Virtual reality, ultimately condensing time and space and allowing music consumers to have the feeling of “being there even though, in fact, you are still here” (Duckworth, 2005, p77). With VR headsets becoming more commonplace and easily accessible, and designs on allowing people to become ‘part of the band’, as well as being in the audience at gigs for bands / artists who no longer exist, how does that affect our sense of reality? In terms of Baudrillard’s work on hypperreality and simulacra, it may be something that is damaging to our grasp on meaning and music and render the ‘real’ a long lost utopia. In terms of Benjamin’s view of art as losing authenticity and aura in a capitalist age, we are also forewarned of the loss of the unique and present that is integral to the ‘original’. If our everyday lives and realities are full of the enhanced simulation of the virtual world, will the real and authentic become something we simply dream of? How can Abba give their name to something when the avatars portrayed are merely computer simulations? Alternatively, are the new technologies and experience-enhancing music platforms coming into play simply an offering of choices that empower us as consumers. Philosophically-speaking this is a can of worms that cannot be fully analysed in 500 words, but nevertheless it is interesting to scratch the surface of a few of these debates, in the hope of briefly exploring some of the debates that we are faced with.
Using two examples of forthcoming virtual reality in music models, how can the work of Benjamin and Baudrillard prove relevant? The first example is the plan to offer consumers the chance to be in an orchestra, a heightened experience that has been tested and claims to offer a more authentic insight and more enveloping experience for the listener, who would not otherwise get the chance to fully immerse themselves in an orchestral setting. The second example is the plan to offer Abba gigs in 2018 using artificial intelligence to create a whole new live and virtual experience.
Benjamin was concerned that contemplation within art had been replaced with distraction, replacing viewers thoughts with moving images and stop them thinking. The question is, do they want to think? The parameters set up are designed to enhance feeling, condensing temporal and spacial restraints and ultimately offer experiences that accessible for all. For Baudrillard, there is a charm that is lost in the replacement of the real with ‘signs of the real’ (1983, p4) which leaves no room for the imagination. The holographic Abba characters and the holograms of the consumers are examples of cloning that “neatly puts an end to the charm and the intelligence of music” (Baudrillard, 1994 p106).
Fundamentally, new virtual ways of consuming music have been evolving since it began. On the one hand, we are offered an enhanced experience that defies temporal and spatial boundaries and get to access artists and art which would otherwise not be available at all, potentially “adding meaning to music” by making it more engaging as a commodity. On the other hand, the personal experience of the authentic ‘real’ that allows for an imaginary element is rendered less accessible.
Bibliography and references:
Baudrillard, J. 1983, Simulations, Semiotext[e], New York
Baudrillard, J. 1994, Simulacra and simulation, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Duckworth, W. & Farrell, N. 2005, Virtual music: how the web got wired for sound, Routledge, New York;London
Hann, M., 2016. Abba announce new ‘virtual and live experience’ for 2018 [online]. The Guardian. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/oct/26/abba-announce-virtual-live-experience-2018-simon-fuller
Hickling, A., 2016. You’re in the band: virtual reality’s orchestral future [online]. The Guardian. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/29/virtual-reality-london-philharmonia-orchestra-esa-pekka-salonen-interview
https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/author/andrew-robinson/, 2012. Jean Baudrillard: Hyperreality and Implosion [online]. Ceasefire Magazine. Available from: https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/in-theory-baudrillard-9/
https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/author/andrew-robinson/, 2013. Walter Benjamin: Art, Aura and Authenticity [online]. Ceasefire Magazine. Available from: https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/walter-benjamin-art-aura-authenticity/
@T. B., 2016. Virtual reality may soon change gigs forever [online]. The Conversation. Available from: http://theconversation.com/virtual-reality-may-soon-change-gigs-forever-67949