The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

Find the “Theremin” of our time

When it comes to the “Metaverse”, most people immediately think of “the future”. Nowadays, we can see different white papers of “Metaverse” entrepreneurial projects almost every day. They are vertical to the fields of social networking, games, cultural and creative industries, and Saas. “s solution. Old players have also extended their tentacles to the Metaverse. Huami OVs are immersed in providing a “physical foundation” for the Metaverse. Tencent, Baidu, and ByteDance, which have enough stock, are more inclined to “playing games”. Soil and virtual humans are experimentally brought to the fore.

But can the “Metaverse” really bring us those expected changes? This question still seems to be on the minds of many people. The losers believe that the Metaverse is just a technical concept, which essentially refers to the way humans connect – on this basis, what new things people can create through this new set of connections actually depends on “what human beings can do.” The level of intelligence mastered” – Therefore, rather than “hype Metaverse”, we should pay more attention to the “hard technology” that stays in the real universe and can create actual productivity.

Possibly the most staunch proponents of the Metaverse have a hard time making a forceful rebuttal. Because even if the Metaverse does have the expected “real value”, it will be a long process from the birth of technology to commercial and civilian use, and “the vast majority of people lack the actual perception of the Metaverse” will be a norm. In the language of economics, the actual output does not match the potential output for a long time, and the development momentum will become an inevitable problem.

But it is not impossible to refute it. As early as 2007, a group of artists realized their creativity in the form of “Metaverse”.

“Metaverse” and Music

“Metaverse” can be applied on a large scale in the music industry, and it is easy to understand that the capital market is based on “communication” considerations. After all, as a standard entertainment consumption, “music” can provide a package of convenient conditions for the promotion of new technologies, including but not limited to “unfamiliar concept packaging”, “subtle influence of usage scenarios”, “concrete use value” and so on.

But for music practitioners, the “Metaverse” can indeed bring about a very real improvement in productivity. For example, people can solve equipment problems at low cost through software simulation; in the stage of arrangement and performance, it can provide a Necessary space, so that people in different regions can also have the opportunity to collaborate.

It’s just that this vision puts high demands on “infrastructure” – “music collaboration” needs enough rich and timely visual cues (such as body movements, facial expressions, gestures) and auditory cues to generate “quality of cooperation” and provide services. Metaverse products must find ways to overcome the impact of objective factors such as network delay and low bandwidth – so for a long time, “Music Metaverse” products will definitely be more oriented to the C-side, in viewing, trading, Empowering in collections and other links.

There is also a difficulty that is easily overlooked, “presence”. “Presence” means that creators in the same space can predict each other’s next move through contact and communication with each other.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

In academic circles, “presence” is considered to be a core element in the process of music collaboration, and the loss of “presence” may directly affect the creativity of the participants, which in turn further reduces the mood of the participants during collaboration.

Therefore, considering that “creation” is essentially a perceptual process that relies on a flash of inspiration, if the “Metaverse” wants to become a production tool for the music industry, it cannot only restore the voices and appearances of the participants, but also needs to be aware of the participants. The whole body is figuratively restored.

Coupled with a well-known common sense: large-scale image processing tasks, in addition to seriously consuming the storage and computing power of the origin server, can also gulp down the performance of CPU and GPU – this makes the early “Metaverse”. “Product” is very easy to fall into self-contradiction: it was originally seeking flexibility and convenience, but it set a high threshold at the entry stage and brought a lot of new troubles . Like Zhang Yixing’s famous scene of walking and writing songs will definitely not happen. It is easy to die or burn to death.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

It is worth mentioning that, probably because “doing difficult and interesting business” is the general consensus of entrepreneurs all over the world, “how to help musicians complete cloud collaboration” has become an independent technical field, known as online music. Performance (full name Networked Music Performance, abbreviated as NMP), including instrument simulation, sound field restoration, voice recognition, etc.

It is said that teleconferencing products have received a lot of dividends during the formation of NMP, and a considerable number of artists value the low latency and network synchronization of the conference system.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

(A group of musicians use zoom to achieve Metaverse music collaboration)

Of course, it is still an old problem. The front camera cannot completely solve the problem of “visual communication”. The change of “Metaverse” to music creation is still a theoretical expectation.

Avatar Metaverse Orchestra

For those who lack artistic cells, the works of The Avatar Orchestra Metaverse (AOM) are really hard to describe. Especially when wearing headphones for immersive appreciation, the continuous high-frequency background sound + unpredictable animation expansion + rough modeling + dull tones can easily produce a religious “sense of creation”.

But for the development history of the Metaverse industry, AOM shines with pioneering significance.

Back in 2007, although the products of the pan-“Metaverse” concept had sprouted, the Internet world was not very friendly to them, because at that time people generally acquiesced in the fact that “3D virtual space” was an application for “” Game” technology, a considerable number of media rudely defined products that “can create virtual images and help people achieve online interaction” as MMOPRGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) like World of Warcraft, and another media put forward “objections” “, thinking that it is a management game similar to “The Sims” and “Simulated City”…

Such stereotyped cognition directly affects the capital market’s judgment on them. Investors experienced it from the perspective of “games” and found that these products are boring, and the most frequent usage scenarios are nothing more than dressing and chatting. In addition, it also touches the edge of the law – part of the “Metaverse product” simulation of the real world, extending to the “sex” part (although it is only a simulation of action), the two countries of Germany and Belgium have Therefore, the “Metaverse anti-pornography” was carried out, on the grounds that some users restored “mandatory behavior” in it, and some even “simulated the image of children” to be dirty.

NBC reported on this controversial track with the title “If it’s not a game, then what is it?” Linden Lab, the development team of “Seconl Life”, the product of “Metaverse Sweeping Porn”, responded positively. Their definition is controversial:“We neither create any conflict between users, nor set any established goals, this is a completely open experience, please call it a ‘3D online virtual world’.”

It is conceivable that this sentence is useless at all. People who have been repeatedly beaten by commercial civilization have formed a common perception that “the argument is not the heart, but the heart is PR”.

With chaos, AOM and Second Life hit it off.

Although the Metaverse products of the “Second Life” generation have a rough appearance and the docking scenes are far less rich than they are now, they are like toads looking for frogs – ugly and playful, they are often very comfortable to become an open underlying technology interface. Encourage users to create, build, and define what they want and can do.

Although AOM positions itself as an orchestra that uses virtual instruments to rehearse and perform music in the virtual world, most of the members are not professional musicians, and the members have quite rich backgrounds in disciplines, including architecture, visual art, sound art, and more. Like an “artist group” that “borrows music to conduct thought experiments”, they have shown a strong focus on “doing no business”: in addition to “music cooperation”, they are very keen to build performances that need to be used of landscapes, buildings, costumes, props, etc.

Then, as the history books tell us, when a group with a strong enough desire to change enters an environment with a weak enough traditional color, the liberation of productivity becomes an inevitable result.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

In March 2007, AOM made their first public performance in Second Life, 13th Vicky’s Mosquitos. Swede Miulew Takahe is the choreographer and the performers are spread across Western Europe, including Maximilian Nakamura in Germany, Frans Peterman in the Netherlands, Hars Hefferman in France and Pomodoro Bolzano in Bavaria, Germany.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

Among them, Bingo Onomatopeia, a member of the band Pomodoro Bolzano, created a new inworld (inworld, referring to the world of “Second Life”) instrument aviophones. According to the official blog, aviophones “not only make sound, but find it”.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

(aviophones look like this)

This description is somewhat abstract, combined with the performance experience described in the blog of AOM member Wirxl Flimflam, aviophones may be more suitable to be described as “sound sample simulator”, what kind of sound can be produced depends on its previous samples – it is possible to imitate The “Dorami” played by guitar, erhu, and suona may also be based on vegetable markets or bathing halls. In May 2007, two months after the first stage, AOM held a creative event with the theme “Discovering Voices” to further explain the creative concept:

They set up a physical version of aviophones (converted from container trucks) on the Haidplatz square in Regenburg, Germany, recording some sounds that are “often heard in our daily lives” and “so ubiquitous that they are taken for granted” Demo, and then upload to “Second Life”. The orchestra members in the inner world trigger aviophones by walking, running, etc. The more people there are, the more symphonic effects can be produced.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

Similar to this is the Onomatophone, which AOM describes as a true three-dimensional instrument. The principle is to set up 6 “small balls” for sound in a virtual space, and people constantly shuttle between them and change the contact area to create. different sounds.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

Some members with strong hands-on ability try to turn themselves into a musical instrument according to this idea, that is, to design a set of motion capture algorithm, so that their every move can make a sound. This way of thinking can also be used to link the landscape and buildings in the performance environment. The shape and color of the landscape and buildings will change with the changes of the sound (action).

The ensemble stage emphasizes “improvisation”, not necessarily according to the “musical score”, and more often members are encouraged to “doodle”. The concept of “graffiti” was borrowed from British improviser John Stevens, who often used the term to refer to “fast-paced improvisation without the control of the brain”. After the death of John Stevens, AOM also held a commemorative special for him in October 2010, the theme was “New Adventures in Sound Art”.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

Having said that, it is not difficult to understand why the overall effect of the AOM performance video at the beginning is so magical, because what they do is a thorough “experimental music”, and the philosophical expression is far more than the lyrical expression. The rough “Second Life” “just happens” can restore the constant contradictions and doubts in the inner world of philosophers.

Perhaps it is for this reason that even if it has become a frequent visitor to music festivals, film festivals, and art weeks in the later stage, AOM has never tried to commercialize it. More often they show a fascination with some mysterious fields, such as telepathy. In October 2020, they collaborated with the telepathic team Breathing PwRHm to conduct a live event called “Breathing in Cyberspace”. AOM demonstrated how to create listening, perception, and resonance in a virtual space. Breathing PwRHm is committed to Explore the impact of “body and mind” through the cyber world.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

the next theremin

In fact, AOM has not solved the problem mentioned above: the Metaverse is not a productivity tool that can be put into mass production, and it puts forward very high requirements for users and usage scenarios, so that the entire industry will stay in the “real world” for a long time. There is a serious disconnect between output and potential output”.

Regarding the actual operation process, AOM has given a somewhat vague official answer, which generally means that multiple display screens need to be set up during performances, and one is used to display the client interface (for the performers to see the specific presentation effect, Some of the functions are similar to the “ear return” used in stage performances), and others are used to present some visual data through which AOM members control sounds, character movements and visual effects.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

A video of the performance shot by AOM member Norman Lowrey shows the whole process in more detail: Norman Lowrey performs on a stage with a large number of equipment, and his two assistants (and possibly partners?) are watching several stations constantly generating data. The computer is operated in real time, and the specific picture of “Second Life” is also placed on the stage.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

But AOM has taught us how to live with the “next age . “

Norman Lowrey is a typical “AOM”. He introduces himself as follows on his personal homepage: Mask Maker/Composer/Performance/Sound/Video Artist, Professor Emeritus of Music at Drew University, and holds a Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music.

He once started a project called River Sounding: invite people to gather along the Delaware River, listen to the sound of the river in silence, and then create works to tell people “what you hear.” These works include but are not limited to masks, ceramics, wood carvings, leather, and virtual masks. What he is good at is “musical masks”–a sound-generating device made of reeds, gears, electronic tubes and other materials that can be worn on the face.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

This is the case for all AOM members, which probably explains why they named themselves “Avatar” – not only because “Avatar” tells the story of human beings entering another world through a brain-computer interface, but more importantly, “Avatar” Tell people that entering another world does not mean “starting from scratch”, but the “interconnection” between the real world and the other world.

This is easily reminiscent of the “Theremin”, a musical instrument born in the era of the electrical revolution, invented by the Russian electronic engineer Leon Theremin. Based on the principle that “the human body is essentially a conductor”, he skillfully turned the radio waves into a controllable sound-generating device, which greatly expanded the range of sounds mastered by humans, so much so that in the 1940s and 1950s, he helped Hollywood set off the “original soundtrack” “The innovation boom; but Leon Theremin did not stop in the music market, his more important achievement is to lay the foundation for radio frequency identification technology, and then invent motion detection equipment.

The Avatar Orchestra: A 15-Year-Old Metaverse Rhapsody

Looking forward with an optimistic attitude, maybe we are one “theremen” away from the Metaverse era; especially for ordinary people, compared to becoming the early users of Xiyang and Jelly, learning to become “Avatar” “Maybe it’s the ticket to the era in the true sense.

Old friend Hong Xian also contributed to this article


Music Making in Metaverse,Music and Metaverse

Avatar Orchestra Metaverse plays In Whirled (Trance),Norman Lowrey

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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