Great Performances - Eric Whitacre and his Virtual Choir

I found out about this recording on Facebook. Eric Whitacre is a composer, lecturer and conductor. The virtual choir concept came to be when  fan of his uploaded and shared a Youtube video of her singing one of his compositions. That snowballed into a worldwide virtual choir. People from around the world auditioned by submitting their Youtube performance of their part, recorded while following the audio track and video of Whitacre conducting. One person came forward to clean up the audio and put the 2000+ videos together. The result is astounding. Magical. This one is called "Sleep": Check out Whitacre's Youtube Channel. Also, here is his introduction of the process:

Now, what I want to know is when Virtual Choir 3.0 is being put together.  (c) 2011 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Improv by Eric Lewis Sparks Memories & Inspiration

I still remember the first time at university when classmate Lael Johnston performed a piece for prepared piano by John Cage at one Studio Master Class. All the piano students were shocked that bits of rubber, nuts and bolts, felt and more were wedged into the strings of a 9-foot Steinway concert grand. Lael assured us that no parts of the piano were permanently damaged. The fascinating thing was that the Steinway sounded exactly like an Indonesian gamelan.

This clip below of jazz pianist Eric Lewis brought all those memories back. Eric doesn't use rubber, nuts or bolts, but his hand technique on the piano strings is pretty impressive and creative. Around the 6'30" mark, he has a very funky groove.

It gives me ideas of things to do with any students who are easily bored or need something exciting to re-energize their playing. However, like Lael, I'll have to assure my students' parents that no piano parts should be permanently damaged in the process of unleashing their child's creativity.

Here's the clip:

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.


Recreating Great Performances with Technology

There is something special about listening to a live performance. There's the energy in the room, the element of unpredictability and the uniqueness of the performance conditions - time, place, humidity, environment, audience and performer - that can never be replicated. Now with technology, it is possible to replicate at least one aspect of a performance - how it was performed. John Walker from Sony demonstrates, using a Yamaha Disklavier, how they took performances by Glenn Gould and Art Tatum, converted the recording into raw data that can be played back. In this clip, you get to see the piano play part of Bach's Goldberg Variations as Gould did in one of his recording sessions.

They even show photos of the recording process, enabling you to listen to the music as if you were the one sitting on the piano bench, as opposed to 20 or so feet away in the audience. Believe me, it is a different experience.

Although you can never replicate all aspects of a performance, it's still pretty interesting to watch the piano show you how Gould and Tatum touched the keys, the pedal.

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.