There’s nothing like a jaunt in a time machine to kick off the weekend right.
No, Doc Brown didn’t park the DeLorean in my driveway. The TARDIS from Doctor Who hasn’t made a pit stop on the Front Range. And while I’d have to clean out the basement to be sure, I’m reasonably confident that there’s no Victorian wonder-machine of gears and wheels waiting in the furnace room courtesy of H.G. Wells.
No worries. I’ve got something better yet.
It’s called Virtuosity.
Helplessly hoping, her harlequin hovers
Nearby, awaiting a word …
Virtuosity, as the name might suggest, is a virtual choir, an online singing group organized by Stephen Ross of the Face Vocal Band. Like many others of its kind, it’s a pandemic creation, born from people who shared two common qualities:
- They really wanted to sing together for fun.
- They really didn’t want to share a virus-laden airflow.
The result is a musical Rube Goldberg machine, with a lot of moving parts adding up to a surprising result. You basically learn the song (with some online coaching), practice, record yourself at home 37 bazillion times until you’re no longer disgusted with your own performance, send the video to the director and then wait while he merges everybody’s video into one coherent and even compelling performance.
It should never work. But it does … brilliantly.
The main trick – well, besides learning to be kind to yourself as you work out the kinks – is that there can be quite a delay between preparation and performance. But even that’s more of a feature than a bug. It means that when you cue up the latest song – in this case, a cover of “Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills and Nash – you’re not just hearing music. You’re hearing memories.
That’s where the time machine comes in.
On Friday, it took me back to the March blizzard that overlapped our recording dates. For many of us, that added up to a lot of extra takes, thanks to the sudden roar of snow blowers in the background or the THUMP of drifts sliding off the roof and onto the soundtrack.
Months from now, it’ll probably take me back even farther – not just to piled-up snowstorms, but to the pandemic itself and the weirdness of trying to live apart from the world while being a part of it at the same time.
It’s a memory brought back to life. And that’s powerful.
I know, I know. Most of us feel like we don’t especially want to remember these times. We’ve shredded the 2020 calendar, buried the mask in the just-in-case back pocket, and set about trying to look forward instead of back. I sympathize, I really do.
Some memories are painful. Or uncomfortable. Or even toxic. Every day, we see headlines generated by memories that are years or even centuries old, pain left unredressed, wounds that never found a chance of healing.
But memory can build, too. It can teach, strengthen, reassure. It’s the sudden laugh that lightens the darkness, the glimpse of hope in the midst of insanity. It’s the reminder that “Yes, we’ve made it through before and we can again.”
When those memories are wrapped in an experience – a song, a story, a journey of the mind or the body – they endure. And when it’s a shared experience … well, that’s the sort of memory that builds communities up instead of tears them down.
I hope we all find some memories worth keeping from this. Maybe even worth learning from.
You could even call it note-worthy.