Strata ・ Cloth-based VR Instrument

Spring 2018

I composed a simultaneous, secondary melody that plays in silence.

I mapped the vertical displacement of a cloth to the volume of the secondary melody using a tanh function, ensuring that a maximal displacement wouldn't force the audio to clip.

This mapping allows me to not only "play" the cloth (and thus the melody) but also allows the cloth's post-displacement oscillations to drive the melody's presence, providing a material physicality to the creation of sound.

Other parameters mapped to other cloths' displacements included a low-pass filter on the overall audio, and the volume and low-pass filter of a noise track.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 5.51.37 PM.jpg

The bed of tines was a reaction to a previous iteration of this project where I triggered a music sample upon collision with an object. This binary interaction's lack of dynamism was unsatisfying.

In response I replicated out a thin rectangular prism bound to its base by a spring allowing mildly elastic motion in multiple directions. Collectively these tines move in a greater fluid whole, even though each's movement is relatively simple.

I randomly applied a music sample from a set of eleven to each tine, and to reduce the total number of samples triggered when passing my hand through the mass of tines, I set the probability of triggering a sample upon collision to be much less than one.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 5.53.56 PM 1.jpg

I noticed that my brain confabulates subtle tactile sensation on my hands when I interact with this stack of cloths.

Something about the visual feedback and the physical dynamics strongly evokes the qualities of cobwebs, and multiple participants have experienced the illusion of texture where there is none.

Strata is an exploration of material dynamics within VR and how they might drive / map to / influence sources of sound.

Strata is a visual and interactive experience of my music.

I explored Unity's cloth physics' parameter space, modulating the cloths' flexibility, dampening, etc to produce a set of behaviors ranging from highly elastic and oscillatory to something truly dampened, almost closer to sheet metal.

Conceived within the confines of a narrative-driven project, I developed a method to differentiate the end from the beginning by slowly shrinking the environment in the final moments to a singular point. This inexorable change cements the finality of the experience as objects shrink and cloth folds in on itself, wrinkling into a bundled mass before resetting to the introduction space, ready for another playthrough of the experience.

Playable build and Unity files available on my GitHub.

Earlier Forms of this Project