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Benchmarking Networked Music Performance Tools With the NMP-Bench Model and Architecture

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Networked Music Performance (NMP) aims at establishing a live interaction between musicians remotely connected that performs as if they were in the same room. While several NMP tools have been proposed through the last 20 years, a benchmark that aims at measuring and comparing their quality is currently not present. In this paper we propose the Networked Music Performance Benchmark (NMP-Bench), the first approach to systematically analyze and compare the performance of NMP tools. Focused on server-based NMP and its auditory component, NMP-Bench provides a comprehensive approach to measure and quantitatively compare NMP tools, encompassing network, music, and effectiveness metrics, with the goal of understanding the technical gaps that may reduce the experience of the performers. The paper presents the NMP-Bench model and architecture, which is then applied to benchmark two NMP tools (in simulated settings with no actual musicians) over three music pieces of different music styles. Results show differences between the two tools; this supports our statement that NMP-Bench can be used to select the most suitable tool and highlight strengths and weaknesses of NMP tools.

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JAES Volume 69 Issue 10 pp. 708-719; October 2021 Permalink
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Experimenting With Adaptive Metronomes in Networked Music Performances!

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The increasing attention toward interactions at a distance and the improvement of digital communications networks have steadily increased the interest toward Networked Music Performance both regarding entertainment and education. Unfortunately the unavoidable network latency remains one of the main issues that prevents a satisfiable remote performance. In this work we propose three different techniques that try to contrast this issue by relying on adaptive metronomes, i.e., metronomes that are able to track the tempo of the musicians through a beat tracking technique. We present a series of preliminary experiments with both professional and amateur musicians that demonstrate that these techniques could be a promising approach as an additional tool for contrasting the impact of latency.

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JAES Volume 69 Issue 10 pp. 737-747; October 2021 Permalink
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Streaming high-resolution audio

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A workshop at the AES Spring Show discussed how high-resolution audio streaming has gone from being a niche market to a mainstream commercial proposition. There are many different ways in which the idea of quality is perceived by consumers, but enough seem willing to pay for the idea of quality and to have a faithful connection with an artist’s intentions. There is considerable potential for other service providers and areas of the world to develop high-resolution audio streaming, but the arguments for doing so depend strongly on the business models that prevail in each context. Live streaming of events in high resolution, with both video and audio, is a burgeoning business area, enabling a larger slice of the revenue to go to artists than would be the case with streamed albums or songs.

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JAES Volume 69 Issue 10 pp. 770-773; October 2021 Permalink
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Supporting Creative Practice in Wireless Distributed Sound Installations Given Technical Constraints

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In this paper we present creative practice-led research into building large, scalable “multiplicitous media” artworks in which many networked devices control lights and speakers and are coordinated over Wi-Fi to create holistic artistic and environmental experiences. We discuss competing constraints, in particular the creative constraints associated with the challenge of coding complex multi-device behaviors, maximizing creative freedom and simplifying complex engineering and design decisions. Based on recent experience building multi-device digital installation works, we propose an approach, the “broadcast-first recipe,” that aims to simplify the space of creative possibilities, with a trade-off between expressive power and creative efficiency that we argue is worth adopting. We examine this approach in light of hard technical constraints such as central processing unit (CPU)and Wi-Fi bandwidth budgets, which we discuss in a concrete example. We consider how the effectiveness of the proposed approach could be further leveraged in the provision of support tools.

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JAES Volume 69 Issue 10 pp. 757-767; October 2021 Permalink
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Technical Performance Assessment of the Ableton Link Protocol Over Wi-Fi

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To date, Ableton Link is the most widely adopted synchronization protocol for musical applications based on Wi-Fi networks. However the limitations of Link over Wi-Fi in terms of scalability are not known, an understanding that may be useful to designers of musical ecosystems involving many nodes to be synchronized. In this paper we present four experiments aiming to investigate how the protocol performance is affected by the number of connected devices, kind of Wi-Fi access point utilized, and connection or disconnection of nodes. Results showed the reliability of the protocol only for a limited number of nodes, which was 22 for a consumer-grade portable router and 41 for a mesh network created by two high-end access points. The protocol performances were found to decrease with the number of devices and when nodes connected or disconnected. Furthermore, the performances of Link are tightly bounded to that of Wi-Fi, which can vary significantly from day to day depending on network load and interferences. Taken together, our findings indicate that Link over Wi-Fi is not suitable for ensuring synchronization in ecosystems with a high number of nodes, and we call for new wireless technologies suitable for large scale synchronizations in co-located settings.

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JAES Volume 69 Issue 10 pp. 748-756; October 2021 Permalink
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Toward Professional Distributed Performances: Effects of a Global Metronome on Networked Musical Ensemble Interactions

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Modern communication networks enable audiovisual interaction between geographically distant locations in near real time, leading to an increasing interest in networked music performance (NMP) and growing availability of related tools and applications. An important point of such distributed performances is the nature of interaction between the performers, which poses challenges toward, e.g., the network latency in the communication chain. Extensive research in the field of NMPs has shown that it is possible to achieve stabilization of synchrony and tempo deviation by providing a global time reference signal at each location of an NMP. In this study, for the first time, both an auditory and visual global metronome were integrated into the ecosystem of a physical NMP to evaluate the objective musical outcome and perceived benefit of the metronome with a professional music ensemble of five musicians between Munich and Hanover. The objective analysis shows that the metronome has a positive effect in terms of tempo stability at high latency levels, whereas synchrony strongly depends on the individual coping strategy of each musician. The subjective analysis suggests that a perceivable positive effect of the metronome is discernible for the musicians at all latency levels.

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JAES Volume 69 Issue 10 pp. 720-736; October 2021 Permalink
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AES - Audio Engineering Society