Berklee Blogs

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Tag: Public VR

Public VR

Modern Technology, Ancient Sounds

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.

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Virtual Site Visit: Public VR

Director Jeffrey Jacobson shares the important role interns play at Public VR, a nonprofit research corporation specializing in virtual reality reconstructions of ancient cultures. Jeffrey relies on the musical expertise of Berklee interns and archeological discoveries to recreate “soundscapes” that capture the musical culture of ancient cities.

About Public VR

PublicVR 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.They  also support installations in museums, art galleries, and research facilities. PublicVR is a non-profit (501c3) corporation funded by grants, donations, and volunteer efforts. For more information please visit their website at

Non-Linear Music – Asa Gray, Intern

There is a rapidly growing number of composers who want to make their living in the video game industry. Writing music for interactive media is a thrilling task. The possibilities for creative expression are literally limitless, and video games are basically the coolest thing since fireball throwing ninjas. The bad news for composers is that the game industry, while growing, is already pretty saturated with composers eager to hear their music over images of said ninjas. To stay competitive it’s wise to acquire other skills relevant to the medium. The most closely related skill is sound design, but a proper education in sound design during your fourth year as a film scoring major can be elusive.

Interning at the non-profit interactive media developer Public VR, I am tasked with creating full soundscapes for the company’s projects. I have been able to develop my passion for composing non-linear music, and to learn sound design by actually creating sound effects and placing them in a virtual world. I’ve found that composition leads naturally into sound design. The instruments are different, but the process of imagining sounds and making them appear in your DAW of choice is largely the same. The level of expression that can be achieved in the absence of clear pitch and metric rhythms is remarkable. What’s more, as both composer and sound designer, I am able to build a cohesive sonic atmosphere, and avoid having to suffer the pain of seeing my music turned down while the sound effects get cranked to 11. The music and sound effects can support each other at a reasonable volume.

Music and sound effects are becoming inseparable art forms. Together they immerse the player in a virtual world, they drive the gameplay forward, or they make a game unpleasant and unplayable. If you want to make great game music, it’s best to know how to make great effects.


Asa Gray is a 7th semester Film Scoring and Composition dual major, currently interning with Public VR. You can contact Asa at: asa dot gray at gmail dot com.

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