In Spatial Audio, Boris Debackere researched spatial sound in general and its application within mixed and augmented reality in particular. This involved the technical aspects of placing sounds in a space, how the user experiences that space, and how a composition can be controlled by the user’s movements.
Although multiple “spatial audio” systems already exist, using such a system to create and compose is, in a practical sense, primarily a matter of programming. Therefore, in this residency the process was linked to artists and their “tools” and the act of creating spatial audio made more transparent.
SPASM (Spacial Audio Mixer) was developed during Spatial Audio. SPASM is an interface in Max/MSP that makes it easy for an artist to place various sound sources in a virtual space. This virtual space is linked to a physical space in which a player’s real position and orientation can be tracked. This position is sent to SPASM and determines whether various sounds will be heard. As one walks around the physical room, one passes and hears the various virtual sound sources.
Various parameters for the virtual sound sources can be set, such as a sound’s initial volume and the manner and degree to which it fades as the player moves away from it. These parameters are set in the SPASM interface and influence the sound immediately. The artist can therefore hear the difference right away and adjust the result if necessary. In this way, the artist can work with his or her sound material in an intuitive, transparent way and concentrate on the result he or she wishes to achieve.
We explicitly chose to develop SPASM in Max/MSP because it is a programming environment much used by artists. Many artists are therefore already acquainted with the possibilities of Max/MSP and how it works and can thus more easily start using SPASM. In addition, Max/MSP is a complete programming environment that makes it simple for artists to go out of the box of SPASM as we made it and implement their own ideas. The artist can make complex interaction models and spatial compositions in an environment in which he or she feels at home.
SPASM is freely available under a GPL license and can be found on V2_Lab’s development site, trac.v2.nl, or at www.v2.nl.