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Internet2 plans Halloween treat

NEWARK, DE.--Just as pianists accompanied silent films in the theatres of the 1920s, University of Delaware music department chairperson David Herman will highlight ghost stories from the console of the Jefferson Pipe Organ in Bayard Sharp Hall this Halloween.

This being the 21st century, there will be a twist, however. Herman will be providing accompaniment from 800 miles away through new technologies made possible by the Internet2 project.

The virtual Halloween event, which is being held in conjunction with a national Internet2 conference, will originate from the Rialto Theater in Atlanta from 8 to 10 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 31.

In addition to providing accompaniment, Herman will perform two solo works selected to fit the Halloween theme: Bach's famous Toccata in D minor and "a bit of ragtime" called "Graceful Ghost Rag" by the contemporary American composer William E. Bolcom. His presentation will be netcast from Atlanta at several levels of video and audio quality to accommodate a range of listeners’ connection speeds.

"The Jefferson Pipe Organ was a magnificent gift, and I am very pleased that it is quickly becoming a prominent ingredient in the campus life," Herman said. "This Internet2 broadcast is a fascinating example of the wedding of two contrasts–mechanical-action pipe organ, similar to one which Bach might have played in the 17th century, and the excitement of an emerging technology such as Internet2.

"It calls to mind the great days of the theatre organ, when organists improvised accompaniments to match the action of silent movies. I've never done anything quite like this before–it should be interesting, and fun."

Other performers include the New World Symphony Orchestra, the University of Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra and Henry Panion III of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who will lead a distributed recording session with well-known musicians performing live from different cities around the country. As producer, Panion will interact with the musicians throughout the evening as each records an individual performance from studios at Internet2 university campuses in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Birmingham. The individual tracks will then be mixed with a vocal performance given live on-stage. Virtual set designs for the event are being provided by the Institute for the Exploration of Virtual Realities at the University of Kansas.

"The Internet2 Virtual Halloween event will use high-performance networking to bring together artists both on-stage and in remote locations with a live audience," Ann Doyle, Internet2 manager of arts and humanities initiatives, said. "This event demonstrates that high technology can add exciting new dimensions to the arts and humanities."

UD's involvement in the program stems from its participation as a charter member in the Internet2 consortium, according to Richard S. Sacher, a manager in Information Technologies/User Services. The consortium includes more than 180 U.S. universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies to accelerate the creation of tomorrow's Internet.

Sacher said performing arts events such as that planned for Halloween serve both to test and to highlight emerging Internet2 technologies. Responding to a call for a national Halloween-themed event, UD submitted several proposals, all of which involved use of the new Jefferson Pipe Organ. "We pitched the idea to David Herman, who thought it sounded like a good opportunity to experiment with remote performance collaboration and that it would be a lot of fun to do it in this virtual setting," Sacher said.

IT staff members created the needed network connections to Bayard Sharp Hall and "started the ball rolling–or the bits flowing, depending on how you look at these things," Sacher said.

IT/University Media Services will transmit UD video and audio to Atlanta by compressing the output from stereo microphones, video cameras and already filmed digital video, Sacher said. This composite signal will be compressed to provide near-broadcast-quality video and near-CD-quality audio at the Rialto, where the Internet2 technical staff on stage will decompress the signal and project it onto a large projection screen.

Because absolute silence is required, Sacher said no visitors will be allowed to watch the presentation from Bayard Sharp Hall. However, the UD community and the public will be able to view the netcast from the East Lounge of the Perkins Student Center on Academy Street. To watch the netcast elsewhere, click on the Internet2 Halloween concert button that will be featured before the big day at the lower-left corner of the UD home page at [www.udel.edu]. Higher-speed connections will result in better performance.

Although the Halloween event is lighthearted, it has serious implications, as Internet2 consortium members consider expanded use of digital video, digital cinema, international collaborations, health science applications and a new initiative to promote application development in the arts and humanities.

You can view the webcats at: http://www.internet2.edu/html/fall00webcast.html

Contact: Neil Thomas, (302) 831-6408, nfttwo@udel.edu

October 26, 2000