If you spend any time working with colleagues on Zoom, or other video platforms, you know there is one main goal all these products are trying to achieve: Real-time collaboration. You’re sitting at your desk, or kitchen table, and your colleagues are scattered around the country, or the world. But the conversation, the screen, and the whiteboard you’re sharing is meant to create the sense that you’re all in the same room.
When you actually are in the same room as another person, unless that person is a ventriloquist, when their lips move, words come out of their mouth at the exact same moment. When you’re on a video call, the sound of someone’s voice frequently reaches you either before or after you see their lips moving. We generally call this, “out of sync.” The technical term for it is, “latency.” Latency can be aggravating. But you put up with it, because in conversation, it’s not that big of a deal.
But imagine instead of talking to other people, you’re playing music with them. You’re in your home studio playing a keyboard part. Another person is in their home studio playing a drum part. A third person somewhere else is playing a guitar part. And a fourth person in a 4th location has a vocal track. In this case, latency is not merely an aggravation, it’s a monumental issue. Everybody being out of sync with each other makes it impossible to create music together.
That’s why musicians never collaborate online in real time. The best they can do is record their individual tracks and send them back and forward to each other, each person contributing their part one at a time. It takes days or weeks to complete a single song.
If there was a way for musicians to meet online and play together, whoever invented the software that could make that happen would be a superstar in the world of music creation. Well, today that software has a name. It’s called DAWn Audio. And the four superstars who created it are right here in New Orleans – including co-founder and CEO of DAWn Audio, Diego Pinzon.
Most of us in New Orleans enjoy live music collaboration – but as consumers rather than creators. At live music events there is a very obvious dividing line between creators and consumers. More typically know as “the band” and “the audience.” The band is on stage, and the audience is on the floor, facing them.
Other than yelling “Who let the dogs out?” at a Saints game, or singing Christmas carols in Jackson Square, it’s hard to think of any place in New Orleans where the dividing line between music creation and music consumption is blurred. Have you been to The Music Box Village? It’s in the Bywater.
The Music Box Village is a collection of rustic-looking buildings described as “musical architecture.” When you interact with the buildings – either by walking through them, pulling levers, or taking some other action – the buildings make musical sounds. So, a bunch of people strolling through the village create music.
The Music Box Village is also a music venue where artists perform. Many of them incorporate the musical buildings into their live performance, reinventing songs in ways that are unique and can be magical and transporting. It’s the creation of an organization called New Orleans Airlift, whose wider mission is to promote music collaboration between local New Orleans’ artists and artists worldwide.
The Co-Founder and Creative Director of New Orleans Airlift, and Music Box Village, is Delaney Martin.
Recent research has demonstrated that birds, dolphins, whales, and even cicadas aren’t just making sounds to attract mates or warn each other of danger – they also sing collections of notes that can only be described as pieces of music.
There’s obviously something primal in our desire to make music. If you’re a dolphin or a cicada, you have your own particular challenges. But you’re free to make music without having to concern yourself with any consideration of copyright, the internet, or online collaboration software.
Music-creating and music-appreciating humans have Music Box Village, New Orleans Airlift and DAWn Audio to help both create and appreciate music. Although we’re not deputized to speak on behalf of all music-creating-and-appreciating humans, all of us locally wish these companies every success in the future.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur.