Going binaural at Banff

The Banff Centre • inspiring creativity

The Banff Centre is one of the world’s leading institutions for the development of creative projects.

The following is a summary of the research proposal that I submitted. As a result of this proposal I obtained a grant as a musician in residence.

Binaural copy


Following a recent conversation with Henry of the Audio Dept. and Gina, the Assistant Production Manager at Banff, I realized that my initial research proposal was in need of an update. Henry in particular provided me with some very useful pointers on the technical side that will allow me to get into my stride with a clearer vision and focus.

Also, the above conversation reinforced my initial impression of Banff as the place to go to get things done rather than talked about.

Main Objective:

-To try and develop a musical implementation of 360 º sound spatialization.

In order to achieve this objective I need to focus on two specific key areas:

  • The Technical Implementation and,
  • The Musical conceptualization

On the technical side, the challenge is how to broadcast the sound so that there is no need for multiple PA systems. My initial impression is that wireless headphone technology will be adequate enough to provide the means for implementation. The options available are: bluetooth, wifi or pre-set radio frequency. The later is the most technically capable and cost effective solution.

360 º sound perception is striking when listening to the following example of a binaural recording:    →    virtual barbershop

In this example, the three dimensional sound effect is clearly discernible since its perception is facilitated by our synesthetic memory. In other words, the brain actually helps to develop the illusion of positioning, relative distancing, and movement in conjunction with all other neuronal process associated with the spatial qualities of sound perception.

On the other hand, musical conceptualization represents a different kind of challenge. We are designed to sensorially perceive sounds depending on the nature of the aforementioned sounds. In other words, we will only identify sounds for which we have stored validations in our brain to help us perform the necessary emulations to recreate its physical qualities.

In order to find out the kind of stimuli produced by hearing binaurally processed music, a series of tests are necessary. Amongst other tests, different “focus groups” will attend binaural sessions. Surveys will be conducted in order to try and ascertain the main elements of each individual and collective group experiences for each test sample. The resulting data will be analyzed and tested in order to try and establish both clear and underlying patterns found as well as the strength of tentative correlations between the variables involved.

Please note that we will factor in allowances for individual variations to the vast range of stimuli that the focus group samplings will be exposed to. This will be done with a view to avoiding meaningless generalizations and/or umbrella labeling that do not serve our purpose. Our focus will be in trying to establish whether or not binaural sound processing introduces a new sensorial element in the musical discourse.

Finally, spatializing an already existing piece of music might be a useful exercise in creating an alternative form of orchestration to those already known. My vision is one where out of a palette of a small number of contrasting spatial “presets” a composer will be able to achieve a very accurate sound design.

If binaural processing can live up to its potential, we will be able to overcome the limitations of delivering a faithful “sound stage” as originally conceived without the constraints inherent with performing in contrasting physical spaces.

I’ll keep you updated from Banff and in the meantime happy Xmass and NY :))


2 thoughts on “Going binaural at Banff

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