April 24th, 2019
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Sirti Bestows Award of Honor
October 21, 2010. Billie Moreland, PhD, of Billie Moreland and Associates and Steve Simmons, PhD, E...

Triangle %u201CGraduates%u201D at Sweet Sixteen
The Idea (1994)
In June 1994, while on a layover in the San Francisco airport, Dr. Steve Simmons cam...

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03/31/2009 - EWU Music Project Debuts Test Concert

The MANOME Project (Metropolitan Area Network Optimized Music Environment) began in 2005 as a VPnet, Craig Volosing, and EWU collaboration. The long term purpose of the project was to enable musicians to interact live at a distance over a computer network as if they were playing together in the same room. The initial experiment used VPnet to connect musicians in the Sirti boardroom with musicians in the music building on the EWU-Cheney campus. This was a baseline experiment in music-making - to find out if it was really possible for musicians to be in two or more distant locations and be able to play together as an ensemble. Although the experiment was a near disaster, it was successful in indicating that the project was feasible.

Over the intervening years, the project has plugged away in a succession of experimental failures, under the direction of Dr. Steve Simmons, Professor of Computer Science (CS) at EWU and chair of the Terabyte Triangle Board. The continuing project specializes in delivery over a MAN as opposed to wide area networks. In order to play as if next to each other, but actually at a distance, musicians can’t tolerate too much time delay in the transmission. More than 20 milliseconds is too great. Past experimental failures showed that any off-the-shelf system, e.g. Polycom or Access Grid, would not work for this purpose. The problem of delay was found both in the endpoint equipment and in the connecting network. The MANOME team had to design and build its own system, using basic hardware and software components they selected, tested, and put together. The first successful system used audio over hea dphones that only the musicians could hear. The musicians were in different rooms, with no video, connected by the gigabit network. They reported that the experience was exactly like being in a recording studio - just like being side-by-side. They could detect no delay no matter how fast they played.

Four years after the Sirti to EWU effort, with several changes of name and painstaking research and experimentation, students working with Dr. Simmons on the MANOME project have created a system within which the musicians are very satisfied with the experience of playing together at a distance. The most recent team’s goals were to improve the core system to be usable, robust, and reliable. These goals were met. The system now includes audio and video for both musicians and audience.

The MANOME collaborators conducted a test concert at the end of the Winter 2009 academic quarter for an audience of about thirty people. The concert featured a cello player at one end of the network playing with a string bass at the other end. The experiment showed that the bootup script developed by team member Ken Farr worked quite well. However, there was still a problem with the video, but team member Kira Anderson ferreted out the problem and conducted tests to eliminate it. The audio balance and sound worked well and the audience was happy with the concert. The tricky part was getting the balance just right between the three types of sound – the audience, the remote music monitor, and the local music monitor. Because, in the current system, the video was “way behind” the audio, the musicians realized that they couldn’t use the video for any sort of musical communicat ion. In order to take care of the need for musician-to-musician communications for counting and signaling, a fourth communications channel is being contemplated.

Distributed music research is on-going. More experiments are planned into next academic year. The promise of distributed music is appealing to the music community as a means for teaching music to outlying areas, rehearsal capabilities in real time with distant musicians, and new artistic possibilities that arise from distant music interaction

Billie Moreland
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