Experiential Perspectives on Sound and Music for Virtual Reality Technologies

Stephen Tatlow

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the intersection of sound, music, and virtuality within current and next-generation virtual reality technologies, with a specific focus on exploring the experiential perspectives of users and participants within virtual experiences.

The first half of the thesis constructs a new theoretical model for examining intersections of sound and virtual experience. In Chapter 1, a new framework for virtual experience is constructed consisting of three key elements: virtual hardware (e.g., displays, speakers); virtual software (e.g., rules and systems of interaction); and virtual externalities (i.e., physical spaces used for engaging in virtual experiences). Through using and applying this new model, methodical examinations of complex virtual experiences are possible. Chapter 2 examines the second axis of the thesis through constructing an understanding of how sound is designed, implemented, and received within virtual reality. The concept of soundscapes is explored in the context of experiential perspectives, serving as a useful approach for describing received auditory phenomena. Auditory environments are proposed as a new model for exploring how auditory phenomena can be broadcast to audiences. Chapter 3 explores how inauthenticity within sound can impact users in virtual experience and uses authenticity to critically examine challenges surrounding sound in virtual reality. Constructions of authenticity in music performance are used to illustrate how authenticity is constructed within virtual experience. Chapter 4 integrates music into the understanding of auditory phenomena constructed throughout the thesis: music is rarely part of the created world in a virtual experience. Rather, it is typically something which only the audience – as external observers of the created world – can hear. Therefore, music within immersive virtual reality may be challenging as the audience is placed within the created world.

The second half of this thesis uses this theoretical model to consider contemporary and future approaches to virtual experiences. Chapter 5 constructs a series of case studies to demonstrate the use of the framework as a trans-medial and intra/inter-contextual tool of analysis. Through use of the framework, varying approaches to implementation of sound and music in virtual reality technologies are considered, which reveals trans-medial commonalities of immersion and engagement with virtual experiences through sound. Chapter 6 examines near-future technologies, including brain-computer interfaces and other full-immersion technologies, to identify key issues in the design and implementation of future virtual experiences and suggest how interdisciplinary collaboration may help to develop solutions to these issues. Chapter 7 considers how the proposed model for virtuality might allow for methodical examination of similar issues within other fields, such as acoustics and architecture, and examines the ethical considerations that may become relevant as virtual technology develops within the 21st Century.

This research explores and rationalises theoretical models of virtuality and sound. This permits designers and developers to improve the implementation of sound and music in virtual experiences for the purpose of improving user outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Summers, Timothy, Supervisor
  • Davies, Rhys, Supervisor
  • Brown, Julie, Supervisor
Award date1 Sept 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • sound
  • music
  • audio
  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality
  • Expanded Reality
  • Virtual Environments
  • virtuality
  • interactive audio

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