The musicial potential of virtual reality | Soundspace

The musicial potential of virtual reality

virtual reality

The virtual reality age is upon us. No longer a concept that only exists inside a Futurama episode, virtual reality technology has come on leaps and bounds since its conception. The possibilities are endless. Education, medicine, music. Modern life as we know it is changing, advancing towards a futuristic utopia where anything is possible.

The ability to transport a user to an alternate world through sound is an art form that many producers have mastered. Journey music. The mind’s eye is opened through sonic waves that crash over an audience like a mammoth Hawaiian tide. With virtual reality the experience remains not only in the mind, it becomes a living, breathing ecosystem that is yours to explore.

Throughout this feature we’ll look at how the music industry, and the musical experience in general, may be shaped by the introduction of VR tech, and how important it is to remind ourselves that this is a tool and not just a novelty. The ways in which we experience music, be it through education, creation or live experience are changing before our very eyes. The future is now.

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The advances in virtual reality will not only impact how we take in music, but also how we create it. Users will be able to use their hands in place of rigid and lethargic keys. It bring an entire new perspective to the creation of sound. Here you will physically be able to feel music, building temporary abodes inside noise to craft the perfect waveform.

Lyra is a concept that allows the user to edit musical notes whilst being inside the experience. Created by Jean Marais, it gives off a real architectural vibe. A complete hands on experience. A musical world to which you are the god.

Another approach that has surfaced is a melodic building block design system called The Wave. It’s design is aimed at groups. Users will be able to drop in and out of live sessions, thus enhancing the idea of collaboration. Here you can play along with reactive visuals and a real audience that responds to your performance. Soundstage is another idea that allows users to create their own virtual studio, complete with floating keyboard.

It could be argued that a virtual hologram of instruments will take away any real emotion when it comes to production, and this is an excellent point, but the theory of being able to share ideas and sounds so quickly, and in such a practical way, is too important to disregard. A producer in the UK will be able to have a hands on production experience with an artist based in South Africa. A cultural collaboration has the potential to bloom.

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The Psychedelic Experience

For years now psychedelic drugs have been used as a portal to enter the musical realm. It’s no secret that many forms of electronic music have been known to enhance the trippy, listening experience. Virtual Reality won’t make you see three headed dragons, unless you program it to, but it will enhance the concept of journey music.

Music has always been about feeling. It provokes art within the imagination. Listen to any of Rodhad’s back catalogue and you are metaphorically transported to a dystopian paradise. Music incites an emotional response, and now these emotions can be constructed into visual elements that make the entire experience more immersive. With virtual reality the listener will be able to explore a world entirely inhabited by their most beloved sounds and the ecosystems they create.

Icelandic goddess Bjork has remained true to her forward thinking artistry through the experimentation of VR technology in her work. Three hundred and sixty degree shows have been created that let fans experience a visual Vulnicura experience. Lights and sound constantly evolve, enhancing the record further whilst also creating new perspectives. A Notget concept is also expected soon, check out the teaser below.

virtual reality, thewave, playthings vr, soundstage, soundspace

The Idea of Performance

Always and Forever Computer Entertainment are the company behind the Playthings VR game. It’s a virtual reality space that allows you to interact with playful elements as well as maintaining a musical context. In an interview with XLR8R, creator George Michael Bower said that he had gotten more precise and felt increasingly comfortable playing melodies and drums thanks to the tech. This is just one example of the power over performance that virtual reality can have.

The Wave allows its user to DJ inside a virtual booth and lets you watch on as a virtual crowd sway to your set. Performing in VR is still very raw, but there can be no doubt about its potential. A great practising element for aspiring performers.

How we consume a live performance is going to evolve. We can now record from a first person view to be played back at a later date. The idea of a virtual concert is not too far away either. Boiler Room have recently announced that they will be creating the world’s first virtual reality venue.

This all sounds great, but again the threat of losing the texture of a real live performance looms large. It’s important to realise that a virtual venue/concert isn’t here to replace a live show. The real reason behind it is that in the social media age many tune in online to witness shows that they are not able to attend. With Boiler Rooms filming experience, that idea is sure to be a truly engaging one that music enthusiasts from around the world can enjoy.

Most of Boiler Room’s audience is made up of global online users who tune in to watch music events they can’t attend in person. We’ve always been driven by using technology to showcase the music we care about in the most authentic way we can.” – Boiler Room CEO Blaise Bellville.

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A Tool For Knowledge

How many times have you sat through a YouTube tutorial, or read through an instruction manual, only to be met with the ugly face of failure and the wishful thinking that someone could physically show you what to do?

A hands on, practical approach is always going to be more educational than a theoretical method. When making music the creator must be emotionally involved, using all their senses. They can’t just sit there and look on, they need to be in the driving seat.

San Francisco Unified School District and Polk Country Public Schools in Florida are already using virtual reality technology to give their students first person tours through the Great Barrier Reef and the pyramids of Egypt. The Open University have also implemented similar hardware in their programming. With concepts such as The Wave pushing through, the future looks bright for education in the art of music. All of a sudden those located in the most remote parts of the world will have the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into what was before now only a dream.

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Jump Starting Sensitivity

Technology is often criticised for its role in the desensitising of music. Thanks to technological advancements we can quite easily skip through a huge number of tracks without really absorbing any of its emotionality.

We live in a very modern, very fast paced world. When we listen to an album, do we really connect with it? Do you really consume everything it has to offer?

Finally the technological era has come full circle. Virtual reality technology allows for greater connectivity to the sounds being created and experienced. Music will always be appreciated, I’m not for one second saying that VR is the reason we should appreciate music as the true romance for sound still blooms bright, but within this digital age being able to live inside a sound certainly doesn’t hurt.

Digital experiences are too often taken for granted. What’s important is that we don’t lose sight of the virtual reality experiences potential. The iPhone is a piece of technology that has so much potential, you can literally do anything on it, yet most of us use it only for social media and basic commands.

VR must be administered as a tool, first and foremost. We can have fun on Sony’s PSVR, and enjoy virtual rollercoaster rides on Oculus Rift, but we must not fall blind to what this incredible piece of kit can really do.