the sound of my dreams

the sounds of my dreams: 

Virtual Reality as a socially-isolated medium for self-disclosure and sound-orientated artistic experiences

with Catherine Bevan, M.Mus, graduate student in Digital Humanities

Wednesday January 18, 2023
5:30 PM – 6:30 PM MDT

In-person at the Sound Studies Institute
with refreshments
Room 3-47, Old Arts Building and Convocation Hall
or tune in to the livestream

While VR is poised to be an exciting medium for artistic expression, it’s not without its share of uncertainties. As VR headsets are intended to present content to an audience of one in a way which isolates them from the outside world, some composers and musicians understandably approach VR with apprehension, due to the social nature of traditional musical performance. Additionally, modern VR development is more-or-less monopolized by Meta (the parent company of Facebook) and hence finds itself subject to the same privacy-defiling data harvesting upon which Meta has built their data broking and advertisement empire. Finally, the technical side of VR creation is still in its infancy, with software packages, plugins, and toolkits being abandoned, reworked, and replaced at dizzying speeds.

In response, the sounds of my dreams is a short interactive VR work(-in-progress) which aims to validate the immersive and socially-isolating nature of VR headsets as being uniquely conducive to reflective artistic experiences, while reappropriating the act of self-disclosure away from mass surveillance and corporatist exploitation and back under the ownership of the individual. This presentation will provide an overview of the past and present of immersive audio in VR, explore the theoretical background of the work – including glitch, the artist-audience relationship, self-disclosure, and ‘aloneness’ – as well as demonstrate the technical procedures I am using to produce convincing 3D audio in VR. 

Catherine Bevan holds an MMus in Composition from the University of Alberta, where she defended her thesis on the usage of text and controlled improvisation as means of musical development. She is currently in the final stages of an MA in Digital Humanities Specializing in Music, where her research focuses on Virtual Reality, glitch, trans experience in the post-internet age, and the validity of disembodied and ‘unsocial’ musical experiences made possible with modern technology. In addition to her thesis research, Catherine is involved with leading technical audio implementation at the Audio Games Lab of the University of Alberta, and leads the prototyping of sonification software which interprets sentiment analysis data for the text analysis tool Voyant.