Saturday, October 10, 2009

Virtual Live Music - Musimmersion 2009 Has Final Second Life Production

Sunday October 11th marks the final day of production for Musimmersion 2009 in Second Life. The last show will start at 3:00PM SL (PDT) and seats will remain first come, first served.

Musimmersion would not have happened this year without the kind generosity, vision and shared passion of SeanMcPherson Senior who dedicated his sim Blank Canvas, his time, his gentle humor and his friendship - without which none of this would have transpired. Thank you Sean.

This is the second production of Musimmersion, the first production ran from Sep2007-Mar2008 and it took me another year to get the second one conceived and built. Both were a labor of love, but I was particularly fond of this production because it is an all original set of music and the sets had just enough allure while still accessible. Musimmersion was also featured at this year's SLCC which was a fantastic dual-reality experience for me.

People have asked why I didn't blog about Musimmersion and the answer was "Hm, I don't know" but I spent a good bit of time writing answers to questions that were posed by colleague blogger in June, and unfortunately those posts didn't make it to copy. So instead of letting those thoughts stay idle I thought I'd go ahead and share them with you in the original question and answer form.

Q: At what point in your SL did you conceive Musimmersion and were there any events or people that inspired this idea?

A: Often inspiration comes out of frustration and this was true with Musimmersion. I've lost track of how many gigs I've played in virtual world(s) but over time between bookings, facilities, promotions and technical difficulties it can get frustrating, and after a while your heart starts to tell you that you have to do more, do something new, or just do something else. That's where I was stuck after performing for a year.

I wanted to do something evocative. I wanted to change the way we thought about live music, so that it felt like an adventure rather than a predictable one hour block of time. I wanted to give something back to the people who came to listen to me week after week, and I wanted to see if there was a way for me to share music through imagery and space. And, I really wanted to leverage what I consider the best parts of Second Life - people, place, and presence. So Musimmersion was born.

I think of Musimmersion as a live music journey. It's grounded in my belief that music is actually a transport vehicle and that the places you go, the things that you see and feel, and the people you are with, all shape your connection with the music as much as the lyrics and melody. To me, music tells a story and the best stories are ones where you are really there.

Do you know that feeling when you hear a song on the radio and you are “transported” back to a place, a time, an experience? That is what I try to evoke with Musimmersion; I get to take you to a place visually and shape your experience with my music in a new way.

Q: Did you set out to create a **** experience or did this happen naturally?

A: This just happened. I wasn't really sure how people would feel about the experience, but for both productions several people have said that it changed how they saw the world and especially live music in ways that could not be really delivered the same way in RL.

Q: Were there any *pivotal* moments regarding Musimmersion that you believe very relevant to your story that you'd like to share?

A: I think it was only a pivotal moment for me personally, but half way through building the first production I deleted the entire build - click, drag, select all, delete. It was just one of those artist tantrum moments (I think we all have them) but as soon as I did it I felt freed from the burdens of expectation and self doubt. It seemed like I was placing every prim for someone other than me, and it was making me crazy but deleting it was liberating. That night I rebuilt the entire thing and it was better (at least in my mind) but I was building with renewed energy and focus and I never looked back.

To this day, when I get wrapped up in the chaos of the world, I can find my center again if I remind myself to "delete all" - to stay myself and just give what I have to give without presumptions about who might judge me, worry about what people will think, wonder if they will appreciate it, etc.

Q: What do you look for when selecting a song to cover?

A: (Note there are no "covers" in Musimmersion, it's all original music) I look for texture; often some hidden meaning or a story part that I think is missing or open to interpretation. I also like to accentuate the obvious and have fun. The key is to leave the set open enough that you don't close off people's imaginations while you show them a little bit of your ideas and your passions. I also look at all of the sets in context. I want the production to build on itself and for people to slowly get immersed so that they forget the time, where they are, where they *should be*, etc.

Q: Which creators do you work with regularly to develop the visual experience, or do you mostly select freebies and/or shop a lot?

A: I work very much like a folk artist. I do the production design and construction myself because other than my music, experience design is a passion. I am also a fanatical curator. I build as much as I need and I script when I must, but largely I draw from the vast resources of the talented people in world. I incorporate elements I find inspiring and that are compelling and appropriate.

I haven't (yet) worked with creators on a regular basis, but I have had help from my friends. On the 2007 production, two sets were built by friends - Eleanor Rigby was by Gillian Carthage, Carter Liveoak and Patty Wright and Blue Train was by Amalthea Blanc. This year Salome Strangelove built the set for Plain Jane and Proud Elizabeth and I built the other nine.

Q: If you hadn't become a pro singer in SL, what do you imagine your SL would be like at this point?

A: I've been so blessed by being a performer I almost cannot imagine what it would be like otherwise. I would definitely spend more time building immersive experiences and writing, but not if that meant I wasn't out meeting people, experiencing new things, etc.

I'm by no means a social butterfly. I'm actually quite shy, but I am admittedly addicted to the diversity of thought, culture, art and expression that Second Life affords us.

Q: What do your RL family and friends think of your SL career?

A: They are infinitely supportive.

Sometimes we forget that performing in SL *is* performing in RL - I have to do all the things you would to do a gig anywhere else and that means being online at a certain time, taking up space in the house with a studio, practicing at all hours of the day, taking up all the network bandwidth, etc. So they are used to me saying, "I can't make it then, I have a gig" or "Please ignore me while I try to work up this song" or "Can you get stop being a network fiend - I'm trying to stream" and at times they smile and nod, other times I get a raised eyebrow, but most of all I get great feedback and support.

Q: Do you ever decide on a set BEFORE you decide on a song?

A: So far I haven't decided on a Musimmersion set before I selected a song, but that's an interesting question. Scope Cleaver asked me something similar, he asked if a virtual space had ever inspired a song. The answer there is yes, but that's a story for another production.

Q: What things do you most wish you could do in SL that are not yet possible?

A: I have a rather long wish list, but you qualified it with "most" so here's a big one and it's one I've never shared. NOTE: This assumes that all of the poorly performing group, communication and event services within SL are working tip top.

I wish you could "see" any public place on the grid, at any time. I don't mean a map view with green dots, I mean actually see (and hear) what was going on (in 3D) at any given moment, like a little sneak peek portal.

This sneak peek is something you can share, and send everywhere, to everyone, at any time so that they could see a place or an event before deciding to go there. And by anywhere, I mean ANYWHERE. You don't have to have the SL client to view it, it's built on something like a streaming video service that allows you to peek into the world, anytime and anywhere (in world and on the web) and then, go right there.

It's like a SLURL, but it's a VURL - a Viewable URL. That's my #1 wish.

Q: Has your success in SL had any effect on your RL aspirations as a singer?

A: SL has had a huge effect on my music overall and my aspirations, but wholly within virtual spaces. I have a rather brutal case of stage fright, and while I have developed ways to deal with much of it to perform regularly within SL and other virtual worlds, it's still a stumbling block toward any corporeal aspirations I might have.

I have had a few offers to perform outside in the "real world" but at the moment, even the thought of it sends me over the edge, so for now I am actively pursuing my professional virtual calling.

This conversation preceded SLCC and helped fuel my expectations and aspirations for that event and the dialog with Linden Lab about the future of live music in Second Life. I blogged about that conversation and frankly to date I have not moved much past my sincere frustration and disappointment.

However, while Musimmersion winds down I am personally recharging and trying to conceive a second charge to move the needle at the Lab and get the virtual world to understand the power, persuasion and impact live music has overall. I just watched The History Channel cover Hannibal's life and got a few ideas from that - if you have some, please share. ;-)

What's next for Musimmersion? Honestly, I don't know. I had my mind locked around two other concepts but I think I'll have to wait for the passion to boil over again. I hope it does soon.

To learn more more about Musimmersion:
Musimmersion Web site with stories, images and machinima
New World Notes covers Musimmersion in 2007 (1) (2) and 2009
Grace talks Musimmersion on Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe
Share Some Grace:

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