History of Spatially Distributed Performance

aka Milestones in Real-Time Networked Media

This page is an early attempt to document the key points in the history of real time networked media, specifically related to distributed human interaction as evidenced by the possibility of networked music applications. Some of the milestones listed are based on satellite communication of analog signals, which, while not strictly "network-based" are considered sufficiently relevant to warrant inclusion here.

Note that prior examples exist of network audio distribution (e.g., Elisha Gray's transmission of "familiar melodies" over telegraph wire in a public demonstration on December 29, 1874). No doubt inspired by this demonstration, Jules Verne wrote the following in "Une Ville Ideale" (1875). "Le célèbre broyeur d'ivoire, Pianowski, jouait à Paris, à la salle Hertz; mais au moyen de fils électriques, son instrument était mis en communication avec des pianos de Londres, de Vienne, de Rome, de Pétersbourg et de Pékin. Aussi, lorsqu'il frappait une note, la note identique résonnait-elle sur le clavier de ces pianos lointains, dont chaque touche était mue instantanément par le courant voltaïque!"

For the purpose of this history, we restrict the listing to those events that were actually implemented in practice, and allowed for some form of interactive performance between multiple performers or participants.

(Another excellent resource for more on networked performance.)

Public Supply

Max Neuhaus, 1966

Goal: combine radio station with telephone network to create two-way public aural space


The Performing Arts & the Future of Television

Mark Schubin, 1975

Goal: remote masters class of ballet; regisseur [dance master] in New York critiqued the dancers in Colorado and his comments sent back to them


Satellite Arts Projects

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, 1975-1977

Goal: several distributed performing artists appear and perform together in the same live image; able to see and talk with each other


The Last Nine Minutes

Douglas Davis, 1977

Goal: use satellite feeds to create multisite video art performances


several similar projects include "Send/Receive" (Liza Bear, Willoughby Sharp, Sharon Grace, Carl Eugene Loeffler: 1977), "WorldPool" (Robert Adrian, Norman White: 1977), Audio Scene 79 (Modern Art Galerie, Vienna, 1979), "Artists Use of Telecommunications Conference" (Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 1980), "Hole in Space" (Galloway and Rabinowitz, New York - Los Angeles, 1980), "The World in 24 Hours" (Robert Adrian, Ars Electronica, 1982)

Hole in Space

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabonowitz, November 11, 1980

Goal: Experiment with satellite video link for a variety of artistic projects. Summary:

Canadian Coastlines: Canonic Fractals for Musicians and Computer Band

Larry Austin, May 10, 1981

Goal: mixed live/pre-recorded distributed radio performance

Summary: 'Radiophonic' composition for synchronized, live radio broadcast performance on CBC Radio, from Halifax, Toronto, and Winnipeg. Four voices of an eight-voice canon are performed by eight musicians, the remaining four -- 'the computer band'--played as digital synthesizer sequences pre-recorded on tape, each voice entering in turn in exact melodic/rhythmic imitation. The click tracks are timed so that the eight voices come into melodic/rhythmic unison--phase--five times during the piece; i.e., the voices momentarily catch up with one another, only the next moment to continue the acceleration or deceleration, as the case may be.

Digicon 83: Night Satellite

Jean Piché, Osamu Shoji, Martin Wesley-Smith, August 1983

Goal: multisite audio performance



Bischoff, Brown, Perkis, Stone, Trayle, Gresham-Lancaster, 1985

Goal: network-based electroacoustic performance


Satellite Symphony: Beethoven and One Woman's Dream

Francoise Legrand, 1988

Goal: Could five hundred voices around the world be connected via satellite to an international all-star symphony orchestra in Montreal's Place des Arts, and sign Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in global harmony and -- more or less -- at the same time?

Pieces played: Ode to Joy

Arrangement: Moscow, Geneva, San Francisco, World Philharmonic Orchestra (in Montreal), performed live before a television audience


Distributed Music: A Foray into Networked Performance

Eve M. Schooler et al, USC/ISI and BBN, Sept. 21, 1993

Goal: demonstrate network "Flow Synchronization Protocol" (developed at BBN) to combine data for one-way streaming
Pieces played: Haydn Piano Trio, No. 1 in G, Finale
Arrangement: Piano as continuo (conductor) in Los Angeles, violin and cello in Boston

Cyber Soirée

Paul Hoffert, February 18, 1996

Goal: demonstrate ATM-based technology for audio and video streaming of a four-way jazz performance
Pieces played: Mike Murley's "New Dreams"
Arrangement: musicians at Bravo, Bamboo Club, and York University (Toronto), CITI (Montreal)

Distributed Musical Rehearsal Environment

Dimitri Konstantas, et al., May 30, 1996

Goal: support distributed rehearsal tasks with conductor at different location from musicians
Pieces played: Handel's "Israel in Egypt" and Britten's "Abraham and Isaac"
Arrangement: one singer at GMD-Sankt Augustin, Germany; 2nd singer and pianist in Geneva (video clip of final system)

Opening Ceremony 1998 Winter Olympics

Seiji Ozawa, February 7, 1998

Goal: conduct choruses on five continents
Pieces played: Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"
Arrangement: 200 singers each in Sydney, New York, Beijing, Berlin, False Bay
2000 singers at Olympic Stadium
conductor, 8 soloists, and orchestra in Nagano

World's First Remote Barbershop Quartet

Internet2 Initiative, November 1, 2000

Goal: multi-location barbershop quartet over Internet2 networks
Pieces played: "Beer Barrel Polka," "In The Good Old Summertime," "The Internet2 song"
Participants: Tenor: Brent Gerber, at North Dakota State University
Lead: Jo Knox, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
Bari: Kent Bradshaw, at Syracuse University
Bass: Greg Economides, at Texas A&M University
Conductor: Bob Dixon, at Ohio State University

Music Video Recording via Internet2

Internet2 Initiative, November 4, 2000

Goal: multi-location music video recording session using real-time streaming video over Internet2 networks
Participants: NYU, USC, U Alabama-Birmingham, U Miami and U Georgia School of Music

QoS Enabled Audio Teleportation

Chris Chafe, CCRMA, November 6, 2000

Goal: streaming professional-quality audio to remote destinations using established internet pathways
Arrangement: conference site in Dallas connected to CCRMA (Stanford) for the SuperComputing 2000 conference

The Technophobe and the Madman

RPI and NYU, February 20, 2001

Goal: distributed musical, combining music, video, and interactivity
Arrangement: two musicians in Troy and two at NYU - keyboards and drums

Network Musical Performance

John Wawrzynek, Berkeley, May 9, 2001

Goal: gestural coding (e.g. MIDI) used to manage data under low bandwidth conditions, suitable for networked transmission in distributed musical performance
Arrangement: one musician at Berkeley, another at CalTech, each playing on MIDI keyboard; local feedback only


Chris Chafe, CCRMA (Stanford), August 17, 2001

Goal: streaming professional-quality audio from remote locations in such a way as to make musical collaboration possible
Piece played: Brahms' Sonata for Piano and Violoncello in E minor, Op. 38
Arrangement: cellist at various locations, pianist at CCRMA (Stanford)


Jeremy Cooperstock and Stephen Spackman, McGill University, November 9, 2001

Goal: minimal latency bidirectional transmission to support the audio and video demands of a distributed musical duet
Piece played: Lidel's Duet 1 (First Movement) from Three Duets for Violin
Arrangement: one violinist at McGill, a second at the Haute Etudes Commerciales, several kilometres away, both in Montreal

Summary Update: June 13, 2002:

1This web page previously misreported the figure as 90 ms, but this was the measured RTT, not one-way network delay.

This document authored by Jeremy Cooperstock
Last update: January 27, 2013