Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


'A Thousand Pictures Fill My Head'
April 8, 2011 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Featuring 2052 performers from 58 countries, I give you Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2.0 performing Sleep. [SLYT]
posted by Lutoslawski (34 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very beautiful. It's interesting that they couldn't get the ends of the words cleaner; I assume they were each singing while watching a video of the conductor, but I guess it's just easier to get that crisp close if you're in one physical location with the choir.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:40 PM on April 8, 2011


WHY DO I NOT HEAR ABOUT THESE DAMN THINGS until I post about them
posted by Madamina at 2:42 PM on April 8, 2011


From his website, it seems he asked people to sing along, record themselves, and email him the results. He then aggregated them on his own schedule. So there's not really any conducting going on.

I would have preferred that the 2052 points of light be floating in the ether, rather than circling a guy who pretends to conduct while simulating that they are look at him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:45 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess it's just easier to get that crisp close if you're in one physical location with the choir.

With a 2,052 voice choir you'd be hard pressed to get it as clean sounding as say a 300 voice choir even if they were all in the same physical space. That would take some serious coordination.

At first I was little distracted by all the errant "esses" but I think it ended up adding a lot to the piece, gave it a sort of ethereal quality, like echoes of whispers as you drift off to sleep.

Beautiful song, too. Human voices do dissonance so well.
posted by jnrussell at 2:47 PM on April 8, 2011


From Madamina's link, it may be that the recording included a video of him "conducting," but that's simply extended notation.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:47 PM on April 8, 2011


I would have preferred that the 2052 points of light be floating in the ether, rather than circling a guy who pretends to conduct while simulating that they are look at him.

Yeah, I have no idea who this guy is but the cult of personality in the video production is pretty over the top. I'm impressed the sound is so good though, considering that most of these people probably were recording on mediocre computer microphones.
posted by brightghost at 2:52 PM on April 8, 2011


NPR did a piece on this.
posted by maryr at 2:58 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


So there's not really any conducting going on.

According to the NPR piece, when you signed up for the project you got a piano track to sing with and a video of Whitacre conducting, and that's what you used to record your part for submission.
posted by hippybear at 3:06 PM on April 8, 2011


"Cult of personality?" This gets into Gnostic demiurge territory.

Extremely impressive, though.
posted by Iridic at 3:09 PM on April 8, 2011


Yeah, I have no idea who this guy is

Eric Whitacre is one of the most popular and widely performed choral composers currently alive. It's not so much about a cult of personality as it is sort of the choral equivalent of having Lenny Bernstein do an online virtual orchestra project.'

Okay, maybe there is a bit of cult of personality going on in there, but you get my meaning.
posted by hippybear at 3:09 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify, I enjoy this and his methods. But conducting, as simulated here, involves critical listening while shaping the ongoing performance of an ensemble. The internet can emphatically not go there. It's one of the "hard problems." To pretend that it has been solved could discourage people who might otherwise be working towards that.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:09 PM on April 8, 2011


His personal website.
posted by ericb at 3:25 PM on April 8, 2011


Yeah, I have no idea who this guy is

Yeah, he's one of the most celebrated composers and conductors in classical music right now. And he's one of the coolest, nicest guys pretty much ever.

He played trumpet in high school, but got kicked out of band a lot and was never really a music nerd type (this is where I started to feel a certain affinity with him, as I was a major band nerd but was always getting sent to the office during band for 'laughing at things that aren't funny,' amongst other reasons). He attended UNLV, where it took him 7 years to graduate. One year shortly before winter break, he was walking past the wind ensemble rehearsal and he fell in love with how big and loud the sound was. 11 trumpets! That break, he went home and churned out the first movement of what would become his first work, Ghost Train.

He went on to Julliard for his masters (and met his wife, Hila Plitman, an opera singer) and he nearly didn't make it through. He studied with Corigliano, and one night when he was just about fed up with music and the whole thing, his teacher gave him one of those inspirational speeches and he went home and churned out Water Night in about 45 minutes.

It was when my high school choir was doing Cloudburst that I really decided I wanted to be a composer. It was the piece that really made me fall in love with the choir and the possibilities of music and sound. This was somewhat before he reached superstar status. I struck up an email correspondence with him, and he was very helpful in my final years of high school as I began to compose and applied (and eventually attended) music school. He was very cautionary the whole time, making sure to emphasize that music school can be a really creativity-killer and that I should be careful (it was, and I transferred to University).

One year for Christmas he sent me a score to Cloudburst with the inscription, "To [my name], the next great composer. Love, Eric." I thought it quite an incredible gesture, and, though I have not become a great composer, it still remains one of my most treasured objects. To this day he is still extremely awesome to his (now many) fans, and as far as celebrities go is the most down to earth as they come. He just likes to do cool projects and he makes a lot of beautiful music. He has consistently involved his fans in various projects over the years, and it's very cool.

Lately he's been workshopping an electronica opera type thing based on Paradise Lost. It has anime, electronic music along with contemporary choral stuff, and the entire cast got their black belts in tae kwon do for the show. It's pretty cool, if you like that kind of thing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:26 PM on April 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


Well OK, but I feel intruded somehow. Something like They Live, where I'm not sure I want their reality to become mine.
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:59 PM on April 8, 2011


Recording Instructions & Conductor Track for Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir .
posted by stbalbach at 7:37 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one of the most incredible things I've ever heard. Over high-quality headphones it's quite a trip. I got chills. Reminded me of the first time I heard Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3 (although that's orchestral, but just the feeling). I do hear, however some vague similarities to the last choral finale (also a capella) of Bernstein's "MASS" here. Spectacular project and great post!
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:44 PM on April 8, 2011


So if "conducting" requires active feedback, would the term "arrange" be more appropriate here? Because arrange 2000+ parts is damned impressive.
posted by maryr at 8:13 PM on April 8, 2011


Whitacre has definitely carved a niche for himself as a band/choral composer, but I wouldn't say he is taken seriously by any respectable orchestras. He just does his little projects which admittedly are very popular, but that doesn't mean anything. He could have a million voices singing this crap but it's still very ho-hum middle-of-the-road choral music. There are composers who could write something LEAGUES more complex harmonically than this drivel, and only using 6 voices (Ligeti's Nonsense Madrigals for example)... the ONLY reason this is interesting is because of the technical aspect of pasting all the videos together and the audio "ingenuity" in sweetening it to make it sound uniform. Plus I'm sure they've corrected pitch a LOT and you can hear the obscene amount of reverb that is added to further wash out the imperfections. I beg all of you, seek out and listen to quality choral music, not this kitsch.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:09 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. Seriously? Did you just write a "your favorite band sucks" paragraph?
posted by hippybear at 11:02 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, because I take music seriously and if I'm rejecting something I know exactly why. Not just because. And 9 times out of 10, your favorite band DOES suck.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:07 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, I see. You have special knowledge which give you insight beyond the ken of mere mortals, and therefore anyone else's taste or preference is moot, because You Know What Is True And Good.

Yeah, elitism. It tastes great in the morning with warm milk, doesn't it?

*shakes head*
posted by hippybear at 11:14 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eric Whitacre does a TED talk about this virtual choir project, from March 2011.
posted by hippybear at 11:26 PM on April 8, 2011


Metafilter, never disappointing.

(Free 2000 person chorus piece drops into lap)

[X] Not really conducting
[X] What is with this guy
[X] Not real chorus singing
[X] Animation should have been done a different way
[X] Wish the free 2000 chorus sung differently

Some days, I miss memepool.
posted by jscott at 12:27 AM on April 9, 2011


'Lux Aurumque' was his earlier venture into this field - singers recording on their webcams, and sending the results in for processing together into a virtual choir.
posted by woodblock100 at 6:29 AM on April 9, 2011


Interesting. I would also like to see his version of this SLEEP.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:08 AM on April 9, 2011


That's a pretty specific form you've got there, jscott.
posted by maryr at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2011


[X] Not really conducting
[X] What is with this guy
[X] Not real chorus singing
[X] Animation should have been done a different way
[X] Wish the free 2000 chorus sung differently
[X] Form is too specific
posted by jscott at 9:25 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I beg all of you, seek out and listen to quality choral music, not this kitsch.

Oh sure, elitists gonna be elite. The classical music world, to its detriment, is full of its own sort of annoying hipster. Go back to your Tristan Murail and Thomas Ades recordings, and let the rest of us try to enjoy music in all its mediums and manifestations.

I'm not trying to be an asshole, but its attitudes like yours that have led to the downfall of concert music.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:49 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are composers who could write something LEAGUES more complex harmonically than this drivel, and only using 6 voices

Also, and fwiw Ligeti is one of my favorite composers in the history of Western music, but like, I guess I missed that class in conservatory where harmonic complexity = quality. What an absurd view on music.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:14 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't accuse an evolutionary biologist who totally rejects Stephen Jay Gould's theories as an elitist, because I'm not an evolutionary biologist. I can, however, comfortably reject Eric Whitacre's boringly vanilla "choral music" any day of the week. And no, harmonic complexity doesn't equal quality... Lully wrote some of the most strikingly beautiful music of the French baroque style and yet his harmonic changes are quite standard for the time; it's the particular manner in which he uses them that make it beautiful. Whitacre's stuff is just watered down. Standing on the shoulders of giants.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:22 PM on April 9, 2011


You are, of course, welcome to have your own tastes and to try to express them as clearly as you wish. But the saying has been around for centuries, De gustibus non disputandum est. And if it's your opinion that someone else liking something that you don't makes someone somehow inferior than you, whether through lack of True Learning or because of some inner nature, then it's elitism pure and simple.
posted by hippybear at 7:27 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


ReeMonster, what are you trying to prove here? There's no accounting for the reasons why someone likes music (or anything, for that matter). You can like a piece because of the experience of listening, or the chord structure, or the fact that you first heard it in a mix made by the love of your life. You can hate it when you hear it for the first time but love it years later, or when you see a video.

In my experience, Whitacre's pieces sweep people into a sensual commonality. I'm onstage reveling in the sounds and layers around me; my friends and family are in the audience as the sounds wash over them. It's not the same as the Bach B Minor Mass or a Poulenc motet -- nor should it be, which is why the director programs different pieces on a concert.

I am a professional singer. I have a degree in vocal performance, with major-equivalent coursework in musicology, from a major university. I have performed as soloist with elite choirs and symphony orchestras. I sing with a choir made up almost entirely of choral professionals who trained under one of the recognized masters of choral directing and education.

Do I waste my time trying to convince people that certain pieces are good or bad? Man, I have SO much else to do. But if I can enjoy something with someone else, even if we don't have the same reasons, I'm sharing the experience of humanity.

I'd much rather spend my time bringing people together than putting them down.
posted by Madamina at 6:03 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do I waste my time trying to convince people that certain pieces are good or bad?

Yes, apparently you do!

Also:

I'd much rather spend my time bringing people together than putting them down.

vs.

I beg all of you, seek out and listen to quality choral music, not this kitsch.

Christian Haroldsen lives!
posted by jscott at 1:39 AM on April 16, 2011


David Hykes does it.
No question about it.
posted by nj_subgenius at 7:48 PM on May 2, 2011


« Older One in every 8 babies born in the US is premature....  |  The Village Voice released its... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments