April 23, 2020

Online music strikes a chord during pandemic, but it’s not a new sensation

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in most normal activities being moved online. But some, like attending class or making music, are not new to the virtual world.

“Online music making has been happening for years,” said Christopher Cayari, assistant professor of music education in the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance at Purdue University. “Now a larger population finds itself in a situation where they want to try it.”

Cayari researches online music making and virtual performance, focusing most of his attention on YouTube and how the platform has changed the way people create, consume and share music. His research began in 2009 while researching Wade Johnston, one of the first people on YouTube to create multitracks, or the layering of separately recorded tracks. Johnston’s multitracks included recordings of himself singing, playing the ukulele and using shakers, among other things.

Cayari has observed the evolution of online music making on YouTube over the years, including the expanding of virtual choirs. Classical composer Eric Whitacre began creating virtual choirs in 2010 with 185 singers from 12 countries. By his fourth virtual choir in 2013, he boasted 5,905 singers from 101 countries. Cayari also is exploring Soundcloud, Twitch and TikTok.

“There is this unifying effect that online music making can have for a sense of belonging and connection,” Cayari said. “Even though online performers don’t see each other’s faces, there’s this human phenomenon of feeling accomplishment together when you can watch the finished product.”

Cayari believes this same unifying effect can be seen in this time of social distancing.

“This pandemic is a catalyst for people to get involved with their favorite creators,” he said. “I see more musicians engaging in collectives at this time to try and bring others together. It’s also widening the online music community that already existed.”

Online music making also has changed due to the advancement of technology. As people become more comfortable recording and editing videos, they often turn to more innovative tools and technologies to make higher-quality videos. Similarly, as more individuals produce higher-quality videos, others strive to do the same. However, Cayari urges online music makers not to compare their work with others.

chris-cayari Christopher Cayari Download image

“Music is an activity to create, to have fun, to make something we didn’t have originally,” he said. “When producing it, think of it as a fun night of karaoke rather than a performance at Carnegie Hall.”

Cayari, who has a joint appointment in the College of Education, also is interested in how YouTube and other online music making trends can translate to music classrooms to make them stronger and more relevant. In his course, “Teaching Music in the Elementary School,” he has incorporated multitrack recording projects, in which students record themselves singing, playing the recorder or strumming the ukulele throughout the semester. He also has incorporated vlogging projects for his courses, in which students record and send videos in order to communicate with one another instead of writing on discussion boards.

Attention Purdue alumni, faculty, staff, students and superfans: Show your Purdue pride by participating in the “Hail Purdue” virtual choir. https://woobox.com/ftew7n

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Writer: Madison Sanneman, msannema@purdue.edu

Media Contact: Joseph Paul, paul102@purdue.edu

Source: Christopher Cayari, ccayari@purdue.edu 

Note to Journalists: A photograph of the professor and a stock image related to virtual music are available to use via this Google Drive.

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