Virginia Tech professor's software helps quarantined musicians jam together

(Virginia Tech)

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Music-making software developed by a Virginia Tech professor has helped unite musicians during the pandemic, the university announced last week.

The free open-source program, called Linux Laptop Orchestra Tweeter, was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help facilitate online instruction for music students. It allows anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection, even a slow one, to produce music and collaborate with other musicians while staying in sync with each other.

“Music can serve as an essential catalyst in connecting people and have a profound impact on our well-being. This is particularly true during these trying times,” Ivica Ico Bukvic, the program’s developer and a Virginia Tech school of performing arts professor, said in a press release. “The software connects people and provides a platform to express oneself in front of an audience.”

The software uses a frequency modulation algorithm, which allows the program to generate a variety of musical sounds that musicians can use instead of physical instruments. Each user in a session is given an instrument and a “tracker” that can be populated with up to 64 notes.

“This intentional constraint requires users to build complexity through interaction with other users,” according to the project’s website. “It is in part inspired by the popular social media platform Twitter that imposes a similar design constraint of allowing only up to 280 characters per Tweet. As a result, and as evidenced by its name, L2Ork Tweeter can be seen as a musical counterpart to Twitter.”

The program supports up to 10 performers at a time and as many audience members as bandwidth allows. As a result, Tweeter can serve as a tool for jamming, improvisation, composition, rehearsal or even online performances before live audiences.­

“Orchestras are as tightly coordinated as a football team and feature the same kind of camaraderie. At the same time, not all of us are great at being quarterbacks. We’re great at doing other things. This is one of those other things,” Bukvic said. “Using Tweeter, aspiring musicians and professionals alike from all over the world can make incredible music together.”

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