an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

He’s Got the Whole World

Composer (and, it could be noted, fashion hot shot and TED intellectual) Eric Whitacre’s latest virtual choir has been released upon the internet.

For whatever precision the performance might lose due to the method–many voices in individual bedrooms spanning the globe–it gains exponentially by connecting them, easily surpassing any previously heard live performance by the sheer impact of linking so many persons at latitudes and longitudes around the world. Choir: Ultimate Edition, anyone?

Go ahead, just try not to tear up when the graphics start spinning and you see all those faces staring back at you. Just try and be cool when the power of technology demonstrates the pure good and beauty people can band together to create.

The credits, which move along in a pretty small point size and at a pretty good clip, make up just under half the video length. That’s the reverberative power of today’s technology, people. What will you do with it?

Comments

  1. The work was commissioned in 1999 by Julia Armstrong, a lawyer who now lives and practices here in Taos, NM. The original text for the work was Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” but Whitacre set the text without the permission of Frost’s estate and they refused to let him publish his composition. Some years later Whitacre commissioned poet Charles Anthony Silvestri to write an alternate text following exactly Frost’s rhythms and structure. On disadvantage of this YouTube version is that the sound is so processed it is difficult to understand the words. Here is Silvestri’s text:

    The evening hangs beneath the moon
    A silver thread on darkened dune
    With closing eyes and resting head
    I know that sleep is coming soon

    Upon my pillow, safe in bed,
    A thousand pictures fill my head,
    I cannot sleep, my minds aflight,
    And yet my limbs seem made of lead

    If there are noises in the night,
    A frightening shadow, flickering light…
    Then I surrender unto sleep,
    Where clouds of dream give second sight.

    What dreams may come, both dark and deep
    Of flying wings and soaring leap
    As I surrender unto sleep
    As I surrender unto sleep.

    For comparison you can find Frost’s text here:

    Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
    http://www.ketzle.com/frost/snowyeve.htm

    I find it interesting that Whitacre is largely ignored by the so-called new music community.

    Why do you describe the piece as “pure good”? I’m very curious — though not really expecting an answer.

    • Re: pure good

      I was responding the desire of the performers to participate in such a project, to join in, to *be* together.

      • I guess there is goodness and beauty in humans coming together in acts of idealism like art. One of my wife’s students was selected for the latest YouTube Orchestra. They rehearsed and performed their first concert in the Sidney Opera House. He said the orchestra was excellent and that it was “the best experience of his life.” I’m not sure I understand, but I find it interesting. (I just hope that inveterate loners by the same logic aren’t pure evil. Otherwise, I’m in trouble.)

  2. Anne Fennell says:

    What beautiful work this is – allowing me to truly feel, hear, and see the larger perspective of humanity. Lord Byron comes to mind, as well. Lovely.

  3. My wife tried to watch the video in Germany, but it is blocked there due to licensing issues. The music and film industries divide the world into regions, each requiring its own licenses. In Germany I have to use an ISP identity cloaker to even listen to Pandora Radio. I would guess Whitacre’s video is blocked in most of continental Europe since it is defined as one of those regions. Blocking the video in other regions of the world directly contradicts much of its message and is amazingly ironic. When we see music industry fat cats up to their usual mannipulations (conniving pocket-stuffing almost like legalized rackeetering,) it’s difficult to see “pure good.”

    • Eric’s website, blog and Facebook pages gave the explanation and the video update for Germany…
      http://www.virtualchoir.de/
      Here is the main webpage with all of the infos on how the ‘virtual choir’ projects are done.

      • The German video doesn’t work for me here in the States. I wonder if it is blocked here. For those who can’t read the German, Whitacre’s video was blocked in Germany because he couldn’t get an agreement with GEMA to present it. GEMA is their ASCAP and BMI all rolled into one. There is no alternative. Many composers in Germany complain that GEMA is very insiderish, overly nationalistic, and that their distribution of funds is unfair. It was founded by Richard Strauss.

  4. I guess I’m not quite following. How does this work? Do people all play together via internet or do they physically meet? Or do they send in their parts?

Leave a Reply

an ArtsJournal blog