Earlier this evening, the launch event for Eric Whitacre‘s Virtual Choir 3, ‘Water Night‘, occurred at New York City‘s Lincoln Center. All in all, 2,945 people in 73 different countries, including war-torn Syria, provided 3,746 videos to the project. It is truly a world-wide choir.
So, here we have people from all over the world singing together. What I find particularly thought-provoking is the fact that Eric, unlike many contemporary composers, creates polyphony, which Wikipedia describes as:
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice (monophony) or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords (homophony).
While traditionally from the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, polyphony really is the beautiful intertwining of different, independent melodies and voices–a style one cannot really call “common” today. I remember my first introduction to this type of music many years ago. It was a CD I bought unheard from one of those CD clubs that were always sending out circulars to tempt one with unbelievable deals. Needless to say, I have many CDs in my collection from that time period. But, I will say that one of the benefits was that I discovered a lot of new music, including Utopia Triumphans.
Its cover features a city that one from Renaissance would have considered to be the height of progress and enlightenment, a triumph of utopian society, though we today might see it as being slightly archaic. How perceptions change.
And then there is the music, ranging from the comparatively simple six-part Laudate Dominum to the forty-part Ecce beatam lucem. Granted, all of Eric’s pieces may not be as complex as that (Virtual Choir 3 only has four parts), but I love the feeling of it nonetheless. Each voice, individual and unique, singing their part, adding to the whole, and producing a beautiful harmony, as opposed to the cacophony one would expect of such an approach. That’s really a apt description of both humanity and nature. They are made up of individual strands, each different and unique, each adding to the tapestry and each necessary. The loss of any one diminishes the whole.
As discussed in an earlier article, the Virtual Choir is a group of individuals alone, but together. Remember:
There are no scraps of men.
~ Alberto Cairo