Make us your home page

Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Virtual choir brings voices of the world together through technology



It's official. I've signed up to be one of the singers in Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2011, a unique project in which singers from around the world download music and record themselves with webcams singing the different parts of one of Whitacre's compositions. The individual videos and audio tracks are then assembled to create a "virtual choir."


The first virtual choir, a performance of Whitacre's "Lux Aurumque" (Light and Gold), was published about 6 months ago and has had more than 1.2-million views on YouTube. The choir consisted of 185 people from 12 countries, singing together as if they were on the same stage although their individual performances had been recorded, in most cases, thousands of miles apart. Their virtual conductor, Whitacre, lead them in his own video, placed at the front of the virtual stage.

Lux Aurumque is very peaceful and sort of haunting at the same time. When I first watched the video, I was stunned by the beauty of it and amazed by the wonderful technology that made it possible. Then I went through a full range of emotions. As someone who has been singing in choirs and vocal groups all my life, I wondered about the loss of intimacy and connection this project seemed to represent. Did this signify the beginning to an end of human contact in musical performances? I think I watched it 7-8 times in a row and then realized this project makes something possible through technology that otherwise would not be possible. I became a fan.

So I'm onboard for round two, another of Whitacre's compositions titled "Sleep." I've downloaded the tenor part and will begin rehearsing and recording soon. I'll post updates here as the project progresses.

I'll be using a couple of gadgets to record my part. The camera I plan to use is a Sony Playstation Eye USB camera. Made to work as a gaming camera with Playstation game systems, it has the best image quality of any webcam I've found. It's plug and play on PCs and on Macs it will work with a freeware driver called macam. Although it has four built-in microphones, they're primarily made for gaming and pick up a lot of background noise, so I'll use a mic with more directional control. The mic I'll use is the Samson Go Mic, a small USB mic with outstanding clarity.

PS398047.png      Go_Mic-open-white-web.jpg

And in case you're wondering if the Gadget Guy has the vocal chops to do his part in this project, let's just say I hope so. I grew up in a musical family and have been in singing groups since I was a kid, when I performed in a family group called "René and the Rat Pack Rascals" during the heyday of the Jackson 5 and the Osmond Family. That's me on the far left in the photo below. Throughout high school and college I was in many choral groups and although I now prefer to sing jazz, I still appreciate the choir experience. Making music with your voice is one of the purest and most gratifying things a person can do.


If you want to participate, and I hope some of you do, go to the Virtual Choir site, download the music and follow the instructions. You'll get to do your own performance, conducted by the virtual Whitacre, and make your contribution to something special. Using technology and music, maybe we can make the world a better place, even if only for a few minutes at a time.

[Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 10:13am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours