In Italian, a cappella literally means in chapel style. That's because back in the day, instruments were forbidden in the church (they still are in many orthodox churches, synagogues and mosques). Therefore, all music had to be sung, and only sung.
These days, a cappella generally refers to a song, sacred or secular, that's performed without instrumental accompaniment. Far from the chants of Gregorian monks, or the motets of Ockeghem, or even the traditional 1940s barbershop quartet, a cappella is alive and well in the 21st century. Here are three of my favorite recent recordings:
1. "Everything in Its Right Place" "“ Sonos
I love the original version of this Radiohead tune from Kid A, but wow! have these six artist from Los Angeles enabled me to appreciate the song in a whole new way. Check it out below, and remember: every sound you hear is produced with the voice, even the faux-backward stuff. (The whole track can be purchased on iTunes.) For more on Sonos, see their MySpace page.
2. "Take a Chance on Me" "“ Andy Bernard
(with, presumably, members of his old college a cappella group Here Comes Treble)
Yeah, the original ABBA tune still rocks. But what about the brilliant Ed Helms'? If you missed the episode of The Office where Andy serenades Angela with the help of his old buddies, each on a different speaker phone, hit the YouTube clip below, or download the whole episode on iTunes.
3. "Don't Worry, Be Happy" "“ Bobby McFerrin
Even though it was released way back in 1988, any short list of recent a cappella greats must still include this Bobby McFerrin classic, if only because it was the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (a position it held for a full two weeks).
What are some of your favorite a cappella recordings? (I realize I didn't list any Manhattan Transfer. Apologies to those who love the group. My high school choral director played them to death and I haven't been able to listen to them ever since.)
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