Featured resident: Gillian Spragg
Provided within our immersive lab, the FuseBox is equipped with a wide range of virtual and augmented reality facilities allowing visitors and residents a chance to get hands-on with cutting edge technology.
Resident Gillian Spragg, who represents West London Art Scene has been utilising our lab since last May, tirelessly exploring different ways to celebrate and introduce new audiences to classical music via the virtual world. This week we caught up with Gillian to see how her adventures into VR are going..
Hi Gillian, tell us a little bit about your background
I am a classically trained musician, a pianist and composer, and deeply interested in how musical form informs the emotional content of the music.
I am also a published poet, ran an annual multi-arts festival for a number of years and, prior to that, an educational audio-publishing venture – but my favourite place is on the concert platform, or somewhere similar. I lived in Kenya for nine years, quite a transformative experience for a Londoner.
And what are you learning to do in the FuseBox?
I am learning to understand how to represent the world in a 3D format, especially using Unity, and how to code in order to support this. As a result of this, my conversations now have a new vocabulary which I am finding particularly useful when you want to collaborate.
What attracted you to virtual reality?
I am fascinated by the integration of audio and visual experience that VR and AR can play in rediscovering the richness of classical music and of the theatre – and then how to generate new works that would take advantage of all that these new realities can offer. I wrote an opera “Galileo!”, then discovered VR and envisioned the great galactic starscape that would have been the perfect setting for the work. From its outset in 17thcentury, opera has always been as immersive an experience as technology has allowed, often using enormously complicated sets and machinery.
Moving to VR is a natural, if novel, progression with operatic plots remaining a powerful vehicle for story-telling. I have devised a number of music-based projects and I am gradually figuring out how they can come to fruition – sooner or later.
Are there similarities between teaching yourself music and programming?
I have played the piano all my life but it is still the hardest thing I ever try to do. Music and programming both need patience, both are challenging and need a certain indefatigable doggedness – which can sometimes seem like bordering on madness. Why would you go on trying to do something, several hours a day, in the hope that you will be to achieve an end-result in 3 month’s time? Or even longer? Well, because your attention is constantly engaged by the journey and because the profound satisfaction of achievement is beyond all price, even if the achievement is sometimes short-lived.
You also need to keep your feet firmly on the ground so that you can develop both an understanding of the “whole” while keeping a constant eye on detail. The major difference is that the keyboard you use on a piano requires a high level of physical athleticism, while a computer keyboard is a quieter place to be!
What events have you taken part in since being a resident?
So far I have been mainly in the audience, listening, learning and admiring. However, I have shown a VR prototype of “Schoenberg Op19 No2” to visitors from the Arts Council, who seemed interested in what they saw, and a VR Christmas card, which was a bit of fun at our Christmas party – but early days yet ….
Who have you met through the FuseBox?
I have met so many good, interesting, highly-skilled people, residents and admin staff. Every time I have a conversation I learn something new. However, I am especially grateful to Chris (Chowen) who has gently shepherded me away of the depths of technical ignorance towards the pastures green where I can begin to flourish with some hope of success.
You’re based in London, what makes you travel to Brighton to work?
I am really impressed by the facilities and the welcome that Wired Sussex offers, better than anything I have found in London. If only the trains worked better! – the worst journey was when arrived home in the morning at 2.45am – then it would be perfect.