Saturday, July 16, 2011

Soaring voices: Eric Whitacre's virtual choir

If you felt you needed an antidote to any of the previous videos, Eric Whitacre is here to help.

This is yet another presentation from TED, an organisation responsible for a large number of inspiring talks on a magnificently diverse set of topics.

Whitacre is a composer who effectively fell into this impressive project: to assemble a massive virtual choir from  audition videos submitted to YouTube.  Generalising from the videos seen, a large number of mainly 15 to 25-year-olds from all over the world watched him conduct, listened to the music on their iPods, and sang to their webcam from the privacy of their bedrooms.

The competition was quite strong, aided no doubt by an offer of singing scholarships to the top performers.

The most resonant part of his talk for me was his description of hearing a choir singing Kyrie for the first time, after years of listening to pop music and aspiring to pop stardom.  He compared it to seeing in colour for the first time after a lifetime of living in black and white.

The two virtual choir projects underpin some seriously good choral composition, and Whitacre is definitely due credit for that, and for directing such a successful result.

I had a look for one of the winning soloists he mentioned, Melody Myers.  I found her on YouTube giving a rendition of White Christmas that clearly demonstrates she is a particularly accomplished singer.  Enjoy this, and seek out that.

Discovered 70s gems 5: Aretha Franklin - Call Me

Oh well, here's Aretha Franklin.  I sneaked her in only because I found it was released as a single in 1970.  Again, I never heard it until decades later.

I could argue that this is her best, but any way you look at it the performance itself is unarguably stellar, liquid gold.

Postscript: Calling Aretha the Queen of Soul can be a bit fraught: some of her performances are good, but they are not all outstanding.  But if you listen to the right ones, carefully enough, it is clear she is Queen.  Another recommendation is 1973's Angel.  Not as big as the follow-up (Until You Come Back To Me), I still heard it plenty at the time, but paid little attention.  But Angel is, however, yet another example of how Aretha can outshine them all.

Discovered 70s gems 4: 10CC, The Worst Band in the World

(Number four in an ongoing series on music I've discovered recently, but never heard when it was first released.)

I have been drastically remiss in my logging.  I missed Aretha and Michael Nesmith, but why not go to the worst band in the world: 10CC!

I remember it on the radio station's playlist at the time, but they never seemed to actually play it.  It was funny, and the fade was very radio-friendly - but was it just too cutting?

It's Godley and Creme, of course (well it wouldn't be Gouldman or Stewart, would it?).

Just the music track, no useful video.  You may need to listen a couple of time to catch all the humour.

Bad Company in a Wishing Well

I really can't say I have a lot of time for Free.  But they were the darlings of the (British) press for a time, so there you go.

I have little time for Bad Company either.  I remember more than I care to, including some  NZ band doing a cover of theirs: Feel Like Makin' Scones.

But I love the Free song Wishing Well, and when singer Paul Rogers does it in Bad Company, well it all comes back.  And you don't even have to like either band.