Using technology to make music together

July 8, 2021

As Yale students, faculty and staff prepare to return to in-person activities on campus, many are taking stock of what was learned during the COVID-required socially distanced environments and finding ways to leverage those lessons to enhance teaching and learning in the coming academic year. One such lesson involves the Department of Music and a vastly upgraded data network in their College Street home building, Yale’s Stoeckel Hall.

Socially distanced musical rehearsals were near-to-impossible to hold last year, especially with singers and wind and brass instrumentalists who move a lot of air to make their music. ITS AV systems design lead Adam Drake worked with the music faculty to come up with an innovative and cost-effective solution. Over the summer of 2020 they installed new audio-visual network switches and leveraged the existing network wiring to create a building-wide, low latency, audio environment. For comparison an average Zoom video call has an audio delay in the range of 20 - 30 milliseconds. Which is much too large to permit musicians to perform together from remote locations. The new Stoeckel Hall network has a latency of just 2.5 milliseconds, which is beyond the level of human perception. Over the last academic year this capability allowed ensembles such as the Yale Baroque Opera Project (YBOP) to spread players in individual rooms throughout the building to rehearse—together, yet still apart.

The result is, as Adam describes, ” We effectively turned the whole building into a recording and playback studio.” Faculty member Konrad Kaczmarek is excited by the performance possibilities as he looks forward to the fall return of in-person classes and rehearsals. Konrad said “the Dante Audio system provided the framework for safe, real-time performance and musical collaboration during social distancing, and we are excited to integrate this technology into our regular curriculum in the coming semesters. We are particularly interested in exploring different multi-channel audio output configurations across multiple rooms throughout the building, creating immersive and participatory sonic experiences.”

It will be exciting to watch as the school’s musicians discover new modes of performing and practicing their craft.

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