Berklee Intern and performance major Jon Hawkins tells Berklee Blogs what he’s taken away from reconstructing ancient music at Public VR, a Non-Profit organization dedicated to using Virtual Reality in education and research.

My name is Jon Hawkins.  This summer I began an internship with PublicVR working sound design and composition on their virtual Pompeii project.  While working in collaboration with Jeffrey Jacobson (PublicVR),  John Franklin, and the PublicVR staff, I had the opportunity to present and further my compositional and production skills, while working with various programmers, sound designers, and historical/classics experts. Duties included assembling and implementing the soundscape for PublicVR’s virtual models.  The Pompeii soundscape is composed of ambient sounds, music I composed with simulated ancient Roman musical instruments, and a selection of Greco-Roman inspired pieces by John Franklin.

Working within a creative team opened up new doors towards career opportunities in creative and technical aspects of video game/film scoring, as I gained experience in collaborating between developers from musical, historical, and programming backgrounds.  I also spent time working with sound in the game engine Unity, and working around issues more common in the software/game industry, such as space and memory requirements, accurately simulating acoustics to match the virtual architecture, and working with sound across multiple programs.

My time with PublicVR has also presented an opportunity to work for an educational audience. Through researching ancient Roman and Greek pieces, studying the characteristics of the simulated instruments, and the characteristics of the spaces/architecture, I found the basis for my soundscape.  Basing an entire work off of a specific time period and culture proved to be challenging, but offered a new perspective on writing techniques.  After planning and constructing the soundscape, I documented my sources, methods of construction, and the technical process of the work in the AACE’s E-Learn Conference.

PublicVR is a non-profit organization, and is dedicated to the advancement of virtual reality in education, the arts, and human factors research. They produce free software, supporting materials, and conduct research studies reported in scholarly publications.  Working in an environment that provides a variety of open-source software has not only brought my sound design and composition work to the public, but also shed light on the potential marketing and publicity advantages in the music industry through free promotional material, plus invaluable experience working with sound between multiple programs, operating systems, and in a multi-media context.


Jon Hawkins is currently a 7th semester student at Berklee, working towards a bachelor’s degree in professional performance on guitar.  He has performed and written for various jazz and fusion groups in the Northeast and Southeast, and composed and produced pieces and soundtracks for films and software.  After school, he plans to tour and play studio sessions throughout Boston and New York and further work in film/video game scoring.  He is currently working with PublicVR on the virtual Pompeii model and the Egyptian Oracle project.  To read his 2011 paper with technical specifics and the soundscape process click here or go to PublicVR’s publications page.

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