The magic of music and the comfort of connectedness combined in an online event using LoLa (low latency) data transmission technology, provided through the EU-funded EaPConnect project. The Armenian and French national research and education networks (NRENs) ASNET-AM and RENATER supported the ‘Overcoming pandemic and distance with LoLa’ concert, which streamed online on 19 March 2021.

During the event, cellists Marine Rodallec of PIANOANDCO cultural association and Andranik Agajanyan of Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan performed together in real time, despite being thousands of kilometres apart. With Marine in Marseilles, France, at LMA-CNRS (Laboratory of Mechanics and Acoustics of the French National Centre for Scientific Research) and Andranik in Yerevan, Armenia, at ASNET-AM’s premises, the artists performed a Jacque Offenbach piece together as if they were in the same room.

Connecting despite COVID

The concert was prompted by the idea that it would be good to make international connections despite COVID-19 restrictions. The concert demonstrated the potential that technologies and unique services offered by NRENs have in helping to overcome some aspects of lockdowns, opening virtual collaboration bridges for geographically distributed artists and performers. The successful connection between Marseilles and Yerevan relied on cutting-edge, high-bandwidth research and education networks in combination with the LoLa technology. LoLa was developed by Conservatorio di Musica Giuseppe Tartini, Trieste, in collaboration with the Italian NREN, GARR, and was introduced into Armenia through the first EaPConnect project in collaboration with ASNET-AM, which is operated by IIAP NAS RA (Institute of Informatics and Automation Problems of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia).

Aram Mirzoyan and Simon Hunanyan of ASNET-AM, cellist Andranik Agajanyan, Aram Hovhannisyan and Armen Baghdasaryan Vice-Rectors at Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, and Hrachya Astsatryan director of IIAP NAS RA, ©IIAP NAS RA

Developing collaboration

The connection between Marseille and Yerevan was first tested on 2 March, with rehearsals soon following. The event has forged a collaborative relationship between the French and Armenian NRENs, Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan and PIANOANDCO, which the event participants hope will continue and grow. Special thanks to the director of PIANOANDCO pianist Natalie Negro and her whole team, the director of the Institute for Informatics and Automation Problems Hrachya Astsatryan, Vice-Rector for International Cooperation and Public Relations at Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, Armen Baghdasaryan, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs at Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory Aram Hovhannisyan, and the ASNET-AM technical specialists Aram Mirzoyan and Simon Hunanyan.

Since LoLa was implemented in Armenia, the ASNET-AM technical team became actively involved in various workshops and international events: a 2018 eMasterclass between Armenia and Estonia; the ‘Music without Borders’ ministerial concert in 2017; and the 2019 ‘Connecting with Culture’ concert that used a record-breaking 5000 km of networks across 7 countries.

As with all these events, the ‘Overcoming pandemic and distance with LoLa’ concert demonstrated the successful convergence of science and technology with culture, and the potential of digital technologies to support harmonious cross-border collaboration.