The Communion Of Virtual Saints
BY Simcha Fisher
| Posted 4/8/11 at 7:50 AM
The parody-proof silliness of Rebecca Black notwithstanding, I love YouTube. I don’t remember what life was like without it. Want your children to hear some authentic frontier gibberish? You got it. Got an urge to hear “Mary Had a Little Lamb” played upon a piece of broccoli? Presto.
It’s also an invaluable teaching aid. Sure, you can tell your kids, “Boy, those people in Jericho must have been scared. Imagine sitting inside your house, listening to the feet tramping as the Jews march around and around the city walls. You’ve heard that it’s an army led by God. And then they begin to blow their horns!”
But it’s oh so much better if you can dig up a video and say, “And THIS is what it sounded like”:
Yeah, I can see how the walls fell down. One of my kids asked, “Was God shouting, too?” I’m guessing yes.
Or maybe you are, like my sister, tackling an assignment to recite a poem in ASL (American Sign Language). You look to YouTube for some examples, and in “related videos,” you find this delightful recitation of “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth:
which, as my sister observed, is better than Wordsworth deserves. I dare you to watch this girl, aged 5, and not feel better about life.
And finally, here’s a video that I discovered via All Things Considered yesterday. American composer Eric Whitacre has assembled a “virtual choir” out of more than 2,000 individual singers from around the world.
He rounded up some singers, had them sing individually into webcams while listening to a piece of his on headphones, and had a technician cut the videos together. The experiment was so successful, Virtual Choir 1.0 was born; 185 singers from 12 different countries sang Whitacre’s “Lux Arumque.”
“My biggest hope,” Whitacre says, “was that we’d be able to find some actual musical gestures — rubato, with slowing and speeding up of the tempo and dynamics, where we’d get people to sing very soft and more full in different places. And it really worked.”
It sounds gimmicky, I know, but the result is lovely, very moving. Take a few minutes to watch:
The phrase “communion of saints” came into my head. Even as all the voices come together, there is a very poignant sense of separateness and longing. Seeing all those individual faces in their separate frames, you can’t forget that each voice is a person alone, sitting in front of a webcam, hearing nothing but himself—and yet someone with skill and love took these little bits from the darkness and made them into a unified song of great beauty. I couldn’t help thinking that this video is sort of like a shadowy prefiguring of what the Lord will do at the end of the world.
Here’s something heartening I read today on this blog: No act of love disappears from this world. What a beautiful world. What a beautiful century! And what a loving God, who gathers up our poor scattered voices and has promised to make them into something good.
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