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Cutting-Edge Jazz

Published: February 25, 2013

CHENEY, Wash. - Eastern Washington University's annual Jazz Dialogue Festival recently hit a magnificent musical milestone with a concert featuring musicians from around the world performing together, in real time, over a computer network.

Moments before featured musician Robin Eubanks took the festival stage, 1,400 people watched as the EWU Concert Jazz Ensemble led this trailblazing experience, utilizing the high speed network and Internet2 at the stunning Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in downtown Spokane, Wash.

The Jan. 12 concert, "Jazz at the Speed of Light," featured the jazz ballad Body and Soul performed by EWU Director of Jazz Studies Phillip Doyle and Charles "Chip" McNeill on piano inside a music room at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. McNeill, the Jazz Division head at the University of Illinois, could be seen via a theater-size screen on stage and was thrilled to collaborate on the project.

"This new technology will revolutionize how musicians and audiences will interact," said Doyle, who is also a saxophone lecturer at Eastern. "We weren't sure we'd pull it off, but that night, it couldn't have gone better. Playing jazz together over the internet was as smooth as silk."

Doyle added, "There was an approximate 30 millisecond delayed interaction time between performers due to the constraints of sending their sounds over the high speed network. However, the delay, or latency, was not enough to have a negative influence on the performers."

Two additional musicians, Ari Braggi, and Eythor Gunnarson, also participated in the event, but from even further away, at the University of Reykjavík in Iceland. They performed "Dyravisur," a folk song arrangement written by drummer Einar Scheving.

This real-time musical cyber performance is part of the unique MANOME project at Eastern, one of the few universities in the country to actually utilize this ground breaking technology. MANOME, the Metropolitan Area Network Optimized Music Environment, allows musicians who are far apart from each other a chance to perform together as if they were in the same room. It is utilized for rehearsal or education purposes, and this inspired EWU faculty to team up with Martin Woldson Theater staff to do the same with the Jazz Dialogue Festival, to showcase the power of this amazing technology and what is being done at EWU.

Launched in 2004, the MANOME Project (http://www.manomeproject.com) was developed in collaboration between Eastern's Music and Computer Science departments, led by Music Chair and Professor Jonathan Middleton and Professor Steve Simmons from computer science. The collaboration also includes partnership with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, with special support by General Manager Don Nelson and Information Systems Manager Ted Brown.

Originally built in 1931, the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox was restored in 2007 to reflect the brilliance of its glory days. The Welty Family Learning Center in this premier performing arts facility is connected to Spokane's multi-million dollar high speed infrastructure, which was funded by Avista Corp.


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