For anyone that has strapped into a virtual reality headset and used the 3D painting app Tilt Brush — have you ever thought of other ways the app could be applied to other forms of art? For me, music immediately popped up in my mind. When I first used the tilt brush app, it inspired me to think of how the structure of the app could be applied to music. It was an obsessive thought, the idea that I could pull whatever synthesizer out and visually map music in my own virtual reality music room really had me thinking — How is VR changing the way we produce and experience music now?
Sound in VR
With VR music there are some fundamental questions, is the sound in VR headsets good enough to produce or experience music with? Let’s use Oculus Quest for an example: Oculus Quest has positional audio built directly into the headset, so you can hear your teammates or what’s sneaking up behind you even without headphones. The fully immersed audio described by oculus is technically called 3D spatialized audio, and all VR headsets use this audio technique.
What is 3d audio Spatialization? 3D audio effects are a group of sound effects that manipulate the sound produced by stereo speakers, surround-sound speakers, speaker-arrays, or headphones. This frequently involves the virtual placement of sound sources anywhere in three-dimensional space, including behind, above or below the listener. This is half the reason you feel completely immersed in virtual reality, so yes the sound is good enough which is why musicians have been early adopters of VR.
Musicians leading the way with VR
Musicians have been leaders in experimenting with VR, it’s a content match made in heaven. Music is particularly well suited for VR because virtual reality is best for quick viewing periods, about the length of a song, and it connects the user to an immersion view of the sound landscape produced by the musician. Why make a music video to listen to music, when you can make a VR music video to drop people into a full body experience of the music?
Everyone is doing it — Bjork, Coldplay, U2, The weeknd, Taylor Swift and more. This evolution in music really comes full circle for the artist, now music can be explored and experienced how the artist envisioned.
Experiencing Music in VR
For the full VR Experience download the Inception here: https://inceptionvr.com/
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to see the world through Mac DeMarco’s eyes the VR music video for “This Old Dog” might give you a taste. Created by multimedia artist Rachel Rossin, the piece takes Mac’s playful sense of humor and infuses it with first generation CGI and 90’s video game graphics, sending the viewer soaring to dizzyingly psychedelic heights.
A spooky spirit house created in 2D and 3D – you get a spirited walk through of every bit of the animation in 3D VR. In the 2D version you see 2-D float through space, but in the 360 video, you have the chance to look around and admire both 2-D and the dozens of animated moon rocks drifting through the cosmos. You feel like you are drifting through the cosmos.
From Bjork herself, “ I am so happy to share finally the complete version of vulnicura VR with all the songs now available in one place – it is a digital home for all the virtual reality videos we made. The VR videos have been touring museums around the world as part of the Björk Digital exhibition , but now that it is possible to put them all out on an accessible gaming platform available to everyone.” To learn more about Bjork’s journey with producing her music in a VR space, read the youtube video description. She speaks to the journey of no one having VR headsets to now the mainstream catching on. It’s a gift she has long term been working on, and we get to immerse ourselves in it.
Producing music in virtual reality
Make beats in virtual reality. This app is a full looping music production and sequencing environment in VR with visuals. Who made the beats? You did! This is not a rhythm game. This experience is pretty close to what my initial thoughts on what producing music in VR would look like — dialing in grid controls, synths and more. Is the music viable though? Maybe not yet, nobody is producing a full album in VR just yet, but this is a sign that we are on our way and at the very least may have the ability to test out synths, and gear before we buy in.
Completely immerse yourself in the music, and interact with your compositions like never before. Sculpt breathtaking musical sequences and share your visual symphony with friends, fans or collaborators. Perform your creations in real-time and pioneer a radical new form of sound art. Comes loaded with features, including Importing your personal audio samples for fully customized tunes and the ability to save, record and export your compositions.
This is exactly what I thought an application of tilt brush to music would look like. The only feature missing with this app is multiplayer.
This experiment in virtual reality music has you feeling like a DJ — sort of, kind of, well I don’t know what it is to feel like a Dj, but these are the claims made by Electronaut. “Ever wanted to ride the vibes of a top DJ playing a packed festival’s main stage? Here’s your chance to shine: all it takes to be an Electronaut is the passion to become one with the beat. Create music with confidence, no matter your skill level, as you make music magic in this VR-exclusive experience featuring 40-plus songs from 50 top artists across EDM, hip hop, trap, and countless other genres.” This app is all about performance, it’s lets you experiment, collaborate, and more.
It’s more than a feeling, it’s an experience. Whether producing music in VR or being fully immersed in a virtual reality music video, you are experiencing a small tidal wave, a ripple of how VR is changing the way we experience music. Sooner than later we believe the more mainstream headsets become, the larger the waves of VR in this music evolution will be.
This blog is a sounding board of process and development in emerging technology, do you have something for us to research and write about? If so, leave a comment.