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The Virtual Choir Project

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the is-it-real-or-is-it-youtube dept.

Music 58

An anonymous reader writes "Conductor and composer Eric Whitacre has successfully created a virtual choir using the voices of 185 people who posted their performance on YouTube. The piece that's performed is called 'Sleep,' composed by the conductor himself in 2000. Anyone can join in — all you need is a webcam and a microphone."

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Absolutely (2, Funny)

imamac (1083405) | more than 4 years ago | (#32079616)

one of the coolest things I've seen in a while. Coming from a guy with a music degree.)

I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32079632)

It's not cool. It's entirely not original. Can someone explain in what way they think it is?

Re:I disagree (1)

Corporate Drone (316880) | more than 4 years ago | (#32079920)

Well... what else is out there, where a conductor took hundreds of choral parts, recorded solo, and stitched them together both for sight and sound, creating a single, sync'ed whole choral piece?

Re:I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32080694)

http://www.youtube.com/user/symphony

Re:I disagree (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080982)

The Virtual Choir Project was done better than the Youtube Symphony. Maybe if they would have separated different instruments into their own sections and we could see them all play at once with the rest of the orchestrate it would be more impressive.

The Virtual Choir Project is a WIN because you can see everyone, at once, the entire time while they sing. It's like watching a real choir instead of a few frames of individuals like the Youtube Symphony.

Re:I disagree (2, Informative)

Corporate Drone (316880) | more than 4 years ago | (#32081882)

wait -- are you being serious? The YouTube Symphony was simply a mechanism to collect auditions; their performance was live, as a group, (certainly) rehearsed as a group, and, although well done, not groundbreaking in any "virtual" way.

On the other hand, this choir "performance" is actually the combination of individual performances, done all at the singers' locations, without group rehearsal, and combined into a "virtual" performance, which we get to hear and see in real-time.

The differences are like night and day -- are you seriously not seeing the originality of the approach here?

Of course it's about opnions. (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32079938)

It's not cool. It's entirely not original. Can someone explain in what way they think it is?

I can tell you why *I* think it's cool:

Unlike something like, say, what Kutiman does, this uses willing participants, knowing beforehand the part they'll be playing in the overall scheme. These aren't "found" sounds.

And it has nice production value, too.

Re:I disagree (3, Insightful)

ProfMobius (1313701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080110)

It is exactly what internet is about. Taking pieces and bit from different willing people, and make something greater than just the sum of the parts.

This is an amazing performance, coordinating hundred of people around the world, people who will never meet, but are working together to bring to life a project.

Internet is not just for porn, facebook and WoW you know.

Re:I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32080498)

> Internet is not just for porn, facebook and WoW you know.

"OH, but Kate Monster! What you think he do, *after*??" ;)

Re:I disagree (1, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080664)

It is exactly what internet is about.

In the end, how it was made is not really that important.

But the end result is quite beautiful. And making something beautiful, today, is no small thing.

The guy deserves credit for that. Points for execution, points for conception, but it's beauty, FTW.

Re:I disagree (1)

ProfMobius (1313701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080810)

I totally agree. This is an amazing piece of work. I need to grab the full discography to put while working.

Re:I disagree (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082846)

http://www.amazon.com/Eric-Whitacre-Cloudburst-Other-Choral/dp/B000E1XOUS [amazon.com]

Got it a couple of years ago while looking for Polyphony stuff after hearing them on the radio :) Even better is

http://www.amazon.com/Morten-Lauridsen-Lux-aeterna/dp/B0007GP69W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1272966899&sr=1-1 [amazon.com]

Their CD singing Whitacre's stuff isn't bad, but Lux Aeterna is truly awesome.

Re:I disagree (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083380)

Great stuff. Thanks.

Re:I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32080112)

It's not cool. It's entirely not original. Can someone explain in what way they think it is?

Can you explain in what way you've ever done anything remotely creative yourself, when you're not teabagging n00bs in Halo ?

Re:I disagree (3, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080642)

It's entirely not original.

Originality in art is highly overrated.

All the originality in the world doesn't mean a damn if it doesn't touch someone's heart. This piece is pretty moving.

Listen to the otherworldly ambiance created by the blending of so many varied different recordings by so many different microphones in so many different spaces. This odd effect almost becomes an additional voice itself. The video aspect doesn't do much for me, except to remind me of the fractured and disconnected nature of the multitude of individual recordings, mixed together.

In my music, I use convolution a lot to create space, from the inside of my mouth to the middle of a lake. It never occurred to me that by blending so many individual elements you would come up with this, I guess, hyperspace reverb.

It reminds me a bit of Heinrich Goebbels' Surrogate Cities.

I mean, it's not exactly Miles'Agartha, or the first Stooges album, or even Wagner's Parsifal, but it ain't bad. Not at all.

Bravo.

Re:I disagree (1)

wondershit (1231886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32090358)

Dude, you mean Heiner Goebbels. Heinrich Goebbels is the nazi child of Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels.

Re:I disagree (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32091040)

Wasn't the reverb added afterwards?

Re:I disagree (1)

lkeagle (519176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32095180)

As an audio engineer, it would certainly be my opinion that these tracks were highly processed after mixing, and possibly before. The amount of noise and distortion from hundreds of cheap laptop/webcam microphones would be horrific. I'm certain they used a noise reduction filter, and an awful lot of additional ambiance/reverb to mask the sonic artifacts.

Re:Absolutely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32079774)

Coming from a guy with a music degree.

How's unemployment anyways?

Re:Absolutely (1)

imamac (1083405) | more than 4 years ago | (#32084222)

Oh, I also have a second degree in Managment of Health Informatics and am almost done with a Masters in Healthcare Administration. I'm not worried about the very unlikely chance of being unemployed.

Re:Absolutely (3, Informative)

drosboro (1046516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080880)

Yes, it's really, really cool. I'm a choir director, and we performed this piece a year or two ago. It's incredibly ambitious to even think of doing something like this across social media - it's not an easy piece to conduct, so it wouldn't be easy to keep the singers synced with each other. You can hear a bit of that any time there's an ending consonant (e.g. on "lux" throughout the piece). Nevertheless, he's created some amazing art with this already great composition.

And, to echo someone else's sentiments below - the piece is "Lux Aurumque", not "Sleep".

You have a music degree? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32089154)

Cool story bro, me too! So where do you wait tables at?

World's first? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32079672)

I think niconico would take offense... oh wait, "made with youtube", yeah, that's probably a first.

Re:World's first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32080068)

Haha. Leave it to 4chan, actually.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIQG2OEiUQQ

Warning: Neckbeard choir may be unsuitable for people with actual educations.

some badass cinematography (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32079930)

I would not have thought of to do it that way. What an elegant way to compose all the videos. Bravo!

Crowdsourcing made cool. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32080054)

Pro musicians have been recording tracks asynchronously for ages. The difference is that instead of having a tiny video likeness of themselves put on a YouTube video, they got paid.

Re:Crowdsourcing made cool. (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083356)

sneering is a sign of insecurity

Eric Whitacre is doing some neat things (3, Interesting)

DesertJazz (656328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080090)

The composer, Eric Whitacre, has been doing quite a few cool new things integrating multi-media into his works recently. This internet video is the biggest one so far, and I find it absolutely amazing how the project came off. The person who did the video editing did a great job. It's been talked about on CNN, BBC, and now much more imporantly Slashdot! ;-) He's got a pretty faithful following on Facebook.

If you're into music at all check out some of his compositions. I'm a band person (director), but his choral stuff is amazing. He's also transcribed many of his pieces (including this one) into band works and written a number of orchestral pieces. (October is by far my favorite)

Re:Eric Whitacre is doing some neat things (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 4 years ago | (#32081248)

You should also check out his new opera/theater/electronica thing called Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings. I recently (warning: shameless bragging ahead) heard him promote it from the stage at Carnegie Hall [carnegiehall.org] , where I performed later that evening [carnegiehall.org] .

Beautiful (2, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080106)

Normally I flinch at new choral / orchestral music from the past 100 years or so, because it's struck me as avante gard and distonal compared to Beethoven et al.

But this performance is just beautiful. I love it.

Re:Beautiful (3, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080298)

Eric Whitacre really knows his stuff, which is what makes his music fun to sing and listen. Some stuff he does really well:
  - Create a sort of choral shimmer using notes that are really close to each other. That's a technique that's been really developed in the last 100 years.
  - Use the lower registers of the voices. A lot of composers go with faster-higher-louder to create excitement, but Whitacre has no problem dropping the basses to their low register for something completely different.
  - Choosing his words carefully, and matching them to his musical intentions.
  - Making his lines fairly easy to sing, so the singers have a good chance of really nailing their parts.

And if you've skipped most of the last century's worth of orchestral and choral music, you've missed a lot of really [youtube.com] interesting [youtube.com] styles [youtube.com] . The way to think about it is that there was a lot of experimentation, and some things worked and a lot of things didn't work. Interestingly, now that composers know more about what doesn't work, they've been recently doing more of what does work.

Re:Beautiful (2, Interesting)

Rheostatik (1628895) | more than 4 years ago | (#32081218)

Not to mention beautiful [youtube.com] and exciting [youtube.com] works [youtube.com] of art [youtube.com] Music really started going down hill in the mid-century, when it became too academic. There still is some good [youtube.com] stuff out there [youtube.com] , however.

Re:Beautiful (1)

Rheostatik (1628895) | more than 4 years ago | (#32081128)

You're mistaken. Choral music has largely escaped the atonal mess that largely dominated the mid-to-late 20th century. Most choral composers know how to write music effectively, music that doesn't cater to their own egotistical desire to "push the boundaries", or to the expectations and wishes of a Ph.D supervisor.

Not saying all contemporary instrumental is crap...there's lots of good stuff out there, to be honest. But contemporary choral music, probably due to the medium, is so much more accessible.

Re:Beautiful (2, Interesting)

frog_strat (852055) | more than 4 years ago | (#32086574)

the atonal mess

Some of us like this stuff. Try playing top 40 stuff over and over to help make it through college. Anyone with a brain will eventually want to hear some fresh and unusual ideas. Schoenberg, Bartok, Webern, Ligeti.

Re:Beautiful (1)

Rheostatik (1628895) | more than 4 years ago | (#32093832)

the atonal mess

see:

the atonal mess that largely dominated the mid-to-late 20th century

Wrong piece (3, Informative)

Logarhythmic (1082321) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080148)

The piece in the video is called Lux Aurumque [waltonmusic.com] , not Sleep. I've actually performed a wind ensemble version of this piece -- it's extremely difficult due to the very delicate and exposed parts, but Whitacre's music is just gorgeous.

Re:Wrong piece (1)

clawsonb (1194461) | more than 4 years ago | (#32086286)

Indeed, I've preformed Sleep myself and have heard this one preformed before. I was expecting a different piece when I played the video. Not that I'm disappointed however, both are beautiful pieces, and it was really amazing to see something like this actually work out. As one without the time available to practice with a real choir anymore, this would be a great way to get to sing with others.

Filtering? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32080274)

I'd like to know how much the audio was manipulated. There's no way you could get that many YouTube videos together and not hear air conditioners running, dogs yapping, babies crying, TVs playing, dishes clanging, microphone hits, etc. whether incidental or not. Add to that the differing audio quality between each person's rig and you'd expect a lot more of a cacophonous result.

Re:Filtering? (2, Insightful)

DesertJazz (656328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080332)

Not sure exactly about the filtering, but I know that the singing was recorded with the performers listening and matching with headphones on. I also know there was a TON of entries to get into this video. Whitacre has almost a cult following in the choral world, and many people jumped at the chance. It could be that one of the ways they selected the vocalists was to throw out poor audio files.

Re:Filtering? (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083318)

For starters, there is a massive (but quite good) reverb laid on top. Besides the obvious, it has the same effect as soft focus for photos: blends together, smoothes out minor blemishes. Continuous hiss and room noise is not that difficult to remove, although I can still hear some in there. Finally, each individual voice/video doesn't contribute much by itself to the final output, as is expected in a choir. If there's 100 voices, the spurious background noises will be tiny in comparison to the whole.

Nothing new, nothing unusual, still awesome. (3, Insightful)

Senes (928228) | more than 4 years ago | (#32080382)

This is an old trick, just record in studio (people's homes) and then put it all together for the final mix.
But still, there is something brilliant and beautiful about this. Not that it reinvents anything, but it does a great job of demonstrating this trick to a new generation of people who can take interest and see what else they can achieve with it.

Re:Nothing new, nothing unusual, still awesome. (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082476)

This is an old trick, just record in studio (people's homes) and then put it all together for the final mix.

How dare you! This isn't just a bunch of separate studio takes stuck together, this is a virtual choir! Oh wait...

This is how I picture the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32080408)

Our senators will communicate this way one day

Re:This is how I picture the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32086032)

Our senators will communicate this way one day

You mean pre-recorded and arranged by a master puppeteer into a virtual senate?

I think you got your wish already.

Yay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32080998)

...for multitracking.

it woulda been quicker to just go down to the local University and have the choir do a sight read.

Re:Yay... (2, Insightful)

ahankinson (1249646) | more than 4 years ago | (#32081896)

... and suddenly you miss the whole point of doing it.

Yes. Choirs have been singing together for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Name one other point in history where a whole amateur choir can sing together, from their own homes, without ever being in the same physical space as one another.

This isn't about expediency. It's about exploring a new medium. You might not get that, if you work at the level of switches & cabling, but what we're creating out of these mundane realities is a whole new way of working together. It's like Gutenberg, looking at the printing press and saying "Yay for stamping ink. You could have just gone down to the local monastery and gotten the monks to copy it."

Re:Yay... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082328)

Name one other point in history where a whole amateur choir can sing together, from their own homes, without ever being in the same physical space as one another

How about the Cavern Choir [myspace.com] ? They're only a dozen, but they're a virtual choir and have been recording/performing for a few years now.

Re:Yay... (1)

ahankinson (1249646) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083678)

I would actually lump them in with "this point in history." I'm certainly not saying that this is the first time it's happened, but you don't have to be first to be considered a pioneer.

Re:Yay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32084258)

"Name one other point in history where a whole amateur choir can sing together, from their own homes, without ever being in the same physical space as one another."

I can't because it hasn't happened yet.

That choir is not singing together. When people sing in a choir, they can hear each other, and they influence each other, and a magical thing happens as everyone locks together to create the music. All the singers in this video would be performing separately to a guide track.

It's not so bad as this piece of music is slow and monotonous and not timing critical. Also, there has been significant processing on the voices... noise reduction to start with, and I think I can hear some auto tune and timing editing, and some well recorded voices dubbed on top to restore the sibilants. It says at the beginning '183 voices, 243 tracks', so either some are in stereo (unlikely for youtube, and would have to be played back as single channel anyway on mixdown to keep the choir pan pot stereo image), or some professional pre-recorded voices were used as well.

Anyway, the upshot is that a choir is people singing together, and this is a multitracked vocal recording. When I fake a choir myself with samples in the same manner as this, it sounds a bit like a choir, but I don't call it a choir. :)

Strangely, this would have been possible perhaps 90 years ago, as people could sing together on telephone party lines. Since digital exchanges the latency is too high, the quality lower, and echo cancellation more difficult, so a remote choir is no longer possible.

When they go on tour ... (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32081188)

being a roadie will either be the worst job in history ... or one of the easiest.

Nice but... (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32081510)

Very cool but tons of post effects and editing. If this can happen in real-time that'll be awesome.

Re:Nice but... (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32086202)

Not technically "real-time" but certainly live...a few years ago I attended a live music performance in Second Life where the trio were around the world, one in Tokyo, one in Georgia, one in a city in Canada doing vocals/harmonica, keyboard and guitar all together.

They used software that allowed the subsequent performers to hear the first's stream and mix them together for the next. They also had themselves on video (ustream) so you could choose your own camera and watch them all separately from their avatars on stage in Second Life.

There were nearly 100 people in the audience enjoying their improvisations. (To give credit, I believe Komuso [secondlife.com] came up with the idea of combining all the technologies...the other performers I think were Noma [secondlife.com] and Hathead [secondlife.com] iirc.)

Lux Aurumque (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32081924)

Actually, the 185 voice composition is "Lux Aurumque", which is the second (and more polished) accomplishment of Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir. And Lux is a much more beautiful song... breathtaking!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7o7BrlbaDs&fmt=22

Dirty little secret. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082306)

Whiteacre uses a VSTi called Spectrasonics Symphony of Voices, he was just looking for people to lip sync. This video is the Milli Vanilli of choirs.

thy dudeness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082620)

...also you need good voice

immortality (1)

gert cuykens (1444235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32088342)

be part of something that can not die
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