Friday, July 12, 2013

Virtual Choir and the nature of collaboration in a digital age

Maybe it's because I'm a choir geek. Maybe because I just love Eric Whitacre's complex, rich chordal structures and the beautiful way he treats the human voice. Maybe I'm just a romantic, who still believes inside a slightly cynical shell that its mushy stuff like this that really changes the world. Maybe because I'm a mediamutt: polyglot in my consumption and choice of media channels and consumption patterns.

But I look at the Virtual Choir (latest incarnation: Virtual Choir 4) and think: this is the very nature of what collaboration means in an interconnected digital world. Unlike some who originally saw the first Virtual Choir as atomistic and overly cold (despite the heavy use of reverb to bring the hundreds of videos together), I thought of it as a fantastic experiment in using the social media and social technologies -- including webcams, video sharing, off-the-shelf video editing software, YouTube, blogs, etc. -- to take a new spin on such an ancient art form.

Whether its in our personal lives, where we spend increasing amounts of time connecting with friends and family digitally rather than in person, or whether it's the same at work, the nature of collaboration is EXPANDING, I think, rather than contracting. I know there are real concerns about over-emphasis on tech to the detriment of deep human connections. But tell that to the THOUSANDS of singers who spent dozens of hours preparing, then recording, then submitting their videos for these virtual choirs.

Clearly something deep has been touched here. Touched in me -- despite my reluctance to actually submit myself. Touched in Eric, who took a shy girl's video and created something beautiful from it. Touched in every singer who still believes (like me) that beauty really can change the way we live, work, and share with one another.

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