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Using Ocean, the browser based collaborative beat sequencer, we created a jam session you could join online and in person.

On 1st May 2021, CLIP took to Culver Square in Colchester to pump out beats to the general public using the collaborative music making website Ocean, as part of the debut Colchester Fringe Festival.

How to meaningfully collaborate online with music

Having moved all our education work online, the pandemic has meant we’ve been experimenting with ways to meaningfully collaborate using the restrictions of video conferencing software. When we were introduced to Ocean, we could see exciting possibilities for online workshops like ours, specifically solving how to improvise remotely as an ensemble without having to worry about dreaded latency.

Ocean is a fun and simple way to make beats with friends & share your creations with the world – all in your web browser.

When you begin composing your sequence in Ocean it generates a unique URL which you can then share with others allowing them to join the same page and compose alongside you as you sequence samples on the grid. Since all the audio is rendered locally, meaning each visitor controls their own play/pause button, it mitigates any latency issues.

Ocean allowed us to tap into our repertoire of improvisation games and exercises, creating some fantastic jam sessions. Ocean founder Robin Hunter joined our weekly meet-up to share his story with the group of young musicians and take their feedback for what they’d like to see.

One participant noted that the anonymity Ocean offers allowed her to feel more confident and subsequently be bolder with her musical choices in a group improvisation setting. Because she was user-xyz123 rather than *name* she didn’t fear being judged by changing the tempo or adding a certain melody/beat the same way she might have in a face-to-face group improvisation environment.

Creating a sample pack for Ocean

In summer 2020 we ran our House Music project, creating a series of provocations for young creatives to explore their environment, discover its unique sounds and share them with us via the hashtag #CLIPHouseMusic. The response was brilliant and lead to some incredible recordings. from rhythmic and melodic dripping taps to soundscapes of the weekly NHS clap.

Through a subsequent workshop we took these sounds, and newly recorded ones, and turned them into samples for the Ocean website – so we could using own samples on the website, and of course make them available to everyone else accessing it. Using the browser based audio editing software Bandlab (also free, but does require an account) we trimmed the recordings, added compression and EQ and then exported them as a variety of hits and loops ready to be imported into Ocean.

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Colchester Fringe Festival

When we were invited to take part in the first ever Colchester Fringe Festival, we saw an opportunity. With this type of event we would usually coordinate an ensemble of young musicians to perform, however with social distancing restrictions still in place it offered a perfect opportunity to push our collaboration with Ocean even further.

We invited members of the public to visit the site, by scanning the QR code or typing the URL, on their own device (or one of our iPads) and join in with the jam session – with our CLIP members contributing from the safety and comfort of their own homes on their own devices.

Collaborating online and in person

With a big TV setup and a laptop hooked up to the Ocean website, we began to jam with the general public. For some it was their first ever time experimenting with a beat sequencer, and for others their eyes lit up at the possibility of being able to jam with friends and families as soon as they got home.

It was incredibly rewarding for our CLIP members to join in remotely throughout the day and collaborate with the general public joining in. They also particularly enjoyed the short videos we took of their beats being blasted into the town square, and the public dancing along, which we posted into our shared online classroom environment.

Whilst this setup does have its limitations, it offers a really exciting way of collaborating online and in person in meaningful ways. We’re incredibly grateful to both the Ocean and Colchester Fringe Festival team’s for working with us on this ambitious experiment and we’re excited to keep pushing the possibilities further.