Christian Long

Eric Whitacre: A Choir as Big as the Internet

In TED Talks on April 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Extra credit reflection by DEVON H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Eric Whitacre: A Choir as Big as the Internet

I am one of the biggest choir geeks ever, so when my classmate told me about this video I just had to watch it.

Eric Whitacre is a very interesting composer. His song “She Weeps Over Rahoon” was one of the Texas All-State Choir songs for the 2008-2009 choir. I made the 2008-2009 Texas All-District choir as a Soprano 1, and I really enjoyed singing this piece although it was extremely weird and very high in the Soprano 1 part. I continued to pursue some of his other pieces to realize that the Rahoon piece was one of his earlier pieces, and that most of his songs were not like that at all. His later pieces were not as strange, but they are still very intriguing.

This choir, however, is not your average choir.

Each singer is singing individually with the parts being played by the piano in their ears through headphones. The piece is completely a Capella (without instrumental accompaniment), which would make it more difficult for a live choir, but I think it would be beneficial to an individual with the parts being played in their ear.

When you first think about it you probably think that it isn’t that big of a deal, but once you listen to it you realize just how amazing it really is.

Eric Whitacre has his own website where he posts recordings of his music along with information about this virtual choir. On his blog on the website he explains how they made this virtual choir.

The first choir he did was with his song that he wrote in 2000 called Sleep. He got the idea from a soprano named Britlin Losee sending him a recording of her singing the soprano line from the song. He then came up with the idea of 100 people sending him their videos with their singing part. So, he told everyone to buy Sleep off of iTunes and send in their videos. Each person recorded themselves singing their part along with the recording. Scott Haines then volunteered to cut all of the videos together to create this choir.

Eric was so excited about the outcome that he decided to do it again, but to step it up a little.

He created a conductor track of him conducting the piece in silence, only hearing the music in his head. He then watched the video and added in the piano accompaniment track. He then offered the song as a free download for the singers interested. He also had an “audition” for the soprano solo where the candidates posted a video of them singing the soprano solo, and Melody Meyers from Tennessee submitted the best video and was awarded the solo.

The most difficult aspect of this endeavor, says Whitacre, was that the singers had to include the rubato, speeding up and slowing down, and specific dynamic gestures into their singing. One of Whitacre’s goals now is to take the virtual choir to the next level. He wishes to write an original composition just for the Virtual Choir and have its world premiere on the world wide web with, “hundreds (maybe thousands) of people singing alone, together.”

This would be absolutely amazing, and now that I know about it I am definitely going to submit a video next time!


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