This article was written as a response to: Trash Thursdays – A cappella, by Calum Esler


Why anyone would want to read the milquetoast spew of ignorance published on this blog last week, when the very third sentence contains a straight-up lie, is beyond me. But having been asked to write a response, and mindful of my inherent bias as member of an a cappella group, I forced myself to trudge through the vapid opinion piece[1]. I understand the concept of Trash Thursdays, and have no qualm with people complaining, but it is unacceptable to write an opinion piece on something that you know very little about, especially when the little you do know is incorrect.

First of all, to correct a blatant mistake from the original piece: the Italian ‘a cappella’ cannot and should not be hyphenated, as it translates directly to ‘in chapel style’. The term today just means music made only with the voice and is host to a wide variety of genres.

Also, the supposedly all-encompassing condemnation of: “From the way it can be hyphenated and not hyphenated to how it ruins songs that I cherish” is as hollow as it is feeble in its attempt to be witty. Also, perhaps the oh-so-up-to-date reference to the ‘white people have no culture’ meme and the likening of a cappella groups to ‘boo-whoppers’ would be a legitimate criticism of a cappella were it not for the fact the term is Doo-wop and it was largely developed by African American youth.  Perhaps this was an attempt at irony rather than a failure of research, but I’m beginning to think that such a thing would be beyond his capabilities.

But I want to stop criticising the author’s weak attempts at intelligent writing and humour, to move onto why a cappella should be defended.

The author himself concedes that songs sung a cappella can be ‘catchy’, but this is a very broad concession, similar to saying something like ‘some music is good’. A cappella music is not all Doo-wop, four-chord progression, pop-song, choreographed, slick, powerful soloist, mash-up like we see in Pitch Perfect. An a cappella group is just like any other band or choir; all the members use their voices as instruments. It is not confined to one genre of music, and songs are not always covers. The group I’m in[2] – pitiful with choreography, but give them a key and your name and they’ll improvise something beautiful and personal (provided it’s minor) – sing songs that were not only arranged by the M.D. (Musical Director) but of their own composition.

The author’s summary of a cappella as ‘ … just no instruments and instead … a bunch of over-enthusiastic people making noises at me’[3] is so utterly, ridiculously idiotic that I’m tempted to think that he was making some sort of joke. In the case that he’s not, however, I will say that music is essentially organised noise, so any time you hear any piece of music (be that good or bad) you are hearing ‘over-enthusiastic people’ (also known as musicians) making noise at you. Music taste is subjective, so I can’t say why people should enjoy a cappella, but to condemn it as a concept because you don’t like a stereotype you saw in a film, is ignorant pig-headedness.

People have been singing unaccompanied for as long as music has existed, and the idea that you could ruin a song with singing is moronic, much like, I suppose, everything else in the last Trash Thursdays rant.





[1] After which I took a nap, depressed by the realisation that some people are so proud of their ignorance that they will write 4 paragraphs of imitative rhetoric.

[2] Though right now I’m on my year abroad, living vicariously through the rehearsal recordings they put in the group chat.

[3] I really wanted to put in his full sentence, because anyone that writes “… if there was no instruments…” cannot be a real authority on anything.