Saturday, April 8, 2023

A step into spatial audio

 How I got here

First off, I don't get here without my decision to dive into sound and music production with computers and related technology in mid 2010. Around that time I became interested in modern, electronic music. While walking for exercise and wearing over the ear headphones, I discovered a very unique sonic experience I had not heard before. I remember being struck by my perception of the music in my mind.

I then began to consider music produced historically with these considerations, and I realized that the Beatles were one of the first bands to use stereo recording techniques. I also discovered that if I listened to Rush with headphones, that I could flip them and imagine sitting on the drummer's throne and having a better understanding of how Neil Peart played his set. 

Like most studio produced music, that music was produced from the vantage point of the engineer, not of the musicians. I was particularly interested in this because I taught myself how to play drums in my late teens but always noticed that when listening to most music produced from the 1970s-1990s, the instruments seemed to be "flip flopped" in the sound field.

A very important part of my early sound/music/DJ process and my modern sound/music production is the use of Ableton Live. Fast forward now to 2023 and I have discovered the recent capabilities with Envelope for Live, ambisonics, and the Surround Panner effects. These features allow me to better create more complex and immersive soundscapes.

Very recently too I also discovered the work of Prof. Michael Wagner, who is an expert in ambisonics. Given the equipment needs, the creation of a true ambisonics environment is currently out of my realm of possibility. Reviewing and researching similar sonic phenomena, I soon realized that I could though create a similar environment with my existing sound equipment. I conducted a brief test of a configuration, and once my son told me it "feels like the sound is passing through me," well I decided it was worth an effort to scale this beyond the headphone and vehicle experience as a potential project in the community.

I decided to go public with the possibilities of this project. I was surprised by the positive feedback I received, and I was encouraged to continue the effort. And as a result, I was approached by the Owensboro Museum of Science and History about an immersive experience, including an installation for Earth Day.