Sessions of the future?

Sessions of the future?

Everyone sits 10 feet apart outside, and wears a single earpiece which receives a signal from a wireless microphone system which mixes all the signals coming from each player’s wireless microphone and broadcasts to all earphones.

The players hear themselves with the ear that doesn’t have the earpiece, and they hear themselves and everyone else through the earpiece. Everyone brings their own chair, beverages, instrument(s), etc. Whistle and flute players are stationed downwind from the other players. Everyone else wears masks.

Is this as close as we will get to (what we used to know as) ‘real’ sessions absent effective covid-19 mitigation interventions?

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Sounds about right… I’d demand chairs and beverages be provided though.

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As a woodwinds player I feel segregated ))

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…will be like sessions of the past, except that everyone present will have had to produce certification to prove that they have a copious concentration of antibodies.

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The in-ear monitoring thing is very well developed already, I think most bands use them for stadium gigs etc. The best set-up is when everyone wears both earpieces, but you have your own little mini mixer so that you can boost up the level of your own instrument however much you like, or indeed turn down anyone else who you don’t want to hear so much of. Or probably you can all do that with an app on your phones by now, I’m a bit out of touch…

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30ms delay sounds like you’re playing along with someone sitting 10 meters away.

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I you are playing with someone 10m away it sounds fine to you (if they are ignoring you). To them it sounds like you are 60ms behind (so they may be ignoring you).

Like Zoom but less so.

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We’ll all still be at home but wearing VR headsets that put everyone in whichever pub the session group prefers with as many punters as you want. Sound will be relayed by good old fashioned analog land lines to eliminate any delay and each player will have an auto-tune interface to keep everything sounding a sweet as possible. A perfect balance will be maintained so no matter how surrounded you are by banjos and bodhrans you’ll still be able to hear yourself playing. And if you accidentally knocks over a pint of Guinness it can only be your own.

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Everything will work out after the pandemic, its acoustic music we play, we will be back to playing normal sessions without mixers or earphones thank god.

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If future sessions involve electricity, other than a few dim lights, they’ll just have to happen without me. It’s the intimacy that I find enjoyable and technology is the antithesis of that. And I think that the medical science (I have some experience there), combined with the fear, will keep knee to knee sessions away for a very long time. Later today I’ll be playing outside with 2 others and that’s probably going to be as good as it gets in the foreseeable future. A quick survey of players around here tells me that should the most frequent venue, a local Irish Pub, open up with the usual space for sessions, it will be a very lonely place. Think, tumbleweeds, coyotes, and the wind blowing through the sandstone canyons lonely. Pessimistic for sure and it doesn’t make me happy.

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We’ll pull into the sesh on our self-driving flying car. Enter through automatic sliding doors. Sip our vegan drinks. Set our BPM to traditional-dancer speed. Play our Coca-Cola approved tunes. Pay-per-word compliment each other. Upload each tune to our personal pay-per-view channel to stave off starvation. Secretly pray that our AI overlords take pity and view our work.

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Sessions of the (near) future will be house sessions by invitation only, with friends you trust to be careful. No more than five or six people, spaced slightly wider apart than usual, but still able to enjoy playing acoustically. Masks optional except for the flute and whistle players.*

Either that or the "ring of cars" outdoors parked rear-facing in a 15 foot wide circle, or whatever keeps people 6 feet apart. Rear hatch open and you sit in the back, with the car interior providing a bit of passive amplification behind you. This was done at one local park with non-ITM players, and six cars if I remember right.

No electronics for me. Remote participation isn’t anything like the real thing even if latency could be solved, and it can’t. Sessions are an acoustic art form.

* In all seriousness, I do really worry about us wind players. I’ve been working hard in the last year to transfer repertoire from my mandolin to flute, now that I’ve made some progress. I wonder now, if I’ll ever be able to play flute with anyone but my fiddler Significant Other here at home. :(

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Things in both ears won’t work for me: I can only hear in one and my hearing aid in the other one is fine-tuned to compensate for my hearing loss. Better than headphones any day.

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Yes Conical. A few of us have been doing that all along. We’re mindful of our health and our surroundings, and respectful of each other. We’re all in the "target population"ya know and not stupid. That behavior might be enough all along…IF everybody practices it. Still as human beings we don’t and that may be the biggest problem. You know as well as I that this country if filled with gun tot’n whack jobs convinced ( and carelessly led) to believe that the whole thing is a "hoax". There seems to be no room for reasonable thought behaviors between mindless bravado and hiding under the bed. Sad huh!

To your last point about us poor wind players, I’d like to see some real science about just how far we really spread aerosols. My first thought is that its not nearly as far as we think. For me I find my best volume and best sound comes with focused breathing and not my best Big Bad Wolf imitation. If we can tell how far a sneeze really spreads then there has to be a technology that can measure a flute players exhaust fumes. Even the "Mythbusters" could crudely measure things like that. I’ll posit that it’s not any farther than a good laugh. Anybody know with double-blind, placebo controlled, accuracy?

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I’m seeing a lot of cool videos with special techniques showing how far a cough travels with and without a mask, but I’ve never seen it done for a flute. Probably no one really cared how far your embouchure airstream travels until the pandemic.

It started me thinking though (always dangerous!). How about this as a simple test. Not double-blind placebo controlled, just a rough idea. Take something that’s very lightweight and easily moved by the air. Like a 1" x 6" strip of plastic food wrap (Saran wrap or similar). A very lightweight feather might work too. Tape it so it’s hanging down from a mic stand or flute stand at the same height you hold the flute. Blow on it to make sure it moves easily with the slightest wind.

Now experiment with your embouchure air stream. Start where you can easily get the plastic strip moving, and find which note moves it the most (if there’s a difference at all). Then pull back until you can’t make the strip move at all. That’s presumably the distance where you aren’t blowing aerosol droplets, or at least where it starts to fall off quickly.

Now do the same thing with a laugh or a cough, finding the distance where you both can and can’t make the strip move. Is the flute airstream comparable, or does it travel farther? Of course this will be different for everyone. The better flute players with more focused embouchure might actually have an airstream that travels farther out, but we also blow with different amounts of pressure so that will be a factor. I might try it this weekend.

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Okay, I tried a very basic homebrew test. Unscientific and not peer reviewed, but maybe better than nothing until something better shows up. Posted the results at Chiff & Fipple to get some feedback over there: http://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=110504

TL,DR result is that flute playing moves more player air into the room than laughing, but a lot less than coughing, and the airstream is directed *downward* from the flute, for around 30". So we’re moving air down towards the floor, which may or may not be a concern for other players, not across into the room. And there is no air leaving the end of the flute, just drips. Which yeah, you’d want to avoid.

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Science in traditional Irish music is a refreshing direction.

As a retired epidemiologist, I can’t help but appreciate the recent elevation of scientific thought and practice as critical to helping us in our current crisis. Before this pandemic, my kids couldn’t describe to people what their dad did for a living 🙂

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Great effort Conical. Thanks. Next question would be something about the transmission of aerosol particles in the air that may fall out more quickly or linger and spread farther. Certainly not a challenge, I just don’t know. Note: I’m making a distinction between larger particles as in a sneeze/cough and those expelled in normal conversation, or more to the point, flute tooting. I find my best playing is with a very small air volume, highly focused, therefore at high speed, and mostly down into the flute. Now my head hurts! Is it better to sit next to the flute or a singer? Anyway, stay safe and stay happy.

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How about measuring drool dispersion off a strongly played bodhran or tenor banjo?

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Kitchen sessions, trusted guests be the way to go for a while.

Avoid singers and shouters ( eg crowded pubs ) for a while

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Choones, you forgot the part about having to pause halfway through our sets to view a commercial.

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Sessions as they were or nothing. Thanks

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Cheeky Elf - I didn’t want to make it too depressing.

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Do we all turn away when someune says "Hup"?

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"Avoid singers and shouters "
Most of us were doing that before. 🙂

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Our pub is reopening and one of our regulars has sent an email asking who is up for a session. I’m not ready to be in the pub environment, although it’s what I miss most about quarantine. I’m elderly, according to the CDC (news to me). What are others thinking about going back? I’d really appreciate your ideas.

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What are the ground rules, if you know what I mean ? 2 metres apart ? Face masks ? Personally, I wouldn’t.

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I wouldn’t attend a session now, because it would either be "back to normal" and sitting too close to un-masked people, or it would be under the state’s mandate of 50% occupancy and 6 foot spacing between seating. The first doesn’t sound safe, and the second doesn’t sound like fun. Imagine the size of a circle you’d need for a group of 8-10 musicians spaced 6 feet apart. Most local venues have poor acoustics. It’s hard enough for me to hear the entire group as it is, when we’re crowded close together.

Nope, for me, the foreseeable future is looking like house sessions with a very small group of friends I trust to be careful, and who live in areas with low numbers of stable or declining case reports. Unless we get a widely available and safe vaccine, which isn’t a sure thing and might be a year away.

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There must be more people with an opinion on this. Kathleen is asking [ see above ] :
"What are others thinking about going back? I’d really appreciate your ideas".
This is most likely the first - literally, potentially "life-or-death" situation discussed on this website.

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I’m in no hurry to be the first one back in the pub. It’s not like the virus went away. It’s just that we have more hospital bed capacity now that so many have already gotten sick.

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I’m in regular contact with folks at a couple of sessions via Zoom, taking it in turns to lead. No-one is thinking about getting back to a pub, or anywhere else indoors, for many months.

Most of us have played, or sung, outdoors in various contexts and whilst aware that hearing one another can be a challenge some locations can be OK. Strings and box players are hoping that being closer than 2m outdoors with masks will come to be regarded as low risk. Not really an option for wind players.

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Some of the folks at my session are back at it already! I don’t intend to be an early adapter myself. I’ve talked to a few who feel the same way. Texas is odd. It’s as if the state has gotten tired of Covid-19 so they are pretending it doesn’t exist anymore. I hardly ever see people wearing masks anymore in the city where I live.

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Star Trek Holodeck.

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On May 19, 2020, I attended a Webinar presented by a collection of top US high school and post-secondary educators, focused on how to keep music programs going successfully for the purpose of the curriculum and schedules, but also for the student’s experience, growth and enjoyment. The topic of aerosol transfer of the virus was quite obviously a Top 5 concern, and while much information is being gathered on that topic, they think they will have some major recommendations to offer to school administrators on a national level, for any summer and the fall classes that resume.

In all the music programs, they have situations and concerns very similar to Session events and the need to practice, record and have performances; close proximity, aerosol projection while playing instruments, disinfection and care of instruments, sharing of instruments, the need to know with more certainty how the virus survives on different surfaces and in different environments, how exactly it’s transferred, the need to keep student motivation, regular engagement and enjoyment levels up (on the students terms, as the students see it), and the idea that the music itself can be changed or selected in ways that accommodate new ways of practicing and performing. "Band" practices and performances are now facing the need for extreme changes immediately. They mentioned repeatedly that while they know some clear facts about the behavior of the virus, and about what can be done to adapt, more is needed and will be gathered very soon.

Anyway, you can look for their documents to be released in June and July and should be available at www.education.musicforall.org or possibly also www.astastrings.org

Health officials, pub owners, bands and patrons will be trying to find solutions that work for everyone. If the vaccine or method of prevention (antibody treatment?) is a year away or more, then methods of suppression, such as increased testing and contact tracing, and the full adoption of social distancing, disinfecting surfaces and use of masks, will allow the faster return to reopening and relaxing of these measures. I can only think that the musicians will be only too glad to adapt, but it’s the need to assure that venue patrons are behaving properly that remains the biggest challenge, if you ask me. I remain optimistic.

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I’m wondering if some sort of wearable face shield could be designed for flute and whistle players, that would help mitigate the risk while making it possible to play.

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WRT face shields, I posted about that possibility in the C&F thread about blow distance. Repeating it here:

"Along those lines… a friend has repurposed his manufacturing facility here in Washington state to make clear plastic face shields, distributing them free to local hospitals. He dropped off one at our house, just to show what it was like. I wonder if there’s room to tuck the flute inside the shield, and if it’s long enough to trap the downward flow?"

So I have one and I tried it, and it doesn’t work. The clear plastic mutes the sound for everyone else, because the embouchure is where you hear most of the vibrating air column and that sound is trapped behind the face shield. Even if that wasn’t a problem, it amplifies the flute in the player’s ears, because you’re playing into a reflector. And almost a parabolic amplifying reflector, at that. The plastic shield also blocks a little of the ambient sound you hear in a forward direction, which compounds the problem. It’s like playing with badly adjusted in-ear monitors, and meanwhile you’re at half your normal volume for everyone else.

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Until there is a serious solution to the virus problem ( like vaccines, actual working drugs) I think our options are limited to outdoor, distanced mini-sessions and video conference (Zoom,etc.). The medical research folks have offered varying guesses as to how long, from September, to January, to next summer. I’m going to wait it out. Besides, this is an opportunity to practice and learn all those tunes you’ve wanted to learn.

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A visor with the lower part made of fabric maybe? But it would only reduce the projection of any aerosol, so not as safe as a masked-up fiddler.