World premiere connects traditions in Baku-Tallinn LoLa technology concert
By Konul Aliyeva & Laura Durnford
A world premiere of new compositions for traditional instruments was at the heart of ‘Connecting Traditions’, a ‘distributed’ concert that featured high-level speakers and performers located in Baku, Azerbaijan and Tallinn, Estonia on 20 December 2019. The concert was organised in connection with the EU-funded EaPConnect (Eastern Partnership Connect) project and its 2018 Enlighten Your Research programme winner the MIRCO project. ‘Connecting Traditions’ was held at the Baku Music Academy (BMA) named after Uzeyir Hajibeyli. This was the first performance in Azerbaijan using ‘LoLa’ technology.
LoLa (Low Latency) audio-video data transmission technology used in combination with cutting-edge research and education networks allows geographically distributed musicians, dancers, actors and other artists to work together in real time without significant distortion or delay. LoLa has been established in Azerbaijan thanks to MIRCO and EaPConnect working with the national research and education network AzScienceNet via the AzEduNet network at the Baku Music Academy, with EENet of HITSA at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (EAMT), and with the Italian research and education network GARR.
“It is really exciting to see how digital technologies can bridge the gap, bridge collaboration between Azerbaijan and the European Union.” Veronika Di Luna (GÉANT), EaPConnect project leader
A synergy of digital technology, cultural heritage and creativity
The ‘Connecting Traditions’ audience in Baku was welcomed by The Vice-Rector for International Relations of BMA, Yegana Akhundova, who also played piano to accompany Tallinn soprano Kadri Kõrvek in ‘Quando me’n vo’ from La Bohème by Puccini. The Rector of BMA, Farhad Badalbeyli welcomed the guests too, and performed on piano with Estonian cellist Henry-David Varema, Vice Rector of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, in an instrumental version of Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vocalise’. The concert also included ‘Arazbari’ by Uzeyir Hajibeyov and a performance of jazz standards.
The world premiere of new work for traditional instruments – the ‘tar’ from Azerbaijan and the ‘kannel’ from Estonia – was an event highlight. ‘Mystic’ by Azerbaijani composer Ilaha Qismat was commissioned through the MIRCO project, which intends to create a LoLa user community in Eastern Partnership countries and to use the technology to renew the heritage of national instruments. MIRCO project leader Paolo Girol (EAMT) says that by allowing musicians to give online masterclasses about their national instruments and to meet and practice together over the network, MIRCO aims to “meet important EU policies such as digitisation, preservation of heritage and digital mobility.”
Purpose, benefits and vision
International cooperation, that LoLa technology helps to bring, was a common thread among the event’s speakers.
“The peculiarity of this event is that both music and modern technology are involved; both are areas of the greatest importance in the world right now.” Firudin Gurbanov, Deputy Minister of Education, Azerbaijan
Vice President of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Academician Rasim Alguliyev noted that the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between BMA and EAMT had swiftly led to applications for joint projects from countries such as Belarus and Latvia. “Thanks to the European Commission, EaPConnect, GÉANT and Lola, Europe is here in Baku at the BMA today. Technology demonstrates that it is an integral part of world civilisation with its contribution of integrating cultures,” he added.
Kristina Lillemets, who is Director Infrastructure at the Estonian national research and education network EENet of HITSA said that working with EAMT and EaPConnect on previous LoLa events had “allowed us to develop expertise in new technical areas, and even better, to build fruitful, cooperative relationships.”
Ivari Ilja, Rector of EAMT, confirmed that since LoLa’s launch in Estonia in 2017 it had helped the academy to develop its international network: “On several occasions we have used the technology with prestigious international institutions. It is our wish to continue our collaboration with BMA on every-day activities such as lectures and masterclasses.”
Claudio Allocchio of the Italian network GARR, who works in the LoLa project research and development team in collaboration with Conservatorio di Musica Giuseppe Tartini, Trieste, stated that at ‘Connecting Traditions’, “there is no border between human knowledge disciplines, between art and science and technology”.
This vision promises to continue as a reality, through the use of LoLa and research and education network technologies in further harmonious international collaborations.
LoLa technology has been in use in music schools in Europe, North America and elsewhere for teaching, masterclasses, rehearsals and performances since its first public demonstration in 2010. Through EaPConnect, LoLa has also been launched in Armenia and in Belarus, with partners and performers in Georgia, Estonia and Italy.
‘Connecting Traditions’ was organised by the EU-funded EaPConnect project in collaboration with the national research and education networks AzScienceNet in Azerbaijan (IIT of ANAS), EENet of HITSA in Estonia, and GARR in Italy, and with the Baku Music Academy named after Uzeyir Hajibeyli (BMA) and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.