Section: Arts

Grammy winning a cappella group to impress Rosse

Grammy winning a cappella group to impress Rosse

Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Affairs

Illustrious a cappella group Roomful of Teeth is coming to Rosse Hall tonight at 8 p.m., and they’ll be bringing music with some bite to it.

Though no Pentatonix with sparkling arrangements of Lorde songs, Roomful of Teeth brings more than boppy tunes stacked with harmonies and beatboxing; their music features an array of mouth-sounds from lovely tones to a dissonance of angry, chattering voices.

Their experimental style creates beautiful, haunting music that makes the soul flow rather than the toes tap.The group, composed of nine people and started in 2009, won a Grammy Award this year for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

Last April, group member Caroline Shaw won a Pulitzer Prize in Music for her four-movement composition Partita.The music is distinct in its arrangement, focusing more on interaction and layering of sounds rather than creating pleasant harmonies. On the technical side, the group sounds immaculate, producing clear, balanced tones.Interestingly, the group often plays with sounds not usually considered musical: sharp, deliberate breathing, grunting and even speaking.

Their vocal artistry explores the many facets of the human voice, utilizing whatever sounds we can make and intricately building a piece. Partita, for example, has one movement that at a tense, climactic moment has each member speaking something loudly and quickly, producing a harsh, buzzing sound. What they are actually saying is utterly insignificant; it’s the grating sound of their competing voices that draws a visceral response from the listener, a gut-clenching feeling of building anticipation.

The singing also has an otherworldly quality to it. Delicate high notes are suspended over softly-muttered musical vowels, and then seamlessly transitioned to a reverberating bass. Balancing voice parts is essential for making certain sounds stand out and contrast against the other voices, while the smooth transitions guide the listener through changes in both music and emotion. The experimental, even bizarre, nature of Roomful of Teeth gives the group character and distinguishes it from conventional pop a cappella. There is not just sadness or happiness based on a major or minor key, but complex emotions evoked from a blend of seemingly incongruous sounds. The listener can experience a plethora of feelings from a single piece, making the music not just entertainment, but an experience.


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