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Online Music Jams, the Next YouTube Trend?

They might just make good on the Net's promise to connect us.

Ben Shingler 9 Dec

Ben Shingler writes regularly about online video for The Tyee.

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The next-generation's 'Give Peace a Chance.'

It's hard to imagine a tune like John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" being written today, even less so something like the '80s classic "We Are the World."

These kinds of heartfelt, big dream, political tunes -- and sit-ins at the Montreal's Ritz Hotel, for that matter -- just don't mesh with contemporary culture. But now, a new kind of inspiring, unite-the-world tune is emerging with the help of the latest technology.

The 1961 Ben E. King classic tune "Stand by Me" has been covered by countless artists over the years, but never quite like the most recent rendition currently making a splash online, created through the growing movement in online musical collaboration. The new version of "Stand by Me" includes musicians of all stripes recorded at sites across the globe -- including New Orleans, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, and the Congo, to name a few.

YouTube is calling for musicians to submit an audition video of them playing sheet music from a new Tan Dun composition. The best entries will be made into a collaborative virtual performance played online, and a group will also be selected to perform at New York city's Carnegie Hall in April 2009.

In some ways, both projects are reminiscent of Matt Harding's tremendously popular globe-trotting dance videos, often called "Where the Hell Is Matt," which have amassed more than 25 million views, and which continue to grow in popularity because they achieve -- with such simplicity -- what the Internet promised to do in the first place: connect ordinary people.

While the Internet has often been criticized for having the opposite effect -- further isolating us from one another -- the Harding videos, and even more so this new kind of musical collaboration, shows us the best of what's possible with online technology.

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