HomeBlogsFlorian Städtler's blogFlorian Städtler Blog #3: 7 Ultimate Ways To Seriously Annoy Purists

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We all know them so well. The nit-pickers. Traditionalists. Keepers of principles. Fearless defenders of whatever dogma is out there in (vocal) music.

They write for newspapers, online news portals, they attack you via social media. They slam concert hall doors when they believe a program led the audience from the right path. The right path to what they declare artistically correct.

Here are 7 surefire methodologies to really, really upset those people. Which of course is great fun and the duty of those who are open-minded, innovative and – using The Real Group’s claim – “forever curious”.

Find below the methods - as well as some best practice examples - that drive any a cappella backseat driver crazy:

1)   Use instruments. Obvious but almost too simple. Still funny how the a cappella purist can produce endless social media threads discussing the end of the world, because the soprano used a shaker.

Best practice example: The piano solo in Cluster’s version of “Why not”

2)   Make your album sound like a regular pop album. Amazing that this still annoys anyone. Everybody has his/her album “produced”, i.e. pimped out with all kinds of technological wonders. Contemporary a cappella seems to be the only popular genre where people discuss “too much production”.

Best practice example: Naturally 7’s album “Vocal Play”

3)   Use microphones, effects, and/or loops live. When I was selling The Swingle Singers to promoters who had the mindset explained above, they doubted the group’s quality just because the singers were using microphones and a sound system. Of course people with that kind of thinking also go to concerts. You can really shock them with a surprise distorted guitar solo in the middle of “For The Longest Time”.

Best practice example: Listen to a FORK show live.

4)   Make technology a part of your musical concept. Your critics may ask you to focus on the pure beauty of the human voice, show them that you can sing without any technical support. But right after that, confront them with the complete opposite: the intelligent use of a loop station, visual effects triggered by what you sing and a different, harsh and inspiring beauty.

Best practice example: Postyr’s “Broken” vs. “In Vernalis”

5)   Cross cultural and stylistic borders. When you’re from the jazz world, try classical music. When you are a classically trained ensemble, experiment with pop, jazz and world music. As long as you know your limits and look for feedback from the best coaches, what’s the problem? The Swingle Singers, Jacques Loussier, Chick Corea and many others will never be loved for all the things they recorded and performed live. But like Steve Jobs did in the computer world, they transcended the imagination of their target group – and became famous as pioneers.

Best practice example: The King’s Singers “I’m Yours”, The Real Group “Gee Mine or Mozart’s”

6)   Present wildly mixed a vocal music events. As a promoter, invite people to annual a cappella nights featuring two or three very different groups. Show the whole variety and richness of what “singing together in a group” means. Even though the musical nit-picker won’t listen to you, present and explain your program in writing or live on stage. Listening to contemporary classical music became a totally different experience to me after I started to visit the pre-concert introductions by conductors. People are open to new things – if you stop selling innovative music as a mystical, secretive matter reserved to a chosen few.

Best practice example: SING – The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival

7)   Just have fun. Purists hate people who “just have fun”. They cannot be serious artists. They are probably selling their musical integrity for the sake of commercial success. They prefer the cheap thrill to the deep dive into “what art is really about” or “what the composer had in mind when we created this wonderful work of art.” However, if you really know what you want and if you can make it work on stage, infect the audience with your happiness and joy. And forget about this tiny fraction of spoilsports. Their contempt is your victory.

Best practice example: The Real Group live in Seoul “Perfectual Emotion Thingamabob”

About the writer:
Florian Städtler, born 1970, is an agent, blogger, scriptwriter and event director based in Freiburg, Germany. Florian is founder and owner of SpielPlanVier EventMarketing www.spielplanvier.com including the vocal music portal Acappellazone www.acappellazone.com, founder of Vocal Blog www.vocalblog.acappellazone.com, and Chairman of the Board of the European Voices Association www.europeanvoices.org.

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