Some years ago, I produced a recording with the St. Olaf choir, widely recognized as one of world’s premier a cappella choirs. Among the repertoire was a piece entitled “A Boy & A Girl” by composer Eric Whitacre. I had never heard of Eric, but the piece was stunning.
Shortly after the recording, I contacted Eric directly. He was thrilled to know that we had recorded his piece. To his knowledge it had never been recorded previously. After mastering, I sent him a copy of the recording and we continued to stay in touch. I later helped him with some technical guidance on his opera (which I understand will play Carnegie Hall this year).
So I was thrilled when Kevin Kelly made me aware this week of Eric’s latest project, a “virtual choir” of 185 voices performing his work “Lux Aurumque.” It’s a dream-like composition highlighting Eric’s masterful artistry. Besides being an innovative use of virtuality, I see this work as a breakthrough metaphor of new gathering as global humanity grows in its ability to connect and collaborate directly, at a high level, with decreasing need for locality and mediation.
Coincidentally, I took the family to see Carmina Burana today at the Sacramento Ballet — with large choirs straddling both sides of the stage. Please take 5 minutes and be swept away by Eric’s beautiful excursion into the heavens.
Eric said this, “When I saw the finished video for the first time I actually teared up. The intimacy of all the faces, the sound of the singing, the obvious poetic symbolism about our shared humanity and our need to connect; all of it completely overwhelmed me.”
I want to put on my audio engineer’s hat and point out that I’m hearing a recording quality far higher than what one would expect with a PC-grade microphone plugged into a PC recording system. And I’m not hearing 185 voices. I’m hearing perhaps 50 of the best voices, perhaps doubled, thickened, perhaps pitch-corrected (don’t make choir pitch too perfect or it sounds sterile), widened, EQ’ed, compressed, placed-in-space, single-ended noise-reduced with gobs of electronic ambiance added.
This is as much a study in post-production as it is in production, which (to me) doesn’t lessen the impact of the project at all. I think it’s brilliant. Here’s an example of a single-track