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Vocem is a musical composition published by Music Haven (December 2020) which explores a new concept of hyper-immersive music. Immersive sound is with us all the time as our ears receive sound from multiple sources and directions. Immersive music is experienced through multi-speaker systems such as surround sound and Dolby Atmos systems: ‘Immersion creates a new mode of perception and embodiment incorporating a history of listening and cultural memory.’ (M. Droumeva 2005). Vocem takes this forward through a combination of extreme saturation of the sound spectrum (high to low frequencies) and extreme spatialisation within a stereo field, with sounds arising from many more sources and directions than natural human listening would typically detect – a hyper-immersive experience.

Ideally, Vocem should be experienced through stereo headphones, though it is also designed to recreate a hyper-immersive experience through stereo speakers (with adequate separation).

The voice is at the centre of Vocem, both literally, as it is the only sound fully located in the centre of the spatial spectrum, and figuratively as it lies at the imaginative centre of the musical landscape. Immersive music has developed most fully in games music in response to increasing visual immersion. Vocem takes forward the game-music genre with a synaesthetic design to increase multisensory stimulation.

Multisesnsory and synaesthetic experiences are unique to individuals, but some of the intentional approaches with Vocem are designed to evoke near touch-like experiences of glass and metal and the physical sensations of cold initially and warmth later. Modalities of touch, taste and smell as well as states of light are also consciously translated into musical outcomes.

The use of the countertenor voice is novel within a game-sound genre and is used here for its frequent association with the ethereal and otherworldly (e.g. Britten’s Oberon). The feminine register and stepwise nature of the melody is also designed to evoke a sense of lullaby, with typical associations imbedded from childhood. Spectral gate is applied to the voice to create hyper-realism, and the sound equivalent of visual saturation has been added through the use of specific compression/distortion. These immersive techniques used with the voice are designed to surround the listener aurally in a way similar to touch, or embrace.

Piesse (1862), Huysmans (1884) and Huxley (1932) made early forays into this sensory relationship, and this field has become the basis of rigorous neuroscientific research in recent years e.g. Deroy, Crisinel, Spense, 2013. This inquiry investigates and develops a novel approach, complementing existing research and is described by leading synaesthesia expert Prof. J. Ward as ‘a unique approach.’

Original languageEnglish
PublisherMusic Haven
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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