Things Getting Better For Virtually Singing Together

An article on FastCompany recently caught my eye that suggests a company in Sweden is helping to solve a big problem in collaborative virtual concerts. One of the big impediments has been getting music and vocals coming in from different video/audio streams synchronized.

The article quotes San Francisco Opera general manager, Matthew Shilvock, who says his organization has been using the tool called Aloha, which marries low latency technology with now very familiar video chat interfaces:

It allows a singer and a pianist to essentially be in the digital space together making real-time music—which is just transformational for us,” Shilvock tells Fast Company. “A pianist can now hear a singer breathe, and that may sound very basic, but those breath cues are the things that allow the pianist to really mold their sounds to what the singer is doing.”

“To see the emotional reaction of a pianist [who is] now finally able to hear those cues is just amazing,” he adds.

While the software is still in beta, some music schools in Sweden have been using the technology for classes since last Fall. Even if everything goes back to full in person performances that existed before, tools like this might expand the window of rehearsal periods and cut down on the travel and housing expenses previously associated with live productions.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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3 thoughts on “Things Getting Better For Virtually Singing Together”

  1. I think you may be optimistic here. Speed-of-light delay for round-trip communication with Sweden from California are about 60ms, which is large enough to perceptible. Delays through the internet are likely to be much larger, even with high-priority, low-latency protocols. Local communication (schools to students in the same city) might work ok, but I doubt that inter-continental rehearsals will be up to professional standards.

    Getting high-speed internet is often difficult and expensive—universities are finding that they can’t get all their students internet fast enough to support even the much lower demands of Zoom. That might not be a problem in urban areas (so the big-city venues should be ok), but it is a big problem in smaller, more rural areas. So it sounds like this new technology is going to further increase the big-urban/small-city disparities.

    Reply
    • I don’t know that I am being too optimistic here. The folks at San Francisco Opera are pleased with the product versus a platform like Zoom which suggests it offers an improved degree of detail and speed.

      I was going to say, “if you read the article….”–but then realize I hadn’t included the link to it for some reason. So I appreciate that your comment helped me to make that correction.

      Reply
      • Zoom is absolutely terrible, with very large delays, major dropouts, and only one voice at a time, so it is a very low bar to beat. I’m sure that there are use cases for a lower-latency remote rehearsal tool, but I don’t think that they are going to replace in-person rehearsals for professional musicians to a significant degree for quite some time—at least not for long-distance collaborations like between Europe and the US.

        The article is rather short on technical specs (like how the data is communicated to get low-latency and how many mics can be on at once).

        Reply

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