The House Jacks do our fair share of workshops, and during the question and answer period, we're invariably asked:
"With you guys living in 5 different cities (San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and New York), how do you ever rehearse?"
My answer is usually "We don't!" but the truth is that we usually pack a rehearsal in when we can (between shows on a road trip, before or after a multi-day gig in a city, etc).
However, those days are perhaps numbered.
First of all, video chat sessions have become more reliable and immediate. Choppy little camera shots have become blurry camera feeds, and long lag times have shortened. The audio quality is still a concern, but bandwidth is growing and technology is improving. I'm guessing that a decade from now people will be able to hold an acceptable rehearsal via the internet.
But what if you want to rehearse when your bandmates are busy? Imagine if you could crack open a sheet music file on your computer, and have all of the other parts properly "sung" by the CPU? The technology is not far away, thanks to "virtual singer:" http://www.myriad-online.com/en/products/virtualsinger.htm
This is even more exciting to me, as an arranger and publisher. Granted, the last version update was in 2006, but there will come a day when you can hear your arrangement sung during playback on Finale or Sibelius, and composers who are writing choral music will be able to hear their work in progress.
None of this is to say that technology will be able to take the place of another singer. Or will it? Live looping is all the rage now... can you imagine a solo artist on stage with some well programmed robots that are able to take cues from him (his voice, perhaps hand gestures) and translate those into commands that have them mirroring his vowels and melodies to spontaneously create intricate harmonies? I have little doubt I'll see something like this during my lifetime.
I look forward to the debates within our community ("It's not a cappella!"), just as today's recording techniques (e.g. Auto-tune) has sparked many a late night discussion.
And, I'm sure, these are only a couple of ways in which technology will effect a cappella. Perhaps the next generation will carry a handheld tablet with them everywhere, and download any music they'd like with a click. And computers will be able to transcribe the latest song on the radio in real time, and then you use an a cappella arranging plugin to transform that into something singable for your quintet (after entering each person's vocal range, who you'd like to have sing the solo, etc.)
Luckily, it's all conjecture. I still have a job. For now.