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Set99 Thursday, 18 March, 1999, 12:17 GMT
The sound of music to come
Sinead O'Connor
Sinead O'Connor and backing singers lay down their track
SET99
Musicians have produced what it is claimed to be the world's first single to be recorded live on the Internet.

Using new software, they recorded a version of Bob Marley's Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) to raise funds for the charity War Child.

The artists e-mailed their different vocal and instrumental contributions into a virtual studio in northwest London from locations all over the world.

The whole project was completed inside one hour for Megalab '99 - a special BBC TV programme containing a series of mass participation experiments.

The Irish singer Sinead O'Connor's lead vocals were sent to the virtual studio from the BBC's Television Centre in west London and keyboard whiz Thomas Dolby uploaded his synthesiser contribution from San Francisco.

Other artists joined the session from Johannesburg (vocals), Sydney (percussion), Hamburg (keyboard) and New Orleans (guitar).

Musical interaction

The computer program that combined the different sections of the mix is the brainchild of musician Willy Henshaw.

"The software is revolutionary because it allows people from anywhere in the world to get together in the virtual studio and interact as if they were in the same place," he said.

The musicians cannot actually play simultaneously - the idea is that each singer or player can quickly hear what the others have done and then add their contributions to the master track.

It is claimed the system has the effect of speeding up the recording process.

The single was mixed by production team Coldcut.

Producer Matt Black said: "I think it is a great new way of working with people. For instance, if we wanted to go to Africa and work with someone, we'd have to get all the equipment on a plane and go over there.

"With hotels, it all gets very expensive. This way we can communicate directly and connect with the music."

It is thought the Rocket Network system will be especially useful to artists wanting to put together charity songs. It will mean leading pop stars will still be able to appear on a track even if they are away on tour in a different country.

Megalab '99 is run by the Daily Telegraph and the BBC's Tomorrow's World television programme as part of National Science Week.

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