ï~~The Distributed Real-Time Groove Network
A System for Real-Time Musical Collaboration on the Internet
Matthew Moller, David Zicarelli
Northwestern University Center for Music Technology
The Distributed Real-Time Groove Network (DRGN) is a system which allows for the creation of music, in
real-time, from within MOOs (MUD, Object Oriented), text-based, virtual reality environments residing on the
Internet. The DRGN uses MOOs as its servers, responsible for disseminating musical commands and
information to all "clients" connected to a given "groove session". Users participate in the DRGN through the
use of a Max patch which is responsible for both communication with the MOO (via a telnet connection) and
the generation and transmission of musical events.
One of the most interesting properties of the Internet is its ability to bring together people from all over the
world. Using the Net, a person in Chicago can get in touch with someone in Norway as easily as their nextdoor neighbor. With this power at hand all sorts of interesting social possibilities are brought to light.
Since immediacy of response seems to be an important factor in developing a social connection, this power is
most clearly seen in real-time applications. For many reasons however (primarily network bandwidth and time
lag problems), real-time interactive, Internet services do not seem to have flourished as quickly as other non
real-time services, such as the World Wide Web. Up until quite recently, real-time interaction on the Internet
had been primarily restricted to Inter-Relay Chat (IRC) services - a sort of internet party line - and MUDs
(Mult-User Domain/Dungeons) or MOOs (MUD Object Oriented), text based virtual reality environments.
These services rely only on low-bandwidth transmission and reception of text data and thus are not significantly
affected by the Internet bottleneck.
Despite technical limitations however, new interactive systems have started emerging. CU-SeeMe (see "CUSeeMe Welcome Page" URL http://cu-seeme.cornell.edu/), for example, allows people to send video and
audio data all over the world. The Distributed Real-Time Groove Network (DRGN - pronounced "dragon") is
an attempt to bring a musical dimension to real-time, interactive, Internet services.
Background of the DRGN
In designing the DRGN system two objectives were seen as being important. First, users have to be able to
get the sense that they are interacting with a tangible environment. We did not want people to get the sense,when using the system, that the music was disembodied. Users have to be aware that the DRGN's music is
the result of the interaction of people's intentions, not computer's. Secondly, the system has to be user
extensible, allowing for flexibility in the way that the music is generated and for future expandability. We
wanted people to be able to implement algorithmic processes in the DRGN, as well as normal "jamming". In
addition to these primary objectives, network limitations require that the system work with the low-bandwidth
data transfer rates.
In order to meet these requirements, MOOs are used as the DRGN servers, the impetus for which was work
done designing software for use with the Communal Groove Machine, designed by Canton Becker (Wolman,
and Becker ICMC, 1994). MOOs, developed by Pavel Curtis at Xerox Parc (Curtis, "LambdaMOO
Programmer's Manual"), are text-based virtual reality environments residing on the Internet which allow users
to log in and interact with each other and the environment in the form of avatars. MOOs fit perfectly with the
DRGN concept as they are a wonderful media for interaction and building social relationships. People have
actually met their spouses on a MOO. ln addition to being environments for interaction, MOOs are user
extensible. Users are able to program new objects in the MOO, extending its environment and functionality, in
turn meaning that the functionality of DRGN can be extended.
8IC MC PROCEEDINGS 1995