Will VR Music Kill The Instruments We Love?

Unraveling The Future of VR Music: A Conversation with Jonatan Crafoord

In this captivating episode of the Future of Music Podcast, we dive headfirst into the dynamic realm of VR (Virtual Reality) music. Join us as hosts Jonathan Boyd and Ryan Withrow explore the fascinating fusion of virtual tools and traditional instruments with the guidance of our esteemed guest, Jonatan Crafoord, Creative Director at Really Interactive, whose extensive background in the games industry includes contributions to projects like Angry Birds 2 and Minecraft.

Jonatan Crafoord VR Music Artist

A Glimpse into the VR World of Music

Jonathan Boyd (JB): The music landscape is undergoing a seismic transformation thanks to AR and VR music. But what does this mean for the future of traditional instruments and the way we compose, perform, and record music?

The Man Behind the VR Music Magic

Ryan Withrow (RW): Jonatan, it’s a pleasure to have you here. With your diverse career spanning game development and music creation, how did you find yourself at the intersection of these two worlds?

Jonatan Crafoord (JC): Thank you for the warm welcome. My journey into VR music began around 2016 when I acquired a VR headset. The handheld controllers fascinated me, igniting the idea of incorporating them into audio and music. This eventually led to the birth of Virtuoso, a unique VR music platform that melds my passion for music with technical expertise.

JB: With your rich musical background, it’s intriguing to hear how you ventured into creating music within a virtual realm.

JC: My initial aspiration was to become a rock music producer after studying music in Stockholm. However, the digital era propelled me towards the gaming industry. Over time, my experiences in music, sound design, and game programming coalesced into Virtuoso—a convergence of all my passions.

RW: Your transition from sound design to VR music is truly inspiring, especially considering how game soundtracks have evolved into standalone works of art.

The Birth of a VR Music Revolution

JB: Was there a pivotal moment that made you realize the immense potential of combining music creation with virtual reality?

JC: The epiphany struck me while playing Tilt Brush alongside my colleague Bjorn, who was experimenting with Virtuoso. Witnessing his sheer delight, despite not being a professional musician, I recognized the broad appeal of our tool. It was a transformative moment where I envisioned Virtuoso as not just for seasoned musicians but for anyone eager to explore music in a virtual realm.

The Genesis of Virtuoso

JB: The rise of digital instruments is a hot topic today, with the ability to create music without traditional instruments generating significant interest. Could you shed light on the initial vision behind Virtuoso?

JC: Certainly. Our original vision targeted professional musicians, but as time passed, we embraced a broader perspective. Virtuoso quickly gained popularity among those seeking an enjoyable musical experience without delving deeply into the complexities of traditional instruments.

Bridging The UX Gap

JC: The user experience with traditional instruments can be quite challenging. For example, learning to play the violin is no easy feat. This spurred us to enhance the initial user experience, emphasizing simplicity and an intuitive design—qualities far removed from the intricacies of learning a violin or guitar.

JB: It’s fascinating how you’re applying principles from game development to the world of music. In my view, the two main hurdles in music are the interface and the intimidating idea of understanding music theory. Virtuoso seems to tackle these barriers effectively, making music accessible and enjoyable.

Simplifying Musical Lingo

JC: Indeed, for beginners, we’ve kept music theory in the background. As users progress, they can delve deeper if they choose to. Our aim is to keep it user-friendly, avoiding jargon that might alienate those unfamiliar with musical terms.

JB: Absolutely! Music theory is essentially a way to convey musical ideas. Virtuoso excels at translating these intricate concepts into a language that users can instantly comprehend.

The Challenge of Categorizing Virtuoso

JC: Categorizing Virtuoso has been a challenge. Initially, we leaned towards marketing it as a game, but we ultimately settled on calling it an app. Fun has always been our primary goal. Another hurdle was defining our target audience. In a VR landscape dominated by games, Virtuoso stands out as something distinct.

JB: From a business perspective, introducing something so unique must pose its own set of challenges. How do you convince users to give Virtuoso a try, especially in a VR market primarily focused on gaming?

JC: The key is expanding our approach. While the current VR audience might not be our primary target, I believe that as VR and AR gain more traction, Virtuoso will naturally appeal to a broader audience who share a love for music.

The VR Wave: Building Momentum in Music

JB: Our listeners know that the idea of collaborative music creation in real-time is something we’re passionate about. With the world rapidly adopting AR and VR music, it seems we’re on the brink of a major transformation. While VR music has a long history, it’s now entering serious commercial adoption. With all these changes, where do traditional instruments fit in, and how do you envision the music landscape five or ten years from now?

JC: These are thought-provoking questions, Jonathan.

The Fate of Traditional Instruments

JC: Traditional instruments are poised for a fascinating future, tightly intertwined with technological advancements. Augmented reality, in particular, holds immense potential for traditional instruments. For instance, consider the realm of learning. AR overlays could provide students with real-time guidance on finger placement on a keyboard, transforming music lessons into interactive, gamified experiences. This could revolutionize how music schools approach teaching, making it more engaging and interactive.

The Music Landscape: A Glimpse 10 Years Down the Line

JC: I envision a future where different audio applications and tools become more seamlessly integrated through AR and VR music. AR, in particular, has the power to bridge the gap between traditional and virtual music-making tools. Imagine donning an AR headset that allows you to view and interact with both your physical instruments and virtual tools such as mixers, effects, and even additional virtual instruments.

JB: I’m eager to hear more about how you see music creation evolving in the next decade, especially with the rise of virtual instruments.

JC: The collaborative potential of these technologies is immense. While challenges like latency exist, which can pose issues for real-time collaborative performances, they are by no means insurmountable. Music creation in an online space doesn’t necessarily need to be perfectly synchronized in real time. A musician could create a loop, share it nearly instantly, and another musician could add their layer.

In this post-COVID world, with remote work becoming the norm, this collaborative method aligns seamlessly with our evolving lifestyles. People can collaborate globally, breaking down barriers and creating more diverse soundscapes.

JB: The future certainly looks promising. Jonatan, thank you for sharing your invaluable insights and giving us a peek into what lies ahead for the world of music.

JC: It’s been a pleasure, Jonathan. The future of music is an exciting journey, and I’m eager to see where it takes us.

In the captivating conversation with Jonatan Crafoord, we’ve embarked on a thrilling journey through the uncharted territories of VR music. The fusion of technology and music has led us to the precipice of a transformative era, one that promises to redefine the way we create, experience, and share musical artistry.

As we reflect on our discussion, it’s clear that traditional instruments are not facing extinction but rather evolution. Augmented and virtual reality are poised to breathe new life into these timeless companions of musicians, making them more accessible, interactive, and enriching than ever before.

Virtuoso, under Jonatan’s visionary guidance, stands as a testament to the boundless possibilities that lie ahead. Its intuitive approach to music creation, bridging the gap between novices and seasoned musicians, exemplifies the democratization of artistry that technology can facilitate.

The collaborative potential of AR and VR music technologies offers a tantalizing glimpse into a future where music transcends geographical boundaries, where artists from diverse corners of the world come together to craft symphonies that resonate with our collective soul.

As we stand at the threshold of this harmonious future, one thing is certain: music, the universal language of human emotion, will continue to be a source of inspiration and connection. With Jonatan Crafoord and Virtuoso leading the way, we can eagerly anticipate a world where creativity knows no bounds, and the symphony of human expression plays on, louder and more diverse than ever before.

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