Inside Music is the latest project to come out of Google’s Creative Labs. It’s a kind of next-level equalizer in virtual reality that uses WebVR and comes from a partnership with the music-analyzing podcast Song Exploder.
Viewed either on the web or in a VR headset, Inside Music breaks a song down into its individual components, like drums, vocals, and guitar. Each component is represented by a sphere that you click to disable that part of the song, so you can hear what each part brings to the mix. The initial experiment lets you select songs from a collection of artists including Phoenix, Natalia Lafourcade, and Clipping.
Alexander Chen, Creative Labs’ creative lead, was one of the project’s contributors. He’s worked on many other projects involving music as well, such as Piano Phase, and he says that it’s one of his passions.
“I love music, and making music more accessible for everyone is something I care deeply about,” said Chen in an email. “So that’s why I was drawn to experiment with music and code, to see if there are ways to help make it easier for everyone to explore music.”
Hrishikesh Hirway, creator of the podcast Song Exploder, shares the desire to make music more accessible. A musician himself, Hirway started his podcast to give listeners a behind-the-scenes look at how songs are made and to highlight the details of each different part of a recording. When he was approached by a team from Google to help develop Inside Music and curate the artists, Hirway says that he was already thinking about how he could experiment with VR.
“[Virtual reality] bridges the gap between the simple left-right stereo experience that we’re used to with recorded music and the immersive experience we have when we hear music live,” said Hirway in an email. “And it changes music listening from a passive experience into one with dynamic, morphing qualities based on the user’s behavior. VR is a canvas that’s still coming into its own, but the possibilities for music within it are even more inchoate.”
Chen agrees, saying that Inside Music enables folks to experience music in a different but intuitive way.
“I hope these kinds of projects inspire people to be curious about music and explore how it’s made,” said Chen. “And we found that placing the individual layers of a song all around you in space enables you to explore the music in a really simple way. When you hear that instrument behind you, you can simply turn around to see, hear, and even touch it.”