This video has been making the rounds for the past week or so. Eric Whitacre, for those of you who don’t know, is a rockstar choral composer who has made a killing for himself by focusing not on professional or established community choirs, but rather the high school and college circuit. His works are accessible but still identifiably contemporary, often employing diatonic clusters (which can sound a little harsh when performed by instruments but great when sung by a chorus). If you’re wondering why the singers all (a) look like they’re under 30, and (b) look like they’re in heaven, that’s why.
For this Virtual Choir performance, of Whitacre’s “Lux Aurumque,” 185 singers recorded videos of themselves singing the parts and sent them in to be visually and sonically mixed into the final product. It’s not surprising to me that Whitacre would be the one to pull this off (though it seems this is actually the second such video; the first was done 8 months ago to the composer’s “Sleep”). I’ve been wanting to write about him for years; maybe someday I’ll finally get around to it. Back when Myspace was a thing, as my friend from high school likes to say, Eric Whitacre had by far the most friends of any “new music” figure around, and the intensity of fan worship on his page was simply mind-boggling to behold.
Anyway, if you can get past the cheesy conductor faces and the 1994-era 3D animation, it’s pretty cool. In fact, the most interesting ramification for me is the potential for composers to use this model to crowdsource demo recordings of their large ensemble or even chamber pieces. All you need is a conductor (yourself?) and perhaps a MIDI recording of part and score, and you could be well on your way.
Given that just getting the piece from the page to the ear in a credible way is one of the biggest challenges for the emerging composer, this could be a game-changer.