Creativity, the Power of Community, and Virtual Choirs

I just came across this great TED talk, even though it is over five years old (the video of the talk is embedded below).

Here is the description of the video:

In a moving and madly viral video last year, composer Eric Whitacre led a virtual choir of singers from around the world. He talks through the creative challenges of making music powered by YouTube, and unveils the first 2 minutes of his new work, “Sleep,” with a video choir of 2,052. The full piece premiered a few weeks later (yes, on YouTube!).

I loved Whitacre’s description of the life-changing experience he had on his first day at choir practice in college:

“… I sat down with the basses and sort of looked over my shoulder to see what they were doing. They opened their scores, the conductor gave the downbeat, and boom, they launched into the Kyrie from the “Requiem” by Mozart. In my entire life I had seen in black and white, and suddenly everything was in shocking Technicolor. The most transformative experience I’ve ever had — in that single moment, hearing dissonance and harmony and people singing, people together, the shared vision. And I felt for the first time in my life that I was part of something bigger than myself.

Today, Whitacre is a Grammy-winning composer and conductor and one of the most popular musicians of his generation. His concert music has been performed throughout the world by millions of amateur and professional musicians alike, while his ground-breaking Virtual Choirs have united singers from over 110 different countries. (from his web site)

(Full disclosure – Despite his fame, I had never heard of Whitacre until coming across this TED talk.)

The focus of his TED talk is on the previously mentioned Virtual Choirs, in which Whitacre asked singers from around the world to post a video to Youtube singing one of his songs. Whitacre, with some assistance, then combined all of these videos into one virtual choir. The effect is simply stunning, and I highly recommend you watch his video, shown below.

To me the talk and the video are a celebration of the power of creativity and the power of the Internet to bring people from around the world together for the common good, in this case, making beautiful music.

I remember the first time I used Microsoft’s NetMeeting in the late 1990’s to make a random phone call to a family in Mexico from the computer in my office at Villanova. We were both excited to get the technology working, and went on to have a brief conversation. From that point on I’ve always felt that the true power of the Internet was its communication capabilities, the ability to connect people all over the world.

Whitacre’s Virtual Choir is an amazing affirmation of what is possible when a person of extraordinary talent and creativity unleashes the power of the Internet.

Without further ado, here is the TED talk; I can’t recommend it highly enough. I hope you enjoy it.

And following the TED video is the full video of the new Virtual Choir song that he references at the end of his talk.

Thank you Eric Whitacre for sharing your gift with the world.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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