Songs for an invisible choir
May 10, 2021 5:03 PM   Subscribe

For an event, I'm going to build a whisper dish and have a distant choir be strangely audible at a single spot. Help me choose a song for the choir to sing.

I'm going to be part of an outdoor jubilee/art event — think of a rural Burning Man, with Li'l Abner overtones. I'm making a whisper disc, which is a setup with two giant parabolic reflectors so someone's very quiet voice from far away can be clearly audible at the focal point of the reflector. See here for an example.

The name of this little attraction is The Choir Invisible. You stand on the spot and, from nowhere, hear people singing (the other disc will be faraway and camouflaged).

Okay, that out of the way, I'm curious about folk/gospel/hokum/etc. songs about The Great Beyond, or being far away, or anything else that an invisible choir would be singing about. I'm wide open to suggestions. Puns are welcome.

Because of the format and theme of the event, it must be roughly old-timey music, so please no pop/contemporary songs no matter how juicily apt they may be. Thanks.
posted by argybarg to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How Can I Keep From Singing
(apt lyrics:
My life flows on in endless song, above Earth's lamentation
I hear the real though far-off hymn that hails a new creation
Through all the tumult and the strife I hear that music ringing
It sounds an echo in my soul, how can I keep from singing?
posted by Daily Alice at 5:15 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if this is punny or hokey enough, but Anonymous 4 did an album called American Angels. For the invisible choir, I think "Sweet By and By" or "Angel Band" might suit?
posted by Lycaste at 5:20 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

"I'll Fly Away"
"Wayfaring Stranger"
posted by daisystomper at 5:52 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Storms Are on the Ocean (link is to Carter Family version)

I Am a Pilgrim (link is to Byrds version)

... but first I'd ask the choir what they love to sing & is ethereal.
posted by miles per flower at 5:54 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Iris Dement, Let the Mystery Be
Jeff Buckley, Song to the Siren
posted by effluvia at 7:00 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

For the folky angle: Someday We'll Linger in the Sun

Something ethereal that would be a delight to encounter from the heavens at any point in the song: in Time of

O Magnum Mysterium?

If an invisible choir sang Call Me Maybe and I could only hear it in a certain spot, that would be hilarious.

Make sure to update after the event, I would love to hear more about it!
posted by snerson at 7:10 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

O Death has many amazing haunting versions. But if you’re going for a zany surprise, you could segue the Pilgrim’s Chorus into “Never Gonna Let You Down.” #rickwagnerrolled
posted by farkleberry at 7:26 PM on May 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think The Sound of Silence is like...mandatory?
posted by itsamermaid at 9:13 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Up above my head, I Hear Music in the Air. Might be too difficult but I don't know how to judge that.
posted by jamjam at 11:08 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Idumea seems spot on.
And am I born to die?
To lay this body down!
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown?

A land of deepest shade,
Unpierced by human thought;
The dreary regions of the dead,
Where all things are forgot!

Soon as from earth I go,
What will become of me?
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my portion be!

Waked by the trumpet sound,
I from my grave shall rise;
And see the Judge with glory crowned,
And see the flaming skies!
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:10 PM on May 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

You didn't say whether it would be an actual choir singing at one dish or a recording, so I thought I should mention that a whisper dish works best when the sound is originating from a single point at the focus of the parabola. A choir of even 3 people would be too big to work well. Perhaps you already know this. I would recommend having the choir record whatever song you want to be performed and putting the speaker at the focus point.
posted by Don_K at 7:44 AM on May 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Don_K: Live singing, still working on that. We may sing through cardboard tubes to direct sound onto the focal point.
posted by argybarg at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2021

Response by poster: Oh man, so many of these picks are uncannily right, but the uncanniliest rightest has to be "Up Above My Head," a/k/a "I hear music in the air." Thanks so much to everyone. I'll come back and maybe share some documentation in a month or so.
posted by argybarg at 10:12 AM on May 11, 2021

Consider latencies! Having trouble googling this because the results are swamped with info about zoom singing, but singing unamplified in large cathedrals we would sometimes either have a monitor or be conducted ahead of the beat so that it would all reach the audience at the same time.

Honestly the zoom discussions about choirs may be helpful - you lose a lot of the cues for group singing in both scenarios. Choosing a piece that is less rhythm based, or that doesn't suffer too much dragging if your singers slow down, may be a good idea.
posted by heyforfour at 12:22 PM on May 11, 2021

Consider latencies

If I understand correctly, all the singers will be near one of the dishes and the (potentially unaware) audience near the other; latency should therefore not be an issue.
posted by flabdablet at 12:31 PM on May 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

« Older I did everything wrong :( Help me hack into my own...   |   How long should an employer keep an employee... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.