Monday, March 5, 2012

The missing link between a cappella and tomatoes.

What exactly are tomatoes?

Yes, technically they are a fruit, since fruits have seeds. But why don’t you find tomatoes on fruit salads? Tomatoes are not sweet like fruits. Tomato paste, also known as ketchup, does not have a fruity, sugary flavor. Fruit ninja does not have a tomato option. Most of us don’t even agree on how to say it (you say tomato, I say potato…bonus points if you get that…).

It is here that a cappella music falls into the same category. Sure, we have seeds, but you wouldn’t put a cappella on a fruit salad. Fruit ninja does not have an a cappella option…

Wait…I think I’m getting off track…

Oh that’s right. The missing link between a cappella and tomatoes is that a cappella music, much like tomatoes, has no definite classification. It behaves like something- pop music, but is classified as something else- choral music. It has a consistently growing fan base and set of rules- i.e. the use of scat syllables or a manual for how to arrange it, but it does not have a widely accepted standard.

I refer to a very interesting article I once found on The article is called “A cappella- The Genre That Isn’t” written by Joseph Livesey. You can find it here:

In the article, Livesey makes an excellent case for whether or not we can rightfully call a cappella music a “genre.” A cappella music has its own sub-categories (see for a complete list).  And his entire argument stems from visiting a website where you can DJ your own music- a website which does nto have an a cappella option.

And so, here is where I make my stand. Yes, a cappella music is a genre. We have our own history. We have our own recordings. We have our own set of rules. It is these rules that must be established and defined, even if they are broken later, which they probably will be- much like a squishy tomato that squirts into your eye. I do not claim to be a teacher of choral music. I claim to be a professor of contemporary a cappella, because contemporary a cappella music is what I believe to be a fan of.

Let’s take an original a cappella composition for example, and one that probably everybody knows: “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego.”

This is not a cover, it’s an original. So let’s imagine for a moment that a band- an actual band with guitars, drums, pianos, basses, and didgeridoos- and they tried to cover this song. What exactly would it sound like?

I’ll answer my question with another question- Would you actually want to hear that cover? Maybe with all didgeridoos…but with a regular rock band?

So can we call this rock? We can call this rock much the same way we can call “The Beatles” rock- the word rock is too vague. You have to be more specific. I would consider both “Queen” and “The Beatles” to be both rock, but to consider them the same type of rock would be inaccurate. And so a cappella music being called “pop music” is, in my opinion, inaccurate and out-of-date.

In the salad of music, we are the tomatoes.

1 comment:

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