Where can I listen to examples of really harmonically complex a capella online?
June 15, 2012 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Where can I listen to examples of really harmonically complex a capella online?

I've already checked out the 'unconventional' a capella thread and the 'recommend a-capella please' thread. Seems like (far as I know, anyways) there's not a lot of folks that do this, and if they do, it's typically not in popular musics these days. Any style is ok. If it's not totally a capella, that's ok too, as long as there's at least two people doing evident vocal harmonizing in a way that is not just your straight-up standard pop harmonies, and it occurs for the bulk of the piece. Atonality? Cool. I could plow through bunches of a capella albums in search of this stuff, but I'm pretty sure some of you guys can think of specific suggestions. : )
posted by bitterkitten to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
YouTube seems to have quite a bit of Sacred Harp (shape note) singing online. It's pretty striking if you've never heard it before. Very raw and flinty at times.
posted by jquinby at 8:23 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's a recording of a recent live performance by Anonymous 4 and John Darnielle (Mountain Goats). The first half or so is all Anonymous 4 (female a capella quartet, lots of weird medieval stuff). The last section includes collaborative pieces arranged by Owen Pallett, so Anonymous 4 is singing "backup" (complicated, bizarre, awesome backup) while John Darnielle sings and plays guitar or piano. Totally great, if you're into that kind of thing.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:25 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

...as for albums, check out The Shapenote Album by the Seattle-based Tudor Choir.
posted by jquinby at 8:26 AM on June 15, 2012

You might be interested in Caucasian music (smirk if you must). I suggest Abkhaz, Ossetian, and Georgian polyphony.
(disclaimer:some tracks include accompaniment)
posted by Abinadab at 8:36 AM on June 15, 2012

Stimmung (Stockhausen)

Lux aeterna (Ligeti)

A lot of Björk's Medúlla album
posted by monkey closet at 8:37 AM on June 15, 2012

Sybilla by Rytis Mazulis.
Alfred Schnittke's Choir Concerto & Voices of Nature.
posted by misteraitch at 1:50 PM on June 15, 2012

Ligeti. Fantastic stuff. Google/Youtube it.
posted by Decani at 4:23 PM on June 15, 2012

The Swingle Singers



The House Jacks





Peter Hollens

Feel free to contact me. I work for CASA (The Contemporary A Cappella Society)
posted by FlyByDay at 9:20 PM on June 15, 2012

I really like the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers. I have a Christmas album of theirs (ex: Masters in this Hall). It is completely a cappella but may be more choral than you're looking for.

The Swingle Singers are a group that has been around for decades in various formations. They're a lot of fun for often completely wordless pieces (ex: Libertango and the 1812 Overture)

Harry Christopher and The Sixteen have some a cappella pieces like their version of Samuel Barber's Adagio in Strings, Agnus Dei.
posted by clerestory at 9:34 PM on June 15, 2012

You should be looking for recordings of 16th century madrigals, if what's important is the contrapuntal texture (complex intertwining melodies/harmonies) and not genre.

These two are prime examples of the form:



This one pokes fun at something called 'word painting', where the melody directly reflects the words. The English thought the Italians were taking this fad too far and this is evidence of that.
posted by CookieNose at 8:21 AM on June 16, 2012

The King's Singers cover Bach...it doesn't get much more harmonically-complex or well-sung than this.
posted by sninctown at 8:51 AM on June 16, 2012

The Hi-Lo's
Dirty Projectors
posted by d11 at 5:40 PM on June 16, 2012

Check out Gesualdo for some crazy harmonies that sound 400 years ahead of their time. Stravinsky was a big fan.
posted by dfan at 9:04 AM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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