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Five New and Unusual Crowdsourced Projects in Classical Music

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From music libraries to actual compositions, anyone can contribute to a part of the classical music world these days. In recent years, crowdsourcing has been a means of creating ensembles, symphonies and collections of scores. We’ve listed our favorite projects, a few of which are still accepting submissions.

1. A Composer Gathers City Sounds

The visionary composer and director of MIT Media Lab’s Opera of the Future group, Tod Machover has created Robot Operas and software to help people who can or can’t read music compose. Lately, Machover has been experimenting with the power of social media. In a piece commissioned by the Toronto Symphony and named A Toronto Symphony, Machover sourced sounds that volunteers collected from the city’s urban landscape and incorporated them into the score: “a dialogue between the real city and the musical city,” Machover says. He’ll premiere a similar type of piece in Edinburgh for its Festival City in late August.


2. Eric Whitacre Prepares Another Virtual Choir

For his ethereal choral works, composer Eric Whitacre creates a virtual choir patched together through hundreds of video submissions uploaded to his website. At the moment, he’s assembling his fourth digital ensemble to perform his work, Bliss—submissions are due by June 10—which is part of his musical Paradise Lost. Since launching the first virtual choir in 2009, Whitacre has received approximately 4,000 entries from 67 countries. A propos, Whitacre has also launched a virtual tutorial on his site to teach singers their parts.


3. An Opera from the Internet

In 2010, the Savonlinna Opera Festival, staged in one of the world’s most scenic locations, launched the project Opera By You, allowing all denizens of the Internet to contribute to a brand new opera. Titled Free Will, the piece was comprised of 400 individual submissions, which together told the story of three geniuses—Mozart, Oscar Wilde, and Joan of Arc—in a fight against Lucifer. Tasks for the creation of the work were doled out using the site for everything from plot development to make up design.


4. John Adams asks for Found Sounds

When John Adams wrote his hymn-like Christian Zeal and Activity, he instructed its performers to insert found sound into the piece. In the premiere, Adams used a recording of a sermon; other found sound bites have included previous recordings of the same Adams piece. When the always-inventive ensemble, the Knights, played the work, they opened the found sound portion to the public. Anyone could contribute a bite on Indaba Music. The result was performed in The Green Space in April 2012.


5. A Free Trove of Music Scores

Perhaps the most successful and broadest crowd-sourced project in classical music is the International Music Score Library Project, an online repository that claims to have than 240,000 scores of approximately 68,000 works, and counting. The open-source Website, which initially ran afoul of copyright laws -- and still worries traditional publishers -- has been operating more or less in the clear since 2007. Anyone can upload a score, provided contributors vouch that they are clearly in line with international copyright laws.