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Software Helps Music Students Collaborate Online With Crystal Clarity

Music schools have a tradition of bringing in famous musicians to hold master classes with a handful of students, but many of those visits have been cut this year because of tight budgets. Free software developed at the University of Southern California promises to make videoconferencing clear enough to hold such classes remotely over high-speed Internet connections.

The software is called EchoDamp, and it was developed by Brian K. Shepard, an assistant professor of composition at Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. “There’s a great deal of information that is there if you’re in the same room with somebody singing or performing an instrument, but that is often not transmitted in a videoconference,” he said. The goal of his software, he added, is “to maintain a sonic environment online that is musically effective.”

One reason most Internet connections — even high-speed ones that colleges have built — don’t work well for musicians is that they can have a delay or echo as the signals travel hundreds of miles. Mr. Shepard said his system works by digitally removing that echo, while allowing the full spectrum of sound to be transmitted.

“We’re not trying to eliminate the in-person meetings,” he said, “but there are times when that is impossible.”

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