jduchan's picture

Social Meanings And Barbershop Harmony

{mosimage}In my previous article I wrote about glee clubs in 19th century America, hoping to suggest connections between glee club performance practices and today’s collegiate a cappella.  It was a story centered on issues of class primarily, but also European influence.  In this essay, I’d like to highlight America’s own genre of close harmony, barbershop quartet singing.  The story I’d like to tell here focuses on the “social meanings” of barbershop—what does it mean to sing this kind of music, both historically and socially? In American popular culture, barbershop has been cast as an almost exclusively white tradition with supposed origins in English barber shops of the 16th through 18th centuries (a construction promoted in early histories by the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, or SPEBSQSA, now Barbershop Harmony Society), or otherwise an outgrowth of European or classical music.  However, recent musicological research has shown that African-American singers played a significant role in its development from the very beginning.  Regardless of its racial(ized) origins, this music has become an important vehicle for nostalgia and ideas of authenticity, which sometimes ignore barbershop’s roots, as ethnomusicologist Gage Averill writes, “as a product of—and not an alternative to—commercial music trends of its era.”

DekeSharon's picture

CARAs and ACAs and Cars, Oh My!

It’s CARAs time again, and with many new readers here at casa.org, I’m guessing some of you are wondering “what’s a CARA?” The Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards were started back in 1992 as CASA’s version of the Grammys. Well, sort of: The nominees announced this week are the result of a process that started on January 1, 2005, as Julia Hoffman and Jon Pilat began anew the arduous task of gathering every a cappella album recorded around the world. That’s right, we don’t require albums be submitted (although we really appreciate when they’re sent in), because we want these awards to extend to all corners of the globe. If we hear of an album, we find a way to get our hands on a copy.

Chris's picture

A Cappella Originals mp3 Library has launched

CASA's A Cappella Originals mp3 Library is now open. Tracks are available for free download to paid members of CASA (Silver and Gold level), so join CASA and get your hands on these full-length songs. We've got a selection of top-notch groups like the House Jacks, Duwende, spiralmouth, Blue Jupiter, Five O'Clock Shadow, and more- 78 tracks so far and more on the way.

adune55's picture


{mosimage}Wow. Fasten your seatbelts boys and girls because San Francisco-based SLAMMIN (an “all-body band”) is about to take you for a ride with their unique blend of rhythm dance, beatbox, and tight, often improvised harmonies. Imagine “Stomp” meets the House Jacks, add a healthy dose of jazz and a sprinkle of world music for flavor, let simmer, and you’ve got the unique and impressive sound that SLAMMIN offers here on their debut self-titled CD. Analogies aside, there’s really a lot to love on this disc. All of the singers are absolutely phenomenal and turn in powerful solos that leave little to be desired.  Blend and intonation are also by and large superb, quite a feat considering the majority of the recording is not only live but improvised as well. Seriously – improvised. I couldn’t believe it. These musicians are truly talented.

JonathanMinkoff's picture

Lip Buzz is the New Vocal Percussion

Mathew Selby, the former vocal percussionist for M-Pact began using lip-buzzing regularly in concert and on recordings in the mid to late nineties. Kickshaw's Jake Moulton began using the techniques at nearly the same time. It's not surprising that Jake later replaced Mathew when he stepped away from M-pact. Utah-based Eclipse began using Paul Hanson's lip-buzz to powerful effect in just the last several years. What's happening?