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A 3-D Future for Loudspeaker Orchestras Emulated in Higher-Order AmbisonicsThe majority of acousmatic music exists in stereo: a format best performed over a loudspeaker orchestra. Although multi-channel formats are popular, many composers still choose stereo and link their work to diffusion performance practice. Yet a growing trend in loudspeaker systems is the permanent, high-density loudspeaker array (P-HDLA). Constructed from similar speakers, evenly distributed around the space, P-HDLAs maximize audience area and eliminate time-consuming setup time. Although compatible with most multi-channel formats, they pose a practical and musical dilemma for stereo sound diffusion.
Looking to the past and future of stereo acousmatic composition and performance, I have designed the ‘Virtualmonium’. The Virtualmonium emulates the principles of the classical loudspeaker orchestra in higher-order ambisonics. Beyond serving as an instrument for sound diffusion, composers and performers can create custom orchestra emulations, rehearse and refine spatialisation performance off-site, and discover new practices coupling composition with performativity. This paper describes the Virtualmonium, tests its practical application in two prototypes, and discusses the challenges ahead.