Performing for Peace
NYUAD students rehearse and perform with NYU New York students using emerging telematic music technology.

Performing for Peace

"Musical performances can be appreciated as art, but they can also be appreciated as tools for exploring the world," said J. Martin Daughtry, assistant professor of Ethnomusicology at NYU New York and an NYUAD Affiliated Faculty member. Indeed, the ResoNations Education Session performances by both NYUAD and NYU students during the Innovation Talks Symposium III at the United Nations Headquarters on Thursday were designed to bring global communities together and use music as a vehicle for peace.

Despite playing 7,000 miles apart — using emerging telematic music technology, which allows for real-time performances by musicians in different geographic locations via high-bandwidth Internet and high-definition video — and experiencing a few technological glitches, the musicians (four in New York and five in Abu Dhabi) played their piece in its entirety for the very first time. And later in the evening, NYUAD's The Human Voice class gave a thought-provoking performance with accompaniment from the NYU musicians in New York.

There is always a little noise in any system, and the quest for peace involves acknowledging and striving to overcome that interference. In that sense, the performances modeled both the desire for peace and understanding, and the real-world obstacles to universal harmony.

J. Martin Daughtry, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, NYU New York and NYUAD Affiliated Faculty

"I was actually really surprised by how well we managed to pull it all together," said cellist Charlotte Wang, NYUAD Class of 2014. "Given the time constraints and all the challenges that come with pulling together a piece of chamber music while working with the technological aspects of telematic music, I was happy with our performance and think, in spite of everything, that we presented a cohesive piece of music."

Interestingly, while technology was the reason the performances could actually take place, it also ended up playing a much larger role. As Wang noted in the musical number, "The technology wasn't just there to create a barely adequate facsimile of chamber music played in one room — it was there as a specific artistic component." In fact, the students considered this in the composition of their piece and allowed the integration of "interesting syncopations and patterns of sound that resulted organically from time delays and technological blips."

The technology also required the students to play in a totally different way than they would in a traditional setting. Without the ability to feel the connection to the musicians on the other side of the world, or to see their movements or hear their breathing, the students directed their focus on the only existing channels of communication: limited sight and slightly delayed sound. "There's much more distance between players with whom you're connected only by technology," said Wang. "Naturally, it's limiting in some ways."

But, as Daughtry explained, "There is always a little noise in any system, and the quest for peace involves acknowledging and striving to overcome that interference. In that sense, the performances modeled both the desire for peace and understanding, and the real-world obstacles to universal harmony."