The Odeon: using virtual reality to create immersive musical experiences of the past

Kenneth B. McAlpine, James Cook

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

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Our presentation focuses on sound and music as key –though often neglected–points of interface in VR experiences, and how the technology of VR gaming might be used to reconstruct historic performances and spaces, situating both audiences and performers in a shared virtual auditorium to connect and share the ephemeral elements of music performance that might otherwise be lost.In the last few years, Early Music has grown in popularity. With audiences increasingly demanding ‘authenticity’, there has also been a concerted effort to create historically-accurate performances, featuring musicians in period dress performing on period instruments, and on occasion performing in physical reconstructions of period venues. While this approach has clear benefits –it offers new experiential perspectives on Early Music and its performance –it also has its limitations; physical spaces are expensive to build, and very difficult to modify and investigate systematically, and by performing in venues that have been custom-built for these concerts, geographical limits are imposed on potential audiences.This is where VR technologies have real potential. Our project explores how they might be used as a platform for investigating historical performance spaces and the music that was performed within them. Using a mixed methods approach,combining 3D modelling, acoustic modelling, ambisonics and immersive interfaces, we are recreating two virtual auditoria–St. Cecilia’s Hall in Edinburgh and the Chapel at Linlithgow Palace –and recreating performances from historical records.In our presentation, we will discuss in detail our approach to modelling, highlighting the key psychophysical cues that encourage and inhibit presence and immersion within the virtual space, the implementation of different aspects of the virtual auditorium, and some of our preliminary findings. We will conclude by discussing emerging lines of enquiry and how these have shaped the next phase of the project.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2018
Event7th European Conference on Video Game Music and Sound: Soundscapes and Interfaces - HMT Leipzig, University of Music and Theatre Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
Duration: 13 Apr 201815 Apr 2018
Conference number: 7


Conference7th European Conference on Video Game Music and Sound
Abbreviated titleLudo2018


  • ludomusicology
  • virtual reality
  • early music


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