I’m not sure, but maybe, just maybe, the world is getting a good taste of music without instruments.
A cappella music can be good. When it’s done right, anyway.
My speakers have often been filled with music by the group Acappella. The group found their stride almost twenty years ago, with four singers bringing a variety of musical genres, and the music was good. The group, in that incarnation, was racially diverse, and created a sound that, in their later incarnations, was, and is, difficult to reproduce. One singer brought solid, vocal technique, and that combined with another who brought pure, gutteral, gospel sounds, along with another who had a soft, smooth, rhythm and blues sound, and the final singer who brought a slick rock voice … when those four voices and styles combined, the sound was amazing. The music those four guys recorded is still some of my favorite, and still relevant, and still pretty good listening.
My musical tastes have gravitated to other areas, but I am stil moved by tight harmonies and their ability to evoke powerful emotions. Contemporary musical groups such as Rockapella and Take 6 and Naturally 7 all have showcased vocalists with intriguing and invigorating vocal arrangements, and have found ways to incorporate instrumental sounds into their music.
A recent article on a cappella music, then, captured my attention a bit. Though the article is a fairly difficult-to-read book review, one statement jumped from the page:
For me, and for most of the former singers I know, a cappella offered fellowship.
The author of the piece, Nina Sten Rastogi, is dissecting the book Pitch Perfect, and, by doing so, she tries to address what the attraction is to a cappella singing, and she brings considerable statistics to her argument, citing that there are some 18,000 singers in college a cappella groups in America.
And it seems, to her anyway, that fellowship is that attraction. A cappella singing brings people together, in a very unique and cooperative community.
Here is the final paragraph of her article:
And while no one would ever claim that a cappella approaches high art … there are pleasures to be found in the music itself. If you’ve ever sung around a campfire or joined a … round of Livin’ on a Prayer, you know what I’m talking about: Singing with other people is fun, even if you’re not very good. What many people don’t realize is that, for singers, there’s an extra, physical dimension to that pleasure. Belting out a clean high C is like shooting a slam-dunk or executing a crisp pirouette — there’s an exhilaration that comes from feeling your body reach its limits. Singing with a group — especially if you’re lucky enough to have some true musicians in the mix, as I was — is as gratifying as playing on a sports team. Plus, there’s always the thrill of stepping out in public and having lots of people look at you. It never gets old.
Singing without instruments means a reliance on the tones and harmonies of the voices, and that means taking leads and cues from those with whom you are singing. You can sing to a band, or with one, and I’ve done both, and, in a sense, there is something magical when musicans, good musicians, make great music together. But there is something altogether different when the music is made with just a few voices.
It’s fellowship. And I tend to think she’s right.