Play & Play: Creating a virtual reality musical instrument

Maize Wallin is a musician and game designer, whose exploration of how we play musical instruments has lead to them designing Noise Drawers an virtual reality musical instrument game.

When you think of a musical instrument, you probably imagine guitars, violins, drums or something similar, but the time and skill barriers between picking up an instrument and playing music means that most people aren't able to play straight away.

Maize Wallin is a musician and game developer, working on titles such as Wayward Strand and nominated for MCV Pacific's 30 under 30 award, and they are hoping to bridge the gap between playing games and playing music with their game Noise Drawers.

"I've been thinking about musicianship and games and how games are often made for people to be able to just pick up and play straight away and that is totally different to musical instruments."

Each player in Noise Drawers stands in a virtual space where they can manipulate an array of filing cabinet like drawers, each which creates sound when interacted with.

"There's three kinds of drawers: The first one is very simple loops, the second drawer is a bit of tape drawer, and then the third drawer is at the moment sort of an expression drawer and this is where it gets closer to an instrument."

Each drawer is opened and closed in virtual reality space, with interactions between the "player" and the instrument determining how and what sounds are being created.

Literal cabinet drawers, rendered in 3D space contain the sounds of the instrument.
"So if you open it softly then it will play the riff on a classical guitar style and it might be finger picked or something like that, and if you open it hard then suddenly we're on drop c, metal, and we're going to play the same sort of phrase but rearranged for this metal attitude, angry."

Noise Drawers combines the musical expression of an instrument with a dialogue of life living someone who is non-binary.

"That's where the original name Queer Noise came from because I was exploring how does being non-binary in day to day life, play out, and some if it just sort of hiding feelings."

"When someone asks "how're you going?" and you're a bit like "ugh fine' or "I got misgendered in this way" or "I got harassed in this way," you know that sort of thing, There is a lot sort of hidden..."

Maize was selected to play at the Women In Music Festival in Melbourne, performing music using Noise Drawers as part of the festival on the 10th of March at 1pm.

You can find examples of Maize's work on their website: maizewallin.com