When I was a wee boy of yea high, my father took me into the city to see a singing group perform. It was in the town hall, a bright red brick building where eons of noble pilgrims had given way to JV soccer moms and their superior counterparts, the JV lacrosse moms. The singers hailed from the very distant local High School (derogatory), a place I would come to know most intimately in distant years to come. You can imagine my astonishment when I learned that the very draw of the night, the music which was to enchant mine ears, was absent from the lineup. Instead, I learned of an art form consisting of entirely man-made, mouth-made sounds: a cappella.
If you have never heard of ‘a cappella’ before, you are very, very lucky. My innocence has long been forgotten. From the pseudo-mainstream wails of a five-pointed tonic band of merry crooners to your fifth-grade choir instructor trying to be “avant-garde” with a group of prepubescent degenerates still trying to figure out the math behind balls dropping, vocal cords masquerading as instruments have been terrorizing minds old and young across the nation for decades. In what some have termed the sport of the evolutionarily-disadvantaged, brave souls whose fight or flight reflexes have been replaced with singing an A team up to bring honor to their disgraced arts programs. They produce music armed only with spit, swallows, percussive mouth-opening, and, least of all, singing. Results vary greatly from music-like to funky alien, but do you remember the last time you felt genuine, unadulterated joy? Me neither. But these kids have got it!
Favorite pastimes of e capaldi practitioners include pretending to have perfect pitch, making their friends stand in semicircles, claiming that “the original artist really missed out on an opportunity,” and being menaces in your local Denny’s. You can find them practicing rituals where they stand in a line, perform choreography with only one free hand (the other is occupied holding an instrument of dark magic), move into a different line, and strike a pose. I interviewed proficient a paella enthusiast Alicia Kone about their involvement in this sport:
Me, an el caballo virgin: “So tell me… No instruments? Really? How do you stay on beat?”
Kone: “What really matters is the bond between singers. We’re basing this entirely on what we hear from each other, so if the beat gets… well, off beat, it’s on us to find it and ride it into the sunset, like a musical stallion. Our rehearsals place emphasis on trust, reflective listening and non-verbal auditory communication — wait, how familiar are you with blood oaths?”
Kone declined further comment after I enquired after whether a certain group’s eponymous jackets were fused to their skin before or during their first onstage performance. I can only hope that they have found inner peace with a collection of scarfs, uncrinkled sheet music, alto melody lines, and all the Throat Coat they could desire.
Oop abuela at the University has historically been confined to rooms formerly intended for education without any intermediate remodeling. By sheer coincidence, their assigned spaces are often pretty bad for making that sweet sweet mouth music. To repair this slight, the five existing groups on campus have formed a five-man band from their individual strongest members to take on musically-hostile campus architecture.
Oren Schwartz, the YJs’ anarchist-elect, told me of the difficulties in creating sound-inclusive spaces on campus. “On the one hand, there’s already that one drain on the Wilco porch that echoes, but we can’t all rehearse over each other, and someone’s gotta make us spaces,” Schwartz lamented. “I’m the team’s Jungler, so most of the time I’m on distraction duty.” His basic game plan: attract attention with a high D and wrist flourish to distract passerby, while the demolition team’s other members bulldoze campus property with equipment rescued from that one Elmwood Avenue construction site. “Right now, we’ve carved a hole into Rettner. The acoustics should be great!”
If you didn’t already fear the people crafting eight-part harmonies (complete with percussion!) on five-and-a-half hours of sleep and a whole lotta pep, you should now. Uwu coachella is a forceful ensemble (on the rare occasion that they all come in together) and will stop at nothing for power. Be careful next time you hear high notes: you may be caught in the crossfire of musical vengeance. I’ll leave destroying campus property to the experts. Let your crowds be suitably drunk, and may your arrangements be always fire.