"Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A CAPPELLA Glo

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Do you think Mickey Rapkin does a good job of portraying the a cappella world in his book, "Pitch Perfect"?

Yes
15
56%
No
12
44%
 
Total votes : 27

Postby jazzydanziger » Sun Jun 01, 2008 1:53 pm

My book won't be here until Tuesday. I was thinking of recommending that it be "required reading" for new members of After Dark, but if it's less-than-accurate and just more of a fun (if, at times, somewhat slanderous) read, we'll see. Either way, I'm looking forward to reading it.

Bill, Don, Deke, Ed, Dave -- who would play you in the movie?

And what bad things were said about Jonathan Minkoff?
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Postby davecharliebrown » Sun Jun 01, 2008 6:55 pm

jazzydanziger wrote:Bill, Don, Deke, Ed, Dave -- who would play you in the movie?

I'd like to think it would be Toby Maguire or Shia LeBeouf or one of those cool nerds.

But probably it would be Jim Gaffigan. So pale.
--Dave Brown

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then: CASA president, CASAcademy director, CASA Bd of Directors | BYU Vocal Point | Noteworthy co-foun
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Postby billhare » Sun Jun 01, 2008 7:26 pm

jazzydanziger wrote:Bill, Don, Deke, Ed, Dave -- who would play you in the movie?


I already said in another post that it would probably be John Goodman or something, but since then I've seen "Speed Racer" (I grew up in the '60s/'70s, so I had to) and he's pretty badass in that, so I don't feel as bad about it.

About the book itself, I'm still kind of in a daze about the whole thing - it's just surreal to read about yourself and your friends in a publicly released book that people can just buy off the shelf, but on the other hand I know that for a book to be interesting to anyone outside the actual story itself, there has to be drama, conflict, pain, resolution, etc - so for that aspect I really can't fault Mickey.

Granted, I come through the pages pretty much unscathed; I don't know how I would feel being some of the other "characters" in this book - most of whom are good friends of mine!

-B

Bill Hare Some dude who records and mixes people who can't play instruments. http://www.dyz.com

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Postby borski » Sun Jun 01, 2008 10:44 pm

Ah, aca-drama. Just what the world needs more of. I wonder how many people are going to come to RARB as a result of reading about it in the book?
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More thoughts

Postby dgooding » Mon Jun 02, 2008 7:33 am

I haven't finished the book, but read a bunch more yesterday.

Mickey is a good writer - the book reads well. And I think that overall it will be good for college a cappella. ANY press ends up being good.

But I think one of his central issues - is a cappella cool or not? - is not handled particularly well. Mickey seems to be ambivalent about this question, as there are some certified cool people who want to hide their aca past. And yet he writes frequently about girls falling all over guy a cappella singers; is that not one definition of cool? I suspect it's because Mickey hasn't come to terms with his own aca-past. The rumor I heard (and I hope Mickey will clarify this for me) is that he was thrice turned down before making it into a group. That might be enough to churn up some cognitive dissonance.

My own perception of this issue is that a cappella can be cool, but it can sometimes be terribly uncool. Just like it can be an amazing experience to watch, but sometimes unbearably painful. And it can be wonderfully uplifting to participate in, or traumatically offputting. The general trend is that a cappella is becoming cooler, more amazing and more uplifting - but it's still easy to find counter-examples. Overall, just like with a lot of other things, the good far outweighs the bad. But maybe that's Mickey's conclusion and I haven't come to it yet...

Don "Versus" Gooding
Executive Director
AC100 - The A Cappella Centennial Celebration
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Re: More thoughts

Postby RnBMrE » Mon Jun 02, 2008 7:47 am

acafella58 wrote:My own perception of this issue is that a cappella can be cool, but it can sometimes be terribly uncool. Just like it can be an amazing experience to watch, but sometimes unbearably painful. And it can be wonderfully uplifting to participate in, or traumatically offputting. The general trend is that a cappella is becoming cooler, more amazing and more uplifting - but it's still easy to find counter-examples. Overall, just like with a lot of other things, the good far outweighs the bad. But maybe that's Mickey's conclusion and I haven't come to it yet...


I haven't gotten the book yet (I will this week!), but I certainly agree with everything Don has said here. There are just too many (even recent) examples of a cappella still being terribad and worthy of serious palm-facing for us to be "in the clear" as far as coolness goes. That said, having seen Naturally 7 and Fork at last year's SoJamn and observing the success and positive reception of Kid Beyond, I hope and believe that our "genre" is certainly raising eyebrows and changing perceptions in the public eye.

acafella58 wrote:The rumor I heard (and I hope Mickey will clarify this for me) is that he was thrice turned down before making it into a group.


Hey, speaking of... where's Jer been lately?

Matt Emery CASA Director of Communications Three-time Recipient of RARB "Post of the Year" Title

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Postby maykish » Mon Jun 02, 2008 8:32 am

Does a cappella need to be cool?
If a cappella remained in its current state of quasi-dorkdom would we enjoy performing, listening to, or talking about it any less?
Yes, singing in an a cappella group can get you laid, but so can the ability to dunk a basketball, or a really badass Storm Trooper costume.

Let's enjoy our collective fifteen minutes of fame, hopefully we will attract some new fans to our little genre.
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Postby Nick Lyons » Mon Jun 02, 2008 12:58 pm

Maykish wrote:Yes, singing in an a cappella group can get you laid, but so can the ability to dunk a basketball, or a really badass Storm Trooper costume.


Dammit, Mike. What happened to the Star Wars role-playing thing being "... a secret amongst friends."?

Damn you, Mike Maykish. Damn you, George Lucas! ::shakes hands at sky::

Dunking a basketball has never gotten me laid...
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Postby maykish » Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:10 pm

The Beastmaster wrote:
Dunking a basketball has never gotten me laid...


Maybe it hasn't worked for you, but it didn't stop Kobe Bryant ;-)
too soon?
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More slander from Mickey

Postby dgooding » Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:55 pm

Ugh. I just reread the notorious Chapter 12, in the context of having read the rest of the book up to that point. And I'm so damn mad I have to vent here, and reveal some things I don't normally talk about.

Mickey insinuates that I tried to take over Primarily A Cappella because John Neal had finally started to make it profitable.

"In 1997 he [me] quit the firm entirely and turned his attentions to Primarily A Cappella, which Neal had taken good care of in his stead. In fact, Primarily A Cappella was just starting to make money. You can see where this is going."

In other words, Mickey insinuates that I was trying to take the business just after the brilliant John Neal had nursed it back to health. This is utter horseshit, swallowed whole as John Neal fed it to Mickey.

Earlier today I reread the memo I sent to John Neal in early 1998 when I proposed that we swap the Records business for the catalog. I give it to you below as I found it in the original Word file, as counterpoint to Mickey's slanderous insinuation.

As background to this GENUINE document, John Neal had 60% of "the business," I had 40%. I hadn't signed a formal contract with him - my bad. I had been sending boatloads of money his way, even going so far as to put a $115,000 downpayment on a house he lived in and used as his office (through what's called a "Tenants In Common" agreement). I also held the mortgage to 13 Sheila Court, where John and his family live today.

In January 1998, John was on holiday at his sister's in New Zealand. On January 2, I got a call from Nette Worthe, working in the Primarily A Cappella office in California, to my home in Maine. She tells me the phone is about to be shut down because John hasn't paid the $2,000 bill. So I wire a $5,000 loan to the company bank account to cover that bill and some others she's not sure about.

John Neal eventually returns from vacation, and reassures me that I can get paid back the $5,000. Just not right then. More requests, more slithering out of repayment. After two months of promises, still no money. I get increasingly agitated - this is a business that has been consuming copious amounts of my cash. John Neal was getting bonuses, he was getting the Harmony Sweepstakes income (not declared to the IRS), and living in a house I bought for him. It most definitely was NOT profitable and showed no signs of being profitable - except for John, of course.

Something happens (I can't recall right now) that keeps us from talking for a week, and during that time I conclude that something big has got to give. I sent the following memo in my dry venture capitalist style.

----------------------------------

Dear John-

The week of being in communicado with you has given me considerable time to think about our business relationship, which is strained at many levels.

General A Cappella Businesses Issues
• Opportunities are not being pursued (PAC Records, CAP) because you and I are already stretched and don’t have the time to pursue them
• The Harmony Sweepstakes is the only business generating cash
• All other businesses need cash for growth (according to my analysis)
• You are unwilling to trade equity for cash
• I am unable to continue my free spending indefinitely, even as I have committed to put another $100,000 into the various businesses in 1998 bringing the total spent on a cappella to about $675,000
• You don’t believe I’m doing enough to help the businesses
• I don’t believe you appreciate the money I’ve put into the business, especially the $115,000 I’ve spent to give you a nice place to live
• You are first in line for any money coming out of the joint businesses
• I need to start getting a return on investment, and I’m therefore putting money elsewhere (CAP etc.)
• We are both frustrated at not making any money for all our work (and money)
• The narrow window for communications (8:30 pm - 10:30 pm EST) has led to poor communications
• The lack of control because of my distance has grown intolerable.

In short, the previous relationship of you doing most of the work and me sending money, reviews and legal documents will no longer work.

The thought process that led to the following radical proposal includes months of dissatisfaction on my end, months of hearing dissatisfaction on your end, then catalyzed by:

a) the move of the catalog
b) the difficulty of getting back $5,000 loaned to USI
c) a week of being cut off from communications
d) a thorough review of my finances, both historical and projected
e) Nette receiving a job offer
f) A good friend here on the island becoming available

Summary of Proposed Restructuring
• Catalog moves to Maine, Don trades ownership of PAC Records including the loan for all of John’s ownership in USI
• As part of the trade, Don disclaims any ownership of the Harmony Sweepstakes
• 13 Sheila Court is sold, with proceeds split according to the TIC agreement

I have a more extensive discussion and financial backup for why this all makes sense and is fair to both of us. Let me know when you’d like to see that.

---------------------------------------------------

So it appears that I had invested $575,000 in Primarily up to that point - probably $125,000 prior to John Neal, $115,000 for his house (and the mortgage was in my name), so about $335,00 invested in the catalog and the record label (and buying out his Harmony Sweepstakes partner) when we were partners, through early 1998. And our discussions were such that we thought another $100,000 was going to be needed in 1998. This is not the profile of a business turning profitable!

Other points in this memo I'll elaborate on in some other venue, but let me jump to the big reveal.

My grand total investment in a cappella is now somewhere north of $3 million. Some was spent foolishly, to be sure (Hot Lips Records being one prime example), but building a world class a cappella web site, a catalog company with decent IT systems, an ICCA that had a large stable of producers, and a sheet music company distributed by Hal Leonard, not to mention capitalizing the growth of the Primarily A Cappella Catalog and Primarily A Cappella Records... these things aren't cheap. They now provide livelihood or extra income to full-time and part-time employees, some of whom even get health benefits (those at A-Cappella.com, that is). And they provide lots to the a cappella community.

My take? I tried paying myself minimum wage for nine months in 2006, but that didn't last. I've given myself a few modest bonuses... maybe $10,000 in total. I've had a modest income from Contemporary A Cappella Publishing, but there's a loan from me still on the books that's equal to about half the cumulative after-tax income I've received over the years.

So I've spent 16 years and $3 million dollars trying to build resources that are valued by the a cappella community, and this... I won't use the word I'd like to... from GQ portrays me as a money-grubbing venture capitalist who enjoys stealing businesses from innocent a cappella bystanders. Again, I'm not asserting brilliance or moral superiority, but I'm one of the good guys here. Even if Mickey's story works better that I'm a bad guy.

At some point, Mickey, you're going to need to apologize to me. You should feel fortunate that I despise working with lawyers.

The damnable thing about it all, Mickey, is that you're a really good writer. You succeed brilliantly at making some of the mundane things about a cappella sound exciting. But in your own quest for a cappella glory, you have consistently exaggerated, distorted, or simply fabricated things. (For the latter, try Googling the term "father of contemporary a cappella" in quotes. There is exactly one instance - at mickeyrapkin.com - which gives lie to the opening line of Chapter Five: "Deke Sharon is commonly referred to as the father of contemporary a cappella, and while he may have bestowed that title upon himself, the name rings true." This is a total fabrication. And, btw, I think Sean Altman might want to arm wrestle Deke over that title... or maybe The Nylons).

Don "Versus" Gooding
"sigh" - yet another versus
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Postby sarah klein » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:48 pm

Well....we have here quite an interesting topic. Echoing some of the previous posts, it is VERY surreal to be reading this book. Since I just received it and am low on free time this week, I've only read through the Divisi chapters and skimmed through some of the rest. From my own perspective, I thought Mickey did a wonderful job. Certainly my own weaknesses as Music Director were highlighted, but they were truthful, and they were balanced out by the end of the book. It was a joy to reminisce and I feel like Pitch Perfect accurately reflects my a cappella experience. However, when I wrote to Mickey raving about the book the other day, I was wrong about one thing. I said "I'll bet my mom will be excited that you included her!" I have never been more wrong. There was one passage in the book in which she made a comment that supposedly "threatened" our group. Apparently Don got the brunt of the slander, but unfortunately, my mom was another victim. I don't know if Mickey just got the wrong information, if it was merely out of context, or if it was twisted to increase the drama, but according to the source, there was no threatening going on. My mom's comment was one of several other similar ones (including Peter's) and was actually beneficial in the long-run. While there's no way to undo what has been done, I would like to at least take the stage briefly to let this crowd know that my mom has been one of the most dedicated supporters of Divisi -- traveling to many of our far-away gigs and competitions, helping us out financially, running errands for us, jumping in at the last minute to help us out with selling tickets or holding time cards, etc., etc., etc. So Mom, if you ever read this, know that all of your hard work and support has been greatly appreciated, and thanks for being one of the best Aca-moms ever!

To everyone else, sorry for the mushy talk. :-)

And Don.....yikes. I know I'd be a mess in your situation, but I think the a cappella community knows the truth, or at least will after reading your posts.

Mickey -- The book reads well and I am still very happy to have it in my collection. I suppose controversy comes with the territory of being a journalist. Best of luck with sales and congrats on all the great press (and thanks for getting Divisi on NPR!).
Sarah Klein
sarahbethklein@gmail.com
http://www.uodivisi.com
Former Music Director, University of Oregon's Divisi
Member from 2002-2007

BMus Music Education
BMus Vocal Performance
now at Florida State for MM in Music Therapy
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Postby billhare » Mon Jun 02, 2008 7:08 pm

Wow. Being still in Chapter 3, it seems like a safe place for me! I have skimmed though a bit to get an idea of what's there of course (how could I not?? ;-), and I'm very glad that it seems I don't have any enemies out there (at least I think I don't)!

I've always been of the "if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all" frame of mind, though at the same time not afraid to show constructive criticism only if I feel it's going to help somebody.

When I see something definitely in the wrong, though, I am not timid about jumping right into the fray and battling it out with everyone else, as long as I feel I know that I am on the right side!

I think to say that Don Gooding is a "good guy" is not only an understatement, but hopefully preaching to the choir in this community. Many of us know Don, we know what he's done for this movement, and even though most of us didn't know the details of these past dealings until now, it doesn't matter anyway (in my mind personally) because I know him as a person.

That said, I don't think Mickey knows us that well, nor do we know him that well, but in my heart of hearts I also don't think it was Mickey's goal to slander Don or anyone else for that matter - like the judge who sends the innocent man to jail or lets the guilty man go free, if one side gives more convincing (or sometimes just a bigger pile of) information than another, that side will win.

In the end, this is an interesting read, but the names were not changed to protect the innocent - these are real people getting stressed out because of things that are presented as fact, and I do believe that for the most part, Mickey cross-referenced all of this stuff and believed them as well.

I'm sure Mickey put his heart into this and wouldn't have been so excited for us to read the book if he knew ahead of time that some people would feel betrayed, slandered, or embarrassed, and maybe it would have been better if some of the principal "characters" in the book (at least the more "controversial" ones) could have had the chance to read it before it went to press. Don Gooding has spent so many years doing good stuff for this community, and many straws have been piled on his back during this time. I, for one, want him to stay around!

What to do? I don't know, I feel bad for all parties here, but what's done is done (I know, easy for me to say). Like I said, those of us who already know Don, what we read in this book won't make that much of a difference.

-B

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Postby bstevens » Mon Jun 02, 2008 7:47 pm

I read the book yesterday. In general I agree that it tries to characterize contemporary a cappella as, roughly, half ridiculous and half cool; that characterization being, apparently, inescapable in the popular press, it's hard to tell how much of the tone comes from which sources (e.g., Mr. Rapkin directly, his editor / house, the self-deprecating if not apologetic approach to the artform by some among its practitioners).

Easier to see is the book's telling of its particular story (it is, after all, subtitled "The Quest for Collegiate A CAPPELLA Glory") and thus the advantageous and disadvantageous distortions that result. The focus on individual personalities humanizes the story, although I'm not particularly moved by its melodramatic telling of the Divisi tale. But that same focus is achieved at the expense of a more comprehensive sampling of the various components of 'the contemporary a cappella world'.

I don't mean that as criticism of Rapkin's project: so far as I can tell, he doesn't intend to offer an ethnographic survey, and I would hate to seem as if complaining about why he didn't write what I would rather read. But the fact is that the book is advertised, in some quarters heralded, as 'capturing' the world of contemporary a cappella. I don't think it does, nor, again, does it try to: it looks at particular aspects, and it's to Rapkin's credit that it also shows some sensitivity, peripherally to its story, to the complexity of that world and of its history.

The book helps me to realize that what I _do_ want to read _is_ precisely a survey, a summary, a history, an ethnography of contemporary a cappella music, one less interested in telling a good story than in telling the whole story. (Joshua Duchan, care to collaborate?) I want to read more about what actually has taken place within the community, and much, much less about the consistently stupid, gee-whiz reactions of uninformed media flacks, not to mention the evidently unresolved issues of those celebrities who downplay their ... 'a cappella history' (!). Celebrity ex-singers may bring in the browsers but, in terms of actual importance, are the smallest of small change.

As far as mispresentations of individuals go, I hope the situation can be resolved; as it is, Rapkin or his press has set himself up for precisely this situation in not attributing its quotes and other information in book-journalistic manner.

Benjamin Stevens

CASA Director of Education

Educational Officer for Festivals and Events

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Postby adune55 » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:43 pm

I've only read the introduction so far, but I will say that when I first opened the book "Walking in Memphis" came on the radio in the store where I was reading. I had a moment.

Robert
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Postby ariel » Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:57 pm

my copy just came from Amazon. Can't wait to start....
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