Terrain Study is an audiovisual performance for solo instrumentalist and a virtual reality system. In this piece, I aim to work with the possibilities and limitations of VR outside the usual context of a realistic 3D environment.
The player starts in a simplistic 3D world consisting of only three basic elements: a randomly generated, slightly undulating terrain; a texture-mapped cube that creates the illusion of an endless horizon (a so-called ‘sky box’); and several metal-like spheres hovering above the ground. The performer can move freely within a space of roughly 25 m², with his or her field of view projected on the screen. The quality and height of the terrain directly affects the sound of the instrument, so that movement in space becomes a central aspect of the performance. Furthermore, the orientation of the performer’s head is mapped to different sound processing parameters over the course of the piece, so that the VR headset itself doubles as a musical interface. When touched, the spherical objects sample the sound of the performer’s instrument and play it back using granular synthesis. They move autonomously in space and the sonic result is determined by the speed of movement and the position within the terrain. All sounds heard in the performance ultimately come from the instrument itself; there is no prerecorded or (independently) synthesized material.
The virtual acoustic space is created with higher-order ambisonics. While the binaural rendering—only heard by the performer over headphones—suggests a static environment, the reference point for the audience is the performer’s perspective seen on the screen (like in a first-person video game), so that the acoustic space constantly shifts and rotates according to the movements of the performer.
Christof Ressi Terrain Study
performed by Szilárd Benes (bass clarinet)
audio recording: Ulrich Gladisch
audio editing: Christof Ressi
video production: ndbewegtbild
recorded on December 19, 2019 in the György Ligeti Hall/MUMUTH of the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria.
Duration of video: 15 minutes 34 seconds
GAPPP is funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF as project PEEK AR 364-G24.