Monday, March 22, 2010

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir - "Lux Aurumque"

During July of 2009, conductor and composer Eric Whitacre released his first experiment in creating the world's first "virtual choir." Whitacre used YouTube to compile separate videos, each of an individual vocalist singing his or her respective part, and have them simultaneously perform Whitacre's own piece "Sleep." The experiment was a promising success and demonstrated vast implications for technology in the musical sphere. Now, over half a year later, Whitacre unveiled his final, finished production on the virtual choir project - a full chorus performing his composition "Lux Aurumque":
(Check it out even if this isn't your particular style of music. Seeing how they compiled the voices is reason enough to do so.)

Composed, Conducted, and Arranged by Eric Whitacre
Produced and Edited by Scottie Haines

In order to create the product you see above, Whitacre made the same casting call he made for Sleep - except he also created an instructional video providing a conducting track with which chorus members could sing and keep time. The video included instructions on when to start and stop recording, a piano part to aid participants, and even provided his own, personal instruction on how to tackle each voice. It's an extraordinary concept and provides a rare view into the musical world for most:

Through this process, producer Scott Haines collected, edited (only to correct for minor alterations in recording volume), and organized over 200 hundred different videos into a single chorus. All who wanted could participate, although auditions were held for the soprano solo. As an increased incentive, Whitacre also created a scholarship for participants who wished to apply and have their video considered. Each scholarship finalist (soloist included) was guaranteed a spot to sing at Carnegie Hall in his concert adaptation of Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings, including a waiver of the application fee ($590) and seats at a post-concert dinner with he and his wife - famed soprano Hila Plitmann. The four finalists were announced on his blog during the virtual choir production and the soloist was featured in the video above.

The entire process above provides a peek into a possible future for musical production. From start to finish, it mirrors the steps made in real life despite that most of these people have never met. Yet, it still works (and works very well from where I'm sitting). While there will always be room for live audition and performance, I am interested in how far this particular concept can go. How will the future of classical and contemporary music be effected in a world where television and entertainment slowly bends into the internet? It's a question I can't possibly answer. But, I remain excited to find out.


Updated: 3/23/2010

With the increased attention from Mashable and The Daily Dish, Eric Whitacre posted "The Virtual Choir: How He Did It" in an effort to introduce new comers to the why, the how, and the experience of creating Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir. Click the link and check it out!


Ian said...

To be clear, Scottie Haines is actually the one who does most of the work on the project; he upkeeps all of of the youtube/facebook pages, and he also edits the project. EW is mostly just our composer/conductor (which meant for this particular project, he basically just recorded the conducting track and then put his stamp of approval on the video). Just wanted to make sure credit was given for the enormous amount of work Scottie puts in...

Ozkirbas said...

Good point. Haines did have a significant lack of credit in this article. I edited the middle paragraph to reflect that. I could potentially give him more focus if I knew more about him, but I know virtually nothing about him. Any input to share?

Ian said...

Thanks! Actually, I don't know a whole lot about him myself, besides that he's young (almost 23) and does some composing of his own. I'm sure you could probably get in touch with him via facebook if you want more than that; he monitors the page for the virtual choir fairly closely.