The Water is Always Running (VR) (2019)

The Water is Always Running is a music-led, virtual reality experience about overconsumption. You can download and play it here (you'll need a VR headset, like a Vive or Rift, and Magic Leap Controller). Inspired by Fluxus events scores, vaporwave, and virtual reality training simulators; The Water is Always Running suggests to the user a simple task: wash the dishes... in the sky... to a soundtrack of warped and broken 80s pop music. The task of washing the dishes in and of itself isn't very exciting and, ultimately, repetitive. It's menial labor. But by washing the dishes, the user can control the music.


The user can continue to wash the dishes for as long as they want. Dirty, rinsed, scrubbed, and back again. The music will loop along with it, creating a dense composition of vaguely familiar, but twisted sounds - an endlessly recycled stock of music to help ease the tension that comes from the menial work of washing dishes.

The impetus for this project came from my desire to explore how I can create virtual reality experiences that are music-led. The inspiration for which came from a quote by Canadian composer R. Murray Shafer who suggested that we listen to our environment as if it were music and, going even further, that we all take responsibility for its composition. So, I wanted to better learn how to create musical virtual worlds.

This work, leaning heavily into the assertion that a virtual world is one that can be embodied and participated in, is focused on exploring intuitive musical interactions by leveraging the multimodal nature of a VR experience to create perceptually-coherent mapping schemata and inform aesthetic and conceptual choices. You can read more about the ideas I'm exploring in this position paper, published as part of the proceedings of IEEE VR 2019.

The Water is Always Running is the first project in a series exploring music-led, virtual reality experiences.

 © 2020 by zach buckley.

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