium. Directed at UCSD by Mark Dresser and Michael Dessen, with scenic design at UCSD by Victoria Petrovich. UC San Diego, CA and Seoul Institute of the Arts, Korea. Feb. 4/5, 2023.

Widening the Embrace: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert, CA-NY. Performing at Roulette in NYC: Fay Victor (voice), Ingrid Laubrock (saxophone), and Patricia Brennan (vibraphone). Performing at UC San Diego in CA: Michael Dessen (trombone), Joshua White (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Premiering all original compositions created for the telematic medium. Directed at UCSD by Mark Dresser and Michael Dessen, with scenic design at UCSD by Victoria Petrovich. Feb 2, 2023.

International Congress of Acoustics demonstration telematic concert: Performing remotely from California: Mark Dresser and Michael Dessen. Performing in Korea: Yoon-jeong Heo and Jean Oh. Gyeongju, South Korea, Oct. 27 (KO) / 26 (CA), 2022.

Festival de la Imagen, 2022: Michael Dessen performing (remotely from CA) duo with Hector Fabio Torres, on a concert within Tele-Espacios Activos, directed by Mario Valencia. UCaldas, Manizales, Colombia. Oct. 18, 2022.

ACC World Music Festival Telematic Ensemble: Performing in Seoul, South Korea, with a live audience: Bomi Kim, Jean Oh, Jeong A Ahn, and Jiha Park; performing remotely from individual locations in California: Mark Dresser, Anthony Davis, Michael Dessen. Compositions by Yoon Jeong Heo, Jean Oh, Bomi Kim, Mark Dresser, Anthony Davis and Michael Dessen. Presented by the 2021 Asian Cultural Council World Music Festival, Seoul, South Korea. Aug. 19 (CA) / 20 (KO), 2021.

Myra Melford, Mark Dresser, and Michael Dessen telematic trio concert. Streaming online, each performer in different location
Presented by The Checkout on WBGO, hosted by Simon Rentner. June 4, 2021. Excerpt video.

Unlimited Sense: Warmth of Non Contact “무한감각Ⅰ-비대면의 온기”, a telematic concert recording between Seoul, Korea and sites in California. Performing in Seoul: Yoon-Jeong Heo, Kyungsun Lee, Yulhee Kim and Ilwoo Lee; performing at individual sites in California: Soo-Yeon Lyuh, Anthony Davis, Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen. Compositions by Yoon-Jeong Heo, Mark Dresser, Anthony Davis, Soo-Yeon Lyuh, Michael Dessen and Sngkn Kim. Performance recorded Jan. 22 (CA) / 23 (KO), 2021, release details TBD.

Mark Dresser, Matthias Ziegler and Michael Dessen trio concert. Presented as part of the Virtual Concert Hall series by the University of Arts, Zurich, with videography by Joel de Giovanni and additional production by Johannes Schütt and Patrick Müller. Aug. 27, 2020.

Anthony Davis, Mark Dresser and Michael Dessen trio concert. Presented on the “Justice is Compassion On_Line Salon” series run by Arts for Art. Compositions by Davis/Dresser/Dessen, performing from their homes in California for an audience on Zoom, July 22, 2020.

Changing Tides II: A Telematic Translocational Concert. Compositions by Jean Oh, Mark Dresser, Stephanie Richards Jungpyo Lee, Michael Dessen, and Yoon Jeong Heo, all performing along with other performers Bae Il Dong, Aram Lee, Min Wang Hwang, Bo Sul Kim, Wilfrido Terrazas, and Joshua White. Directed in Seoul by Jungung Yang with producer Jun Oh; directed in San Diego by Mark Dresser and Michael Dessen. Seoul, Korea and San Diego, California, Feb. 13/14, 2020.

Tele-Espacios VI, within the Festival Internacional de la Imagen. Compositions by Wilfrido Terrazas, Michael Dessen, Juan David Rubio and Hector Fabio Torres, performed by the Ensamble Música Contemporánea Universidad de Caldas, directed by Yovanny Betancur, with Michael Dessen, Wilfrido Terrazas and Juan David Rubio performing telematically from UC Irvine. Co-director Mario Humberto Valencia. Manizales, Colombia, June 11, 2019.

Interconnections for Peace: A Telematic Concert in Seoul, San Diego and New York City. With Mark Dresser, Nicole Mitchell, Stephanie Richards and Michael Dessen in San Diego; Yoon Sun Choi, Jane Ira Bloom, Matthias Ziegler, David Taylor, Satoshi Takeishi, and Sarah Weaver in NYC; and Yoon Jeong Heo, Jean Oh, A Ram Lee, Min Wang Hwang, and Ji Young Yi in Seoul. Compositions by Sarah Weaver, Heo Yoon Jeong, Mark Dresser, Nicole Mitchell, Stephanie Richards, and Michael Dessen. June 8, 2018.

Tele-Espacios III, a telematic concert within the Festival de la Imagen 2016. Between Manizales, Colombia and San Diego, CA, directed by Michael Dessen, Mario Valencia, Juan David Rubio and Tata Ceballos. Compositions by Michael Dessen, Mario Valencia, Juan David Rubio and Hector Fabio Torres, performed by Santiago Osorio, Yosvany Betancourt, Tommy Babin, Tata Ceballos, Juan David Rubio and Michael Dessen. April, 2016.

“Changing Tides: A Telematic Translocational Concert Series,” part 3: San Diego + Stony Brook, NY. Directed by Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen and Sarah Weaver. Performers: In San Diego, CA: Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen, Nicole Mitchell, Stephanie Richards and Myra Melford; in Stony Brook, NY: Marty Ehrlich, Ray Anderson, Min Xiao Fen, Denman Maroney, Satoshi Takeishi and Sarah Weaver. Compositions by Mitchell, Dresser, Dessen, Weaver. April 10, 2016.

“Spooky Interaction: Lesson II (2016),” a composition by George E. Lewis. Between UC Irvine, the University of Pittsburgh and the San Francisco Jazz Center. Co-directed by Michael Dessen, Geri Allen, Aaron Johnson and Mount Allen. Featured performers: At the University of Pittshburgh, PA: George Lewis and Geri Allen; at UC Irvine, CA: Michael Dessen and Nicole Mitchell; at the San Francisco Jazz Center: Francis Wong. Feb. 26, 2016.

“Changing Tides: A Telematic Translocational Concert Series,” part 2: San Diego + Zurich. Directed by Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen and Matthias Ziegler. Performers: In San Diego, CA: Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen, Nicole Mitchell, Stephanie Richards and Myra Melford; in Zurich, Switzerland: Matthias Ziegler and Gerry Hemingway. Compositions by Mitchell, Dresser, Dessen, Ziegler, Hemingway. Feb. 13, 2016.

“Changing Tides: A Telematic Translocational Concert Series,” part 1: San Diego + Ansan, Korea. Directed by Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen, Tay Yoo and Jun Oh. Performers: In San Diego, CA: Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen, Nicole Mitchell, Stephanie Richards and Myra Melford; in Ansan, Korea: Bae Il Dong, Young Dong-Kim, Lee Jungpyo. Compositions by Lee, Young, Mitchell, Dresser, Dessen. Jan. 30, 2016.

New Integrations in Telematic Music. Between Zurich and San Diego, within the Filmatic Festival at UCSD. Featuring musicians Matthias Ziegler, Gerry Hemingway, Michael Dessen, Stephanie Richards, Joshua White and Mark Dresser, with video artists Brian Cross and Benjamin Burger. Co-directed by Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen and Matthias Ziegler. May 2, 2015.

Tele-Espacios II, a telematic concert within the Festival de la Imagen 2015. Networked concert between Manizales, Colombia and San Diego, CA, directed by Mario Valencia and Juan Reyes. Production assistance and featured trombonist (in Manizales) on Phase” by Hector Fabio Torres, with Juan David Rubio and Kyle Motl (performers in San Diego). April 23, 2015.

Telematic Zurich Project. Between Zurich, San Diego, CA and Irvine CA. Featuring Matthias Ziegler, Franziska Baumann, Christoph Baumann, Christian Weber, Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen and VJs Joel de Giovanni and Benjamin Burger. Compositions by Ziegler, F. Baumann and C. Baumann. January 18, 2014.

Virtual Tour: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert Series, part 3. Between UC San Diego Stony Brook, NY. Compositions Mark Dresser, Nicole Mitchell, Sarah Weaver and Michael Dessen, all performing along with Jane Ira Bloom, Ray Anderson, Min Xiao Fen, and Matt Wilson. April 7, 2013.

Virtual Tour: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert Series, part 2. Between UC San Diego and Zurich, Switzerland. Compositions Mark Dresser, Nicole Mitchell, Gerry Hemingway, Matthias Ziegler and Michael Dessen, all performing along with Myra Melford. April 6, 2013.

Virtual Tour: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert Series, part 1. Between UC San Diego and Amherst, MA. Compositions Mark Dresser, Nicole Mitchell, Marty Ehrlich, Jason Robinson, and Michael Dessen, all performing along with Myra Melford and Bob Weiner. April 5, 2013.

Telematic duo performance by Mark Dresser (in San Diego) Michael Dessen (in Irvine), in memory of Nathan Brock, as part of the CineGrid International Workshop. Dec. 10, 2012.

Inspiraling 2011: Telematic Jazz Explorations. Between UC San Diego and NYU, with Mark Dresser, Sarah Weaver, Nicole Mitchell, Joshua White, Michael Dessen, Jane Ira Bloom, Amir ElSaffar, Oliver Lake, Tomas Ulrich, Ikue Mori, Victoria Petrovich, Sarah Jane Lapp and John Crawford. Compositions by Dresser, Weaver and Dessen. Nov. 2, 2011.

Net Works: An evening of telematic music. Compositions and performances by Mark Dresser (bass), Myra Melford (piano), and Michael Dessen (trombone), with video by Yotam Mann. Networked performance between UC Berkeley and UC San Diego. April 27, 2011.

Telematic Transform Music. Composed and directed by Sarah Weaver, featuring Gerry Hemingway, Oliver Lake, Mark Dresser, Hadi El-Debek, Dave Taylor, Eldad Tsabary, Stuart Dempster, and Michael Dessen. A networked concert between New York City, Montreal, Seattle, Irvine and San Diego. April 23, 2011.

Telemotions: A Networked Intermedia Concert. Compositions and performances by Mark Dresser (bass), Myra Melford (piano), and Michael Dessen (trombone), with scenic designer Victoria Petrovich and intermedia artist John Crawford. Networked performance between UC Irvine and UC San Diego. April 16 and 17, 2011.

Inspiraling 2010: Telematic Jazz Explorations. A networked performance between UC San Diego and New York University, co-presented by Roulette Intermedia. Compositions by Oliver Lake, Gerry Hemingway, Mark Dresser and Sarah Weaver. Performed by Oliver Lake, Min Xiao Fen, Gerry Hemingway, Amir ElSaffar and Sarah Weaver (at NYU) and Mark Dresser, Hafez Modirzadeh, Michael Dessen and Alex Cline (at UCSD). June 13, 2010.

Jazz Telemotions: A Networked Trio Concert. Compositions and performances by Mark Dresser (bass), Myra Melford (piano), and Michael Dessen (trombone), with scenic designer Victoria Petrovich and intermedia artist John Crawford. Networked performance between UC Irvine and UC San Diego. May 12, 2010.

Faultlines: A Multi-Site Networked Concert. Networked performance between UC Irvine, CA and Buckley Hall, Amherst College, MA. Compositions and performances by Jason Robinson (saxophone/computer) and Michael Dessen (trombone/computer). April 25, 2010.

Crossing Boundaries: Design Improvisations 2010. Networked performance between UC San Diego and UC Irvine on Bits and Spaces, composition and performance by Michael Dessen (trombone), Shahrokh Yadegari (computer), with Alicia Peterson (dance) and Rebecca Salzer (dance). January 12, 2010.

Latent Potentials. Networked performance among UC Irvine and UC San Diego. Compositions by Michael Dessen, Christopher Dobrian and Shahrokh Yadegari with telematic video by John Crawford. Michael Dessen (trombone), Edwin Harkins (trumpet), Mark Dresser(bass), Nathan Hubbard (percussion), Dhiren Panikker (piano) and others. December 13, 2009.

Tele-Jazz. Networked performance among UC San Diego, Banff Center for the Arts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Dave Douglas (trumpet, composition), Pauline Oliveros (accordion, composition), Michael Dessen (trombone, composition) Mark Dresser (bass), Chris Chafe (celleto, composition), Jonas Braasch (sax), Justin Yang (sax), and others. June 4, 2009.

Transcontinental Circuits: A Multi-Site Networked Concert. UC Irvine, Stanford University, and Amherst College. Michael Dessen (trombone/computer/composition), Jason Robinson (saxohpone/computer/composition) and Adnan Marquez-Borbon (saxophone/computer/composition). April 3, 2009.

Multiplicities: An Inter-Arts Telematic Performance. UC San Diego and UC Irvine. Compositions by Dresser and Dessen, performing along with Myra Melford, Oguri, Billy Mintz and Nancy Ostrovsky (painting). October 25, 2008.

Telematic Concert between UC San Diego, Stanford University and UC Berkeley. Compositions by Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen, Myra Melford, Chris Chafe, performing along with David Wessel, Billy Mintz and Phillip Larson. February 13, 2008.

PQ Sceneofest (Czech Republic). Duo networked performance between Prague and Irvine, CA with Shahrokh Yadegari and Michael Dessen. June 18, 2007.