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Hochschule Düsseldorf
University of Applied Sciences


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Faculty of Media

Labor für Virtuelles Studio / Virtuelle Realität

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Abstract: The Helical Keyboard: Perspectives for Spatial Auditory Displays and Visual Music

Jens Herder and Michael Cohen. The Helical Keyboard: Perspectives for Spatial Auditory Displays and Visual Music, Journal of New Music Research, Swets & Zeitlinger, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 269-281, 2002.

Auditory displays with the ability to dynamically spatialize virtual sound sources under real-time conditions enable advanced applications for art and music. A listener can be deeply immersed while interacting and participating in the experience. We review some of those applications while focusing on the Helical Keyboard project and discussing the required technology. Inspired by the cyclical nature of octaves and helical structure of a scale, a model of a piano-style keyboard was prepared, which was then geometrically warped into a helicoidal configuration, one octave/revolution, pitch mapped to height and chroma. It can be driven by MIDI events, real-time or sequenced, which stream is both synthesized and spatialized by a spatial sound display. The sound of the respective notes is spatialized with respect to sinks, avatars of the human user, by default in the tube of the helix. Alternative coloring schemes can be applied, including a color map compatible with chromastereoptic eyewear. The graphical display animates polygons, interpolating between the notes of a chord across the tube of the helix. Recognition of simple chords allows directionalization of all the notes of a major triad from the position of its musical root. The system is designed to allow, for instance, separate audition of harmony and melody, commonly played by the left and right hands, respectively, on a normal keyboard. Perhaps the most exotic feature of the interface is the ability to fork ones presence, replicating subject instead of object by installing multiple sinks at arbitrary places around a virtual scene so that, for example, harmony and melody can be separately spatialized, using two heads to normalize the octave; such a technique effectively doubles the helix from the perspective of a single listener. Rather than a symmetric arrangement of the individual helices, they are perceptually superimposed in-phase, co-extensively, so that corresponding notes in different registers are at the same azimuth.


3D audio, virtual reality, computer music, spatialization, spatial media, visual music




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