The Virtual Choir: Technology, Collaboration and Music

music texture by karenthephotog CC-By

music texture by karenthephotog CC-By

Composer Eric Whitacre , after seeing a Youtube video of a young soprano singing his song “Sleep” wondered: What if he could get people, regardless of where they were in the world, to record themselves signing all the other parts of his a capella choir piece?  So he did, and following, you will be able to see the various results of this great experiment of online collaboration with the Virtual Choir.

In How We Did It he explains not only the process for the last iteration of his project but also the preceding experiments in conforming a virtual choir. For the first time around, he asked singers to buy a specific music track and just sing along to the a capella (without instrumental accompaniment) recording. Scott Haines, whom he had met only once before, volunteered to edit the piece.  Here is the result:

Thrilled with the result, he decided to do it once again, but this time making it even more like an actual choral experience:

So this time, I made my own conductor track, filming it in complete silence, hearing the music only in my head. Then I watched the video and played in the piano accompaniment part to my conductor track… Then I offered the sheet music as a free download. As singers began posting their individual tracks, I called for ‘auditions’ for the soprano solo.

This next video shows the instructions Eric Whitacre posted for all participants. It includes recommendations on how to perform the piece, explanation about the recording dynamic and the conducting track where he directs the choir:

For the virtual choir, 128 people representing 12 different countries including Argentina, New Zealand, The Philippines, Singapore and Spain sent in the 243 tracks that compose the choral piece Lux Aurumque that Scott Haines once again helped produce.

This is what Mr. Whitacre wrote about the finished product:

When I saw the finished video for the first time I actually teared up. The intimacy of all the faces, the sound of the singing, the obvious poetic symbolism about our shared humanity and our need to connect; all of it completely overwhelmed me. And it must be said that a lot of the credit for it’s beauty should go to Scottie Haines, who spent untold hours editing and polishing the video. (BTW, Scottie and I have never met only met once in the ‘real world’, unlike 99% of the Virtual Choir, whom I’ve never ‘met’).

Lets hope the Virtual Choir continues growing strong!


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