December 15th, 2018
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01/31/2005 - ‘Old Blue Eyes’ Inspires VPnet Project

While listening to a Frank Sinatra recording, Craig Volosing, a local professional musician and a founder of the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, read the liner notes. From these, he learned that several of the guest singers performing with Sinatra on that album had not been in the studio, but had “phoned in” their tracks. From this information, an idea formed for Volosing – a super fast network could be a major boon to musicians performing “live”. “I had heard about VPnet, and thought that with its super fast networking, musicians could do more than that --- they could perform in real time with other musicians to contribute their parts ‘live’ from far away – just as if they were really together,” says Volosing. “There would be many practical values from this,” Volosing continued, “from saving money via holding the first set of rehearsals to holding master classes from one location to several sites.” Imagine being able to participate in the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival from any local university campus. Volosing also envisions applications in the areas of theater and especially musical theater.

Volosing’s concept became the new distributed music project for VPnet that was announced on Thursday, January 20. Project participants will include Volosing, Kyle Gosselin-Harris, an Eastern Washington University (EWU) computer science graduate student and network engineer at XN Technologies, and Steve Simmons, professor of computer science, EWU.

Initial research of the literature by Gosselin-Harris discovered that experiments and measurements of distributed music performance had been carried out. His research indicated that success depended on the quality of service of the network, especially network delay. For very fast music, such as up-tempo jazz, the delay needed was measured at a level of 10 milliseconds. That is much faster than the everyday Internet, but not VPnet, which is a highly controlled gigabit network with very few routers along the connection pathways. Thus, a very challenging network problem – ideal for research --- could come together with a project that could improve opportunities in music production and music education throughout in Inland Northwest. It could also create substantial savings and economies of scale in various music endeavors. For example, a master musician visiting EWU could perform with students at Whitworth, Gonzaga, and North Idaho College in a single master class setting.

A group of several graduate students, including Gosselin-Harris, will approach the project from opposite ends of the technology spectrum. Gosselin-Harris will work the technical end, designing and building a pair of embedded test systems to accurately measure delay over the network. His project will make use of signals that can synchronize clocks to within one microsecond, and he will use other equipment including oscilloscopes and signal generators.

The other group will set up a live performance test to try out the idea using existing microphones, cameras, and linking technologies. Simmons explains that “the on hand equipment is not now optimized for minimal delay, because this equipment has some signal processors in the pipeline, but this will be a good way to try a network path within VPnet that cuts through a couple of routers.” The VPnet link from SIRTI to EWU in Cheney is targeted for this initial test which is expected within the new two months.

Billie Moreland
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