Step into the Soundscape: Burning Man’s Insane VR Art Installation

Soundscape VR at Burning Man at sunset

Deep playa. Sand airborne and earthbound. Bikers, wanderers, seekers in the dark came upon a psychedelic outpost, an oasis of light and fire. From a black-lit stage, bellows of electro house, jam, bass, rap, funk and soul called to enter a new realm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diD9LBx8chw

Soundscape VR’s art installation, an interactive virtual reality (VR) music visualizer, was the first of its kind at Burning Man. Powered by musicians playing live, the experience was synchronized across two worlds—the real and the virtual. “Synesthesia is a good way to describe it,” said Founder and Creative Director, Eric Ryan Alexander, “where one sensory experience provokes another.”

Really though, Soundscape VR might just be the coolest thing you’ve never tried. Here’s a glimpse of what it’s like.

Donning an Oculus Rift headset and controllers, you’re transported to your chosen virtual sphere, Black Sun (an uber space odyssey) or Crystalline Summit (an electric mountainous wonderland). It’s a feast for the senses. The music is the heartbeat: it drives the visual body and landscape. The sky pulsates. Neon shapes undulate and grow under all-encompassing beats. Riffs draw to the vivid, pull to the vibrant. It’s total convergence of sight and sound.

In this ever-evolving universe, you’re both spectator and creator. It is a world of your own making. You can paint, sketch, blast beams of color and light. You can explore and uncover treasures. Even defy gravity. That’s right, in Soundscape VR, you can fly.

Meanwhile, as you’re soaring above the panorama, everything you do and devise is projected on an 120-inch screen. People on the outside—those eager to play or friends watching you—are reacting to your manifestations. Cheers erupt as you blast fireworks, doodle, write names in the sky.

At Burning Man, the pure positive energy and love the Soundscape VR team received was inspiring. Soundscape VR players—from 10-year-old gamers to VR virgins, from new media professors to musicians—called the game magical, powerful, mind-blowing and quite possibly the most incredible thing they’ve ever done.

It became clear to the team that Soundscape VR changes perceptions. “I began thinking about Soundscape as paradigm-shifting,” said Visual Engineer, Ryan Johnson. “It’s more than just a game. It’s a comfortable, immersive space for people to play.” There is no winning or losing, it’s about being free—free enough to be, create or explore.

Five years in the making (since the earliest days of VR), Soundscape VR was born out of a passion for live music, gaming and artistic expression. Alexander saw beyond the traditional lighting and effects used at live shows where the fan is merely a consumer, and he developed a space where people can become active participants in the music experience, or rather, creators themselves.

Soundscape VR is currently collaborating with musicians to produce virtual concerts and listening parties. “Whatever the artists can dream up, we can create in virtual reality,” Alexander said. Through forging a new music experience, Soundscape VR is enhancing the relationship between artists and their audience.

“VR affects people in such a profound way. Transporting another music lover to a secret universe where they can meld with their favorite artists is pure magic,” Alexander said. “I want to continue take the wildest things possible—dreams that cannot exist in reality due to laws of physics or astronomical expense and transmute them and make them very real.”

Soundscape VR is available to download on Steam and Oculus Home.

Check out Soundscape VR’s new art installation October 26-29, 2018 at the Hulaween Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida. In late 2018, Soundscape VR is releasing a multiplayer update that provides a social environment as in a real-life concert. For news on exciting partnerships with incredible musicians and to learn more, visit https://www.musicvisualized.com/