[JPL] Jazz & Blues Legends Play On in Virtual Reality

Jazz Promo Services jazzpromo at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 30 06:45:08 EDT 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007 10:07 AM PT Posted by Matt Peckham

Jazz & Blues Legends Play On in Virtual Reality
As an amateur jazzman, this one's near and dear. It's also a nod toward our
holo-decky future (bless you Joss Whedon for the power of "y"!) -- a UC
Berkeley project to recreate exalted Oakland, California musical hotspots
like Slim Jenkins Place, Esther's Orbit Room, and John Singer's and Harvey's
Rex Club. The game angle? Compose a piece of music, then try to get it
financed by Seventh Street "mayor" Charles "Raincoat" Jones and distributed
by the Sleeping Car Porters labor union.

Background: Middle century last, Oakland, California's Seventh Street was a
jazz and blues gold mine, a stomping ground for national acts like Billie
Holiday and B.B. King as well as sound-shaping "Oakland blues" locals like
Lowell Fulson and Sugar Pie DeSanto. Never heard of Oakland blues? Let's
just say some music historians mention it in the same breath as celebrated
sounds like New Orleans jazz and Chicago or Kansas City blues.

Today, Seventh Street is mostly empty with a handful of shops. The street
gets few visitors and the squeal and thump of 1940s and 50s jazz and blues
venues has been replaced by the drone and rumble of semis and cars as they
hustle toward the freeway on-ramp.

Enter UC Berkeley and a student-driven project to "recreate" an eight-block
stretch of Seventh Street, replete with the clubs, music, and some of the
key persons of the area's heyday. When it's finished, online visitors will
be able to check out famous nightspots like Slim Jenkins' Place and Esther's
Orbit Room and actually listen to digital recordings of the music played in
the clubs. And the "get your composition signed and produced" mini-game
mentioned earlier could be just the beginning.

Why not something along the lines of Second Life meets wraparound video
conferencing? Imagine signing up to play a set at Esther's Orbit Room from
anywhere in the world. Performance time, you and your band gear up in a
studio room with wall-size screens and a few unobtrusive cameras. People
around the planet sign in to Esther's online, where they can see your band
perform in realtime (and you, them, on the screens in your performance
room). Imagine technology that furthers interactivity by transposing you and
your band three-dimensionally, feeding your images realtime and avoiding the
ugly, artificially animated avatars standing in for bands like U2, Duran
Duran, and Suzanne Vega in Second Life.

Clubs like Seventh Street's salad days may be past, but with projects like
UC Berkeley's, we're coming up fast on a whole new world of anywhere,
anytime, any-era-you-like meets massively collaborative entertainment.

Play it again, Lowell Fulson, Saunders King, and Sugar Pie DeSanto.

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