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Dancing and Creating VR Music at SXSW 2017

SXSW is known for its large music presence. With over 2,000 musicians performing at the festival annually, it would only seem natural to see some VR experiences direct their focus to be more musically-centered. While you can hear every genre of music performed on almost every instrument you can think of throughout Austin during SXSW, being able to step inside a music-based experience is something that VR has been paving the way for.

Not only can you immerse yourself in what used to be known as a ‘music video,’ but some of the VR experiences on this year’s SXSW Interactive lineup even allow you to compose your own melodies.

Here are two of my VR favorites that premiered at SXSW 2017 this week:

SHOW IT 2 ME – Mark Brooks & Dylan Carter

This VR journey through a retro-futuristic neon landscape of pulsing lights, flying daggers, and vibrant shape-shifters, demonstrates what it feels like to step inside an interactive music video. The experience, created by TITMOUSE, uses Night Clubs track “Show It 2 Me” as you ride along a vibrant, neon painted road. I viewed this piece in the morning and immediately felt like this trippy experience gave me a boost of energy. I started to draw neon streaks and couldn’t help but begin to move my feet to the pulse of the song.

Show It 2 Me was created with Google Tilt Brush and was the first VR experience to use the Tilt Brush Toolkit (now in BETA) to export elements into Unity to be animated. The experience was designed for the HTC Vive and lets you use the Vive controllers to paint light streaks or catch and throw neon daggers flying towards–but only if you’re fast enough.

“In the 80s, MTV became the main outlet for musicians and bands to gain exposure by showing their music videos in a unified channel because content existed,” said Chris Prynoski of TITMOUSE. “Right now, there’s a real opportunity for VR music experiences to become a subset of the VR industry and grow as a new way to actively experience music.”

THE MELODY OF DUST – Viacom NEXT & Hot Sugar

Music isn’t just created from instruments or vocal chords. Melodies and rhythm can be created from non-instrumental sound from your everyday life. “Associative music” is what Nick Koenig–better known by his stage name, Hot Sugar–believes in. He decided to explore melodies associated to objects with his first VR piece, and by creating the very first VR music album for The Melody of Dust on the HTC Vive.

The experience is set in a mysterious castle with a room of luxury and excess that you can explore to find objects, each containing a unique melody. Whether you end up using a tarantula, nail polish, or a bottle of champagne, different objects can be combined to create different songs; 87 different song combinations to be exact. You become a composer by realizing that all objects make a sound, allowing for distinct variations for every experience.

13 of the 87 unique compositions from The Melody of Dust will be released as a full VR music album when the VR experience is launched publicly later this year. Rather than a music album listened to passively, this will allow for an album to be experienced actively.

Because of the pure number of distinct combinations that could be achieved by uniting different objects/melodies, it’s definitely an experience I would want to repeat and spend some time in. I’m now also curious as to what real-world objects I can try to create melodies from.

About the Scout

Devin Embil

Devin is an independent filmmaker and videographer who has worked on both traditional and VR productions. After gaining extensive production experience in Turkey, he moved to Los Angeles to produce content with inspiring storytellers on a variety of platforms.

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