Remember Pogs? Anyone?...Bueller?...
Pogs were these cardboard discs that people would collect and then sacrifice in a winner-take-all kind of game. Kind of like marbles, except flatter, with better designs. Forgive me, loyal fans of Pogs, but they were a fad. They were really cool for a while, but then they disappeared, like snap bracelets, sitcom catch phrases, and cassette tapes. If someone wished to explore the entire scope of a cappella music, an educator or educated student must examine current a cappella trends, where they evolved from, and where they are going. I find it fascinating to discover that fans of a cappella music discover the latest trends only at festivals, when there is so much to discover on this new invention- the internet. Hopefully, the internet won’t go out of style like Pogs.
1) Live Looping
Probably the biggest and fastest growing trend in a cappella music. Live Loopers, like Julia Easterlin and Mister Tim, have pioneered the next great thing in “I hate other people and their smelly faces” performing- an entire a cappella song, built from the ground up, with only one person on stage. It’s a very exciting thing to see live, especially because you actually watch the song being built part by part, usually starting with the percussion, followed by the bass line, followed by the repeated pattern that forms the basis of the harmony. Utilizing the same equipment, a BOSS RC-50 looper, both artists have achieved what so far, only box videos on you tube have shown us- that one person can sing every part and still be entertaining. Oh and speaking of box videos…
2) Box Videos
I have absolutely no idea who started this trend. I first discovered it after watching Peter Hollens sing “Moves Like Jagger.” But, regardless of who started it, Box videos have become all the rage. What are they? Box videos are videos (duh) where one person sings an entire song, every part with percussion included, a cappella. Recorded on a computer (probably using Protools, but don’t quote me on that) and then filmed with the artist singing each part, facing the camera, box videos are called that because they literally just contain “boxes.” In each box, the artist is singing a different part, continuously throughout the entire song. Just like live looping…only…not live…looping…
3) A cappella Blogs
It wasn’t too long ago that “The A cappella Blog” took the internet by storm. Looked upon as a companion to Casa.org, this blog focuses primarily on the collegiate and high school aspects of a cappella, while trying to spread the educational message of a cappella’s musical values. But if that were the only blog out there, then this wouldn’t exactly make the checklist…would it? Just run a google search for a cappella and blog (and hopefully my name will come up…maniacal laugh…)There’s acatribe, acappella 101, the UK university a cappella blog, vocalblog, a cappellapsych, and many more. In fact, acablog is a website that tracks and summarizes each a cappella blog.
4) Cell Phone Pitch Pipes
Is it just me, or have you seen less and less pitch pipes these days? Sure, an electronic tone is more in tune, but doesn’t the risk of your cell phone going off on stage warrant at least some concern that maybe you should just buckle down and pay the twenty dollars for a real pitch pipe? I don’t know. That’s just me I guess. Though my cell phone would never go off on stage…no one calls me. Ever. (sniff sniff)
5) Handheld Microphones
I encourage the progression of this trend. Microphone set-ups are tricky, especially for large groups and for universal on stage settings. The trend of one microphone for one voice allows arrangements to not be limited by ooh’s and ahh’s. Singers can now be heard, even if their part is all consonants on pitch. Microphones should enhance the dynamics, not get in their way. Hooray for more microphones!
Here’s a list of resources mentioned in this article.
Mister Tim, Live Looper: http://www.mistertimdotcom.com/
Julia Easterlin, Live Looper: http://www.juliaeasterlin.com/
Peter Hollens, Box Video Specialist: http://peterhollens.com/
ACA Blog, A list of popular a cappella blogs: http://www.acablog.net/
Acatribe, one of my favorite a cappella blog: http://acatribe.com/
What other trends have you noticed? Visit http://acappellaquest.blogspot.com/
for more educational discussions about a cappella music.