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This Shouldn't Be Possible....

Below are some of the many musical examples over the last year during lockdown due to COVID, with Playtime's 4 musicians each in their houses improvising music with each other and then with International guests where all the musicians are in their own homes and communicating over the internet. Here we have chosen examples of sections of improvisations where there is a clear shared pulse or a clear rhythmic content to the improvisation - which is meant to be impossible due to audio latency ie the time lag in sending audio over the internet.

We are deliberately giving these examples as audio only - because we feel it helps focus on the music ,  but you can find all these examples in the relevant concert video in the catch up section.

The first example was from one of the first times all four of us played together online. And to our surprise we found we were able to play very successfully together.

May 2020 Working it out...Playtime Core Quartet
00:00 / 04:59
6000 miles away... still working. June 2021! Playtime & plus Satoko Fuji & Natsuki Tamura....
00:00 / 04:15

The second example was from the final concert in the run-  with 2 wonderful musicians in Kobe Japan, Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura, pretty much 6000 miles away. We wondered if the extra distance would make the latency more disruptive, but actually it felt exactly the same, and we were able to play rhythmic material together and again it felt like we were improvising live together  and as if in the same room.

It is absolutely true that playing many kinds of rhythmic musical genres - from heavy rock to funk to folk music  - WOULD be very tough with audio latency, there is something about open improvised jazz that seem to allow musicians to find the pulse coming from each other and to somehow lock in with it and improvise together in a way that for the musicians FEELS no different from playing in the same room, and for the listen SOUNDS no different.

We honestly don't fully understand it. Some of it may be down to the audio platform we used called CLEANFEED. But Cleanfeed doesn't claim to eliminate latency. We did some testing early on and concluded that playing in time together wasn't really possible but then found out when we started improvising together that it was.

It means that in COVID, when the world was shut down, musicians were able to communicate meaningfully right across the planet in a way that had never been done before,  by playing a kind of free improv jazz, and it was a music completely created in  AND BY the moment and the circumstances - so combinations of people that never could have or would have been possible before COVID for reasons of budget, reputation mismatch, lack of an introduction, crowded diaries, lack of travel budget  fees mismatch, music business etiquette etc etc .

The next example- with the amazing Byron Wallen - was one of the first time we played with a guest from outside Scotland, and one of the first times we really listened back to the recording just as audio. And we were just struck by how much it sounded like we were in the same room and how successful the improvisation was.

Reasons Why This Might Have Worked

Rhythmic Example 3 - October 2020Playtime & Byron Wallen
00:00 / 02:39
October 2020 Rhythmic Example 1Playtime & Byron Wallen
00:00 / 09:19
Rhythmic Example 1 Feb 2021Playtime & Laura Jurd
00:00 / 05:12

But here we were approaching musicians stuck in their houses with no opportunity to play and they agreed to play with us across the world using very bleeding edge technology for no money and to a tiny audience - why?  Because as improvising musicians we need to play and we love to play and there is something about jazz and improvised music that is about resistance and obstinately refusing to go along with reality, and to take risks, and to trust other musicians. Ironically we had only a few answers of no - and it was generally from musicians that had struggled with latency whilst teaching - who felt it would prevent a meaningful musical interaction.

Rhythmic Example 2 Feb 2021Playtime & Iain Ballamy
00:00 / 01:02
Rhythmic Example 2 June 2021Playtime plus Satoko Fuji & Natsuki Tamura
00:00 / 05:58
Rhythmic Example 3 Feb 2021Playtime & Iain Ballamy
00:00 / 02:20
Rhythmic Example 2 - October 2020Playtime & Byron Wallen
00:00 / 01:40
Rhythmic Example 3- Feb 2021Playtime & Iain Ballamy
00:00 / 01:02
Rhythmic Example 5 Feb 2021Playtime & Iain Ballamy
00:00 / 01:51
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