The Loneliness of the Modern Age?

I was listening tonight to the Virtual Choir.  An online performance of Eric Whitacre’s  “Sleep”  was released today which is a synchronization of 2052 videos from 50 plus countries of individual people singing.

Marcia Adair of the LA Times having watched last year’s project commented that “The point of the Virtual Choir is to bring people together, but for some, watching nearly 200 people sitting alone in their homes singing in the first Virtual choir video seemed to accentuate the loneliness of modern life.”

This loneliness of the internet age is something that increasingly resonates with me.  We can all be comforted by the number of Facebook friends we have and the increasing time we spend on typed dialogue.  However how often is the message misinterpreted because of a missed nuance that didn’t come across in the typing?  Are we really having a conversation or are we just talking to each other?

I have sung on several occasions at the Royal Albert Hall in London.  Singing with several thousand people in choirs from all over England is one of my treasured memories.  The power of that much volume as well as the positive human energy and camaraderie from singing Handel’s Messiah or Hayden’s Creation  in such a historic venue can never be experienced listening or singing on your own in front of a computer.

Similarly there is no substitute for seeing fine art up close, seeing the real colors and textures, or watching epic movies on the big screen elbow to elbow, or plays and dance on the stage.

However for those who are unlikely to have such these “real” experiences, what a wonderful opportunity these virtual replacements provide.   The Virtual Choir Facebook page provided the vehicle with which participants could support each other leaving tips and encouragement.  The internet also provided a real connection for the mayor of Minamisoma in Japan who last week sent a desperate plea for help on the internet, to save the people of his city who were still trying to recover from the earthquake and tsunami but were now facing starvation because they were trapped in their homes because of the radiation leaks which were also preventing shipments of food from arriving.

The internet is a wonderful new tool, providing ever new experiences and a chance to connect with people far away.  It’s also worth reminding ourselves that the traditional venues for arts are worth preserving and further developing, because despite all the new technology we are still a social animal.  We need to spend face to face time with family, friends and new acquaintances.  Even without talking, I felt a camaraderie with a fellow visitor who sat next to me at MOMA in front of Monet’s 40 foot “Water Lilies”.

My new motto is “Do something good with somebody today”.

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