Virtual Ensemble

Edited: March 14, 2021, 7:51 PM · My teacher has decided to take his ensemble virtual, who can say when we will be able to even meet in person for group practice, let alone perform? Hopefully that will be sooner than later, but we've already been on hiatus for a year. So we're trying the virtual world for now, he will put all of our videos together and we will see what happens. Our first set of pieces will be easy to allow all of us, and him, to get used to it.

Curious if anyone here is playing with a virtual ensemble and what you think of it? I see it as a way to move forward and to reach beyond the walls of my little practice a little room/home office, even if not yet physically.

Replies (7)

Edited: March 14, 2021, 9:43 PM · I'm now regularly a part of the Socially Distant Orchestra, which has done more and more ambitious projects as the pandemic has gone on. Also, my regular orchestra recorded two short virtual orchestra videos in the spring and summer of 2020.

Playing to a click track or recording is definitely not the same as playing in a regular ensemble -- not only because there's no real-time feedback but also because the dynamic balance feels a bit off even when there's a recording in your ear. It's also more anxiety-provoking than playing in a live ensemble, because it feels almost equivalent to playing solo. That said, it's a lot of fun in its own way, and you can do a lot with a virtual ensemble that you can't do live: Socially Distant Orchestra has produced videos with some really stunning visual effects, and I've had some friends comment that they like the SDO videos better than live concert performances or audio recordings because of that.

Edited: March 15, 2021, 4:12 PM · I've been in various virtual enesembles such as the Reddit Symphony Orchestra and the Socially Distant Orchestra. Both groups have grown and pushed themselves to tackle more and more ambitious rep as the pandemic went on. It's an interesting alternative to real ensemble playing but it's not the same as the real thing, of course. My actual orchestra attempted a virtual ensemble in spring 2020 and for me doing it with otherwise irl groups feels weird and less fun than doing it with people from around the globe. The only reason I enjoy it is because I get to play lots of cool and interesting literature and also in the case of the Reddit Symphony meet new people and chat and hang out on their chatboards. I've also run some of my own virtual ensembles too and it's quite involved for those who organize it and do the editing and mixing, which can take hours for a big orchestra project if you really want it to sound good.
March 15, 2021, 5:30 PM · How long before the orchestras realize that they can have far fewer members per section (in the case of the strings of course) and simulate the rest of the section for a virtual recording - and save the salaries? That makes me wonder if they will cotton on to doing the same thing for live performances - record the two desks and real-time use these to generate 6 more desks for the full orchestra sound.
March 15, 2021, 6:08 PM · That just seems..... weird... even in a virtual ensemble you would still want at least like 6x violin 1 etc.
Edited: March 15, 2021, 7:14 PM · Richard Strauss would still require full sections. I definitely recall a passage in Don Quixote with the violas split into no fewer than 10 lines -- effectively almost the entire viola section of a full-size symphony orchestra playing separate solo lines. I think I may have seen a Richard Strauss score (I don't remember which piece) with first violins divisi a 14.
March 15, 2021, 7:22 PM · Oh my goodness.....
March 15, 2021, 8:19 PM · Elise, that's already routinely done by Hollywood studio orchestras. It's the way that Hans Zimmer scores have been recorded for years, notably.

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