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RARB/CASA Forums • View topic - The Harmonics: "Escape Velocity"

The Harmonics: "Escape Velocity"

All things Recorded A Cappella Review Board.

Postby colton » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:51 am

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Re: The Harmonics: "Escape Velocity"

Postby colton » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:53 am

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Postby Mnemosyne » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:35 am

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Postby ThunderCurl » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:54 am

I think there's a lot to be said for terminology today, which the Harmonics have addressed, and very accurately.

I find myself agreeing with both parties, because good music is good music, no matter what's going on, but computer's effects do alter what came out of the person's mouth. T-Pain is T-Pain because of the effect, not because he's an awesome singer. So would I call him an awesome singer? No, but I would call him an awesome musical artist.

A cappella. Vocal band. Very different.
Barbershop a cappella. Contemporary a cappella. Contemporary a cappella post 1990. Also very different.

I think the Harmonics are a great vocal band. Is it "a cappella"? I might say...less so. But awesome rock music that comes out of their mouths, yes.

Bill and other producers have the job to make awesome music to the specs of the groups paying them. And it's the group who decides who they are.

Every time someone pushes a genre forward, if we call it by the name it used to be called by, we get confused. So, by Bill's chronology of popular music, it is not all Rock 'n Roll, but it is all music. And we needed new names to put on the different styles. Rock 'n Roll really derived from the Blues, with specific chord progressions and instrumentations. Awesome music prevails, but usually we give it different names so we can separate out rules for different genres.

For a cappella, or singing sans instruments, we are constantly innovating. Some are trying to keep up, and some want to stay where it's been. Both are fine, but maybe we should use names (like vocal band, vocal rock, rock a cappella) to not offend anyone else. I wouldn't call Nirvana "Rock 'n Roll" if I was talking to Elvis, but I would say it's good music, and it's part of an evolving artform, where all parts of the chain are important.
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Re: The Harmonics: "Escape Velocity"

Postby seth » Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:19 am

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Re: The Harmonics: "Escape Velocity"

Postby colton » Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:49 am

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Re: The Harmonics: "Escape Velocity"

Postby billhare » Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:38 pm

Bill Hare Some dude who records and mixes people who can't play instruments.

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Re: The Harmonics: "Escape Velocity"

Postby colton » Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:18 pm

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Re: The Harmonics: "Escape Velocity"

Postby billhare » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:01 pm

Bill Hare Some dude who records and mixes people who can't play instruments.

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Postby Ed Boyer » Wed Aug 26, 2009 4:09 am

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Postby soundslikedrums » Wed Aug 26, 2009 9:05 am

I feel like the biggest problem with what we're trying to accomplish with this discussion - every time we have it - is that it seems as though a lot of us are trying to define what "a cappella" means as a genre. It isn't a genre. It's an orchestration. As a courier of denotation, "a cappella" isn't the equivalent of "country" or "pop" or "zydeco". It's the equivalent of "17-piece big band" or "string quartet".

Take jazz music. Jazz is a genre. Sometimes it's done by the aforementioned big band. Sometimes it's done by a piano trio. And sometimes it's just Ornette by himself. It's all jazz.

Come at it from the other direction and start with the taxonomy. We don't group solo piano music by Hindemith alongside solo piano music by Ahmad Jamal. The Hindemith piano work goes with the Berg quartets; Ahmad goes with Neal Hefti. Why? Because we classify music not by orchestration but by genre. 20th-century classical idiom with 20th-century classical idiom; jazz with jazz.

So it ought to be here. This thing of ours - questa Cosa Nostra, if you will; certainly there are those among us loath to violate the Old Ways - isn't a genre unto itself, much as we might like to believe that it belongs in its own category at Borders with a little placard like the R&B section. But it's really just a choice about which "instruments" to use. Fork makes rock music, and they are therefore a rock group. We don't call Metallica a guitar-bass-and-drums group. The music we're all here to celebrate and promote (and occasionally poke with sharp sticks) transcends genre. That's one reason why a lot of us like it.

So where in Borders does one file the typical collegiate a cappella album, which (OTB aside) is likely to contain a variety of genres? Wherever people will find it. College a cappella groups aren't the first to have trouble fitting tidily into one genre or another. Heck, where do you put Take 6 - R&B, jazz, or gospel? Certainly not A Cappella, were there such a section, or you'll have half their albums in one section and half in another. (And a couple more under Holiday.) That's just the risk we take when we elect the world's most flexible orchestration. Not everything needs a label. The good stuff is there to be enjoyed, the bad stuff to be learned from, and the mediocre stuff to be showcased on prime time television. (Edit: That's not a swipe at, e.g., Mosaic. It's a swipe at the countless mediocrities who inexplicably make it through round after round of these shows while real talents - again, e.g. Mosaic - are shut out.) Does it stop being a cappella when it's run through a million PT plugins? Only if you're willing to say the same thing about a guitar. And I don't think too many people are taking that road.

(Ed: "beats me" and "emphatically yes", respectively.)

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Postby phollens » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:25 pm

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Postby soundslikedrums » Thu Aug 27, 2009 1:02 pm

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Postby ceegers » Thu Aug 27, 2009 2:39 pm

C.J. Smith Hempfield HS R# founder/director 03-05 U. of Hartford Hawkapella 05-09 Currently doing many musical things that do not include a cappella groups :-( :-(

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Postby mrmiller » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:40 pm

colton: Do you consider Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" a cappella? Technically she only sang a handful of vocal lines and the rest were obtained through pitch shifting (not vocoding, for reference).

What about all those sweet Beach Boys harmonies where they doubled every vocal? You can't do that live unless you clone yourself. And most of Pet Sounds was never performed live because it was too complicated, instrumentally even. Does that make it cheating for everyone involved? It's a widely acknowledged masterpiece of pop music--and was never performed live until a few years ago.

When it comes down to it, I don't think the distinction has anything to do with what you can do live and what you can't. I think Charlie's point regarding what's a cappella is spot on (joining the proverbial chorus here). At a certain point I think worrying about these minutiae of what's a cappella and what is not is just going to drive people nuts though.

People have been experimenting for years with ways to make their instruments not sound like their instruments through other means (guitar -> electric guitar, amps, mic placement, pedals, weird playing styles). Why can't singers do the same? Recordings for the past 50 years (with the exception of classical, jazz, live recordings and a handful of others) have not about capturing the live experience but creating something grander than that and more permanent.

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