RTP MIDI: Welding the plumbing for network musical performance

Wednesday, April 13, 2005 - 17:30
TH 331
John Lazzaro, University of California, Berkeley

The speed of sound is slow compared to the speed of light. An Internet packet sent from Berkeley to Stanford nominally takes about 2 milliseconds to make the journey. Two musicians, sitting 2.4 feet apart, adapt to a 2 millisecond acoustic delay when they play. Packet delays from Berkeley to Caltech (Pasadena) correspond to the delays musicians sense when sitting 16 feet apart, not unsual on a performance stage.

And so, physics supports network musical performance within the state -- all that's left to solve are the engineering problems. For the past 5 years, John Wawryznek and I have been working on solving those problems for an interesting special case: network musical performances that use MIDI, the standard way pianos, drums, and other electronic musical instruments send note information over wires. Most of that time has been spent working through the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the standards body for the Internet, to integrate MIDI transport into RTP, the standard protocol used for Internet telephony and Internet radio.

Thankfully, our standards work is drawing to a close (we hope!). In this talk, I'll introduce the protocal the IETF and the MIDI Manufacturer's Association have been collaborating on: RTP MIDI.


John Lazzaro is teaching computer architecture this semester to Cal undergrads. Before his research life fell victim to the IETF standards process, he spent many years working on analog VLSI circuits that model biological hearing and vision, in collaboration with Carver Mead, Richard Lyon, John Wawryznek, Richard Lippmann, Nelson Morgon, and many other wonderful people.