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Ambisonics in an Art School Context

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Ambisonic audio has become much more relevant in recent years with the growth of VR and related technologies. It is an ideal platform for immersive audio given its ability to recreate a soundfield that can be manipulated by basic trigonometric transforms derived from head-tracked data. Unfortunately, current literature and academic discourse in ambisonics is still dominated by a heavy mathematical bias. Within an environment such as The Glasgow School of Art, this approach to ambisonics can be deeply alienating to creative students who lack the requisite technical background. With this in mind, the authors have taught ambisonics to both postgraduate and undergraduate art school students for a number of years. We have noted that merely demonstrating the available software tools for ambisonic sound is insufficient for effective learning, but have also observed that attempting to fully teach the relevant mathematical concepts does not support effective learning for the range of students we encounter. In this paper we explore approaches for teaching ambisonics to a diverse group of students. We consider how to support a basic understanding of the fundamental mathematical concepts that they need to be aware of (basic trigonometry, vectors and 3D co-ordinate systems) while simultaneously exposing them to the aesthetic opportunities that immersive sound design can bring to their professional and artistic practice. We hope that our approaches prove useful for helping students from creative disciplines to engage with technical concepts in a meaningful way.

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