25 Apr 2013
Music 2.0: Fast Operas and Virtual Choirs
Music today is deeply affected by infrastructures. Retailers and the music industry feel the heat of new competitors offering free (and paid) listening, such as Grooveshark, Jango, Pandora, Spotify, or Youtube. Endless litigation has been the result, but at the same time the music industry has had to come to terms with the new situation and tries to make the best of it. After all, there’s still a lot of money to be made. Though total revenue from the music industry worldwide has been declining for years, it has still been estimated at a respectable $16.5 billion for 2012. Digital sales in particular have been growing lately. For instance, by 6 February 2013 the iTunes Store alone had sold a mind-boggling 25 billion songs.
Music making equally changes at a rapid rate. Some of the more exciting projects embodying the transformation are the worldwide virtual choirs that Eric Whitacre has managed to get together (though with a distinct bias towards the wealthier parts of the world). His latest project, Water Night, went public in spring 2012 at a live event in the Lincoln Center, New York City. In 3746 videos from 73 countries sopranos, altos, tenors and basses sang the text of the translated poem Agua nocturna from Octavio Paz, the 1990 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The virtual choirs only began in May 2009, when Britlin Losee, a fan of Eric Whitacre’s music, posted a video of herself singing Sleep on Youtube. Whitacre subsequently called upon his fans to do the same. Impressed with the results, the composer initiated Lux Aurumque as his second virtual choir and currently you can sign up for the fourth project, Bliss.
There are interesting examples closer to home as well. Fast Opera Productions is a Dutch group of eight musicians from The Hague producing short, flashy operas at all kinds of locations. Their latest creation, The Pier of Scheveningen features the famous pier of The Hague’s seaside resort, which incidentally has gone bankrupt recently. A boy and his father go to the sea. The boy asks: “How large is the sea?” Not knowing what to say, the father lets the waves answer in his stead. Fast Opera Productions aims to deliver an opera a month on Youtube, arranging sponsoring through the crowd-funding website Voordekunst. Specifically dedicated to the cultural sector, the site allows artists to raise funds for any artistic project. Crowd-funding, though still somewhat small, is growing fast. It raised a total of 14 million euro in 2012 in the Netherlands alone. With novel ways of raising money, making music, and distributing it to audiences musicians are at the forefront of developments that are dramatically changing music cultures everywhere.