University of California, San Diego bassist and composer Mark Dresser has helped put together more 30 telematic concerts in the past decade with political, social, and environmental awareness in mind. Having begun the process of bringing this year’s international concert to life roughly a year ago, Dresser had no idea he’d be bringing together musicians from the United States and Korea on the eve of President Trump’s historic summit with Kim Jong Un.
“Interconnections for Peace: A Telematics Concert in San Diego, Seoul and NYC,” which uses telematics technology for the long-distance transmission of information, brought together 14 instrumental musicians between 3,000 to nearly 7,000 miles apart for one live concert.
“The fact that we were doing a concert for peace in Seoul the Friday before whatever just went downis so special,” Dresser said of the performance that went live days before the June 12 Singapore Summit. “The first time we did a telematics concert with Seoul was in 2010 and it was another crisis in Korea. There was a lot of heart in it.”
Over the two continents, starting June 8 at 7 pm Pacific Daylight Time/10pm Eastern Daylight Time/11am Korean Standard Time (June 9) the three bands played six world premiere compositions as part of NowNet Arts Festival. The event uses technology that allows for all three time zones to broadcast a live show with fourteen world-class musicians performing for live audiences. The connection was hosted by UCSD at their Conrad Prebys Music Center.
“We were pulling off a big feat and there was something really profound about it beyond the technical fact of it. I would have to say that the feeling of the concert lingers. There were some walls that had been penetrated that normally aren’t,” Dresser told Amplify.
“As instrumental musicians it is not like we are writing songs with words that can explicitly address anything social. Once you put a context for it, all of a sudden I realized there was a desire or need to be part of something for the greater good,” Dresser said, adding that it gives a community that normally does not have a voice the ability to be part of something greater than their genre.
Dresser explained that at this year’s event, the message of coming together was hugely felt during Seoul composer Yoon Jeong Heo’s piece titled “The Distance of Stare.”
“It was addressing the demilitarized zones,” Dresser told Amplify. “In it you had melodies that were from both North and South Korea. There was a lot of poetry. You feel the intent more than most instrumental music concerts.”
Other original pieces that underscored both telematics and peace included UCI’s Michael Dessen’s “What Peace Can We Hear,” Sarah Weaver’s “Transforming Totality” and Dresser’s “Embody in Seoul.”
With over a decade worth of telematic shows, Dresser and company have held shows for political, environmental, and social awareness since the inaugural event including a concert for peace at the United Nations headquarters in New York City to to Montreal, Belfast, Beijing, Seoul, Zurich and Prague. The impetuses to begin this series began when Dresser moved from New York to San Diego and wanted to continue playing with familiar musicians.
“Telematics offered a chance to transcend geography. That was the initial reason. Then it became ‘Wow, this is actually quite a dynamic medium’ and we started investigating it as an educational medium,” Dresser said. “This was greater than I anticipated. It had a power all on its own.”
The first concert in 2009 was called “Deep Tones for Peace,” held between New York and Jerusalem, garnered viewers from 50 countries on five continents and was a six hour marathon of music.
It is the different band and/or group’s history together that has created such impactful and exciting shows for audiences over the years. While there is still a delay between the thousands of miles, the latency continues to become more and more negligible with every performance.
“We’ve been doing it now for over a decade and we happen to be doing it in the same space since 2010. Working with a crew that has history with us, that’s a special thing,” Dresser said. “We try to create strategies that give the illusion of synchrony. In the compositions, I’m trying to take advantage of the delay and emphasize and show the differences.”
From San Diego, Dresser and fellow UCSD professor Stephanie Richards composed new work in addition to Nicole Mitchell and Michael Dessen of UC Irvine. New York featured five additional musicians including long-time collaborator, composer, conductor and telematic producer, and founder of NowNetArts, SarahWeaver. The Korean quartet Black String, with Seoul National University professor Ji-young Yi, played from Seoul. Weaver and Yi also contributed to the six world premieres that each spanned about 20 minutes.
“It felt like a powerful gesture of will and of positive intent. This was artists making projections for peace,” Dresser said. “Music transcends all the difficulties and that part is super affirming.”
To keep up to date with telematics concerts, head to UCSD’s Department of Music website.