Musical Dialogue at a Distance? With Live and in Lockdown, Dan Tepfer & Friends Take a Swing

May 14, 2020

Real-time dialogue is at the heart of improvisation — and it has been all but impossible in an era of social distancing.

The limits of our technology, and the stubborn fact of our physical separation, put a damper on the instantaneous connection needed for true musical exchange.

But this Friday at noon, WBGO and The Checkout will take a step toward a solution, with Live and in Lockdown, a concert webcast spearheaded by pianist and tech geek Dan Tepfer. He’ll be joined by celebrated saxophonists Dayna Stephens and Melissa Aldana, along with double bassist Jorge Roeder, all playing from their respective rooms around New York’s metropolitan area.

The concert, which you can watch here and via Facebook Live, builds on the innovative research, in instructional videos on YouTube, by trombonist and educator Michael Dessen.   

Michael Dessen
Credit Bill Douthart

For a number of years, Dessen has been experimenting with what he calls “telematics,” specifically with bassist Mark Dresser. In a conversation this week on The Checkout podcast, Dessen credits Stanford University professors and software designers Juan-Pablo Caceres and Chris Chafe in creating a program called JackTrip, adding that it “isn’t for the faint of heart,” but allows musicians to exhange uncompressed, high quality audio -- with imperceptible levels of latency -- at almost the speed of light.

Tepfer, who’s always keen to tackle a new challenge, recently began experimenting with JackTrip in his livestream efforts. About Live and in Lockdown, he says: “We are responding to historic events by doing something unprecedented.” As Steve Allen once put it, this could be the start of something big.

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