January 26, 2013

Petra Haden sings movie themes — a cappella, multitracked.

NPR is featuring this. Generally, ideas like this appeal to me. Ideas. In execution, I find her voice annoying. Admittedly, the main one I listened to was the "Psycho" title-sequence theme, which is intended to get on your nerves.

The fact that it can be done isn't enough. You have to do it well. Check out the Swingle Singers to hear what this replacing-all-the-instruments-with-voice thing can be like at its best. Something about the sound of it makes me feel like these people are too pleased with their ability to do it at all. I know: this may be a special delusion of mine. I simultaneously admire it and feel irritated. Is it just me?

In the case of Petra Haden, I feel really irritated.

30 comments:

Palladian said...

The Swingle Singers do Bach justice. I like their rendition of Contrapunctus Ix from "The Art of the Fugue".

Brent said...

Having lead an a capella group of 20 singers for the last 26 years that has sung throughout the western US (and won competitions, thank you) I highly recommend the Swingle Singers.

To the uninitiated in classical music, please begin with the Swingle Singers all-vocal rendition of the William Tell Overture (the Lone Ranger Theme)

Brent said...

palladian, you are a man of great taste! It wasn't always just your pithy writing that identified you as such - it's even in your musical choices!

Mitchell the Bat said...

Ms. Haden would seem better suited to cover songs by Alvin and the Chipmunks.

James said...

Swingle Singlers? LOL, next you'll be screaming at the neighborhood kids to get off your lawn.

Take a listen to Pentatonix: http://youtu.be/WSUFzC6_fp8

The beatboxer is amazing...

Petunia said...

Good grief, she's absolutely awful. Her speaking voice is bad enough. Her "music" sounds like she inhaled helium and started shrieking.

Kind of reminds me of the group that "sang" the National Anthem prior to the Sugar Bowl. Their "vocal percussionist" actually beat-boxed part of it. It was dreadful.

EDH said...

Laurie Anderson called from the 1980s, she wants her original concept back.

Mary Beth said...

I didn't care for it either and was wondering why they would interview her but that was answered 20-something seconds in.

James said...

You could also spend a lot of time listening to Nick Pitera: http://youtu.be/qUY8PxfM3F4

Petunia said...

Mary Beth, I went back and listened again...the first time I didn't get past the first ten seconds because Ms. Haden's voice is so irritating.

Explains the entire thing, you're exactly right.

Ann Althouse said...

"You could also spend a lot of time listening to Nick Pitera..."

That was horrendous. Plus, the main track is lyrics.

Ann Althouse said...

"Take a listen to Pentatonix: http://youtu.be/WSUFzC6_fp8"

You linked to Carol of the Bells, a much-hated song, but okay. 1. That's a song with lyrics, not an instrumental. Just a cappella of the most common type. 2. The lead singer is a complete cheeseball.

I can't believe you're mocking me for linking to the Swingle Singers, who are superlative in a particular thing, and you link to things that are less particular and not well sung. You could have been more polite in pointing to the people you like, but you chose to go all LOL and you're old. You should have had MUCH better material to back up your mockery. Jeez.

McTriumph said...

Professor, I have to agree with your critique, Petra vs SS. SS was a joy.

Unknown said...

This form can be done well.

And I agree that was a bad Pentatonix example. The one I prefer is this.

rana said...

From the Paradise Road soundtrack. The movies is about a group of women who formed a voice orchestra during WWII as POWs in a Japanese-run camp in the Pacific:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbZBfspquK4

Lauderdale Vet said...

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with Rockapella?

Wiki

Lot's of stuff on YouTube.

Lauderdale Vet said...

This was tangentially amusing as well:

Some of how he did it

Doing it

sydney said...

I simultaneously admire it and feel irritated. Is it just me?

No, the genre is not pleasing. The Largo piece that rana linked to above is the best of the lot, but even that is not very pleasing. The instruments the songs were written for are much better than the human voice.

By the way, I tried to listen to the Swingle Singers' rendition of the 1812 Overture, but it was just someone talking. Anyone know if they managed the cannon?

James said...

Your opinion notwithstanding, Pentatonix is genuinely an a capella group. The Swingle Singers frequently used accompaniment in their music. In the link Palladian posted you can clearly hear a string bass, drums, and other percussion.

Chip Ahoy said...

Yes, this, for we see the obvious talent is almost interest-inspiring.

And it's just so cute that you can do all the parts of Bohemian Rhapsody including the ukulele so that when my ears are completely shredded I can to turn to the real thing and have them magically repaired.

Mark Daniels said...

Ouch! You're right. Interesting idea. Amazing she has the range and "chops" to accomplish it. But in the end, her voice is too annoying to put up with it. Maybe she could do a duets LP with Peng Liyuan.

Lauderdale Vet said...

Here's that guy in my last links, Mike Tompkins, working with the Today Show personalities. Was fun to watch.

southcentralpa said...

I'm surprised this has gone twenty-some-odd comments with no one mentioning Bobby McFerrin...

Don't worry, be happy!

southcentralpa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mtrobertsattorney said...

Well, she's the first to admit that she sounds like chicken.

You have to admire her honesty.

ken in sc said...

Buffy Saint Marie?

tiger said...

Professor: I don't feel quite as strongly as you do but you have a point: if someone is going to do this it has to be done perfectly and these aren't.

My favorite is the theme to 'Cinema Paradiso' and it's very well done but there are still parts where I hear sour notes.

On one hand 'Bravo!' to her for doing this but on the other execution is everything and there are parts 'wanting' from her attempts.

The 'CP' theme is still fantastic music.

creeley23 said...

I just listened to the Psycho track and wasn't pleased either.

However, Haden has done this before and much more successfully. In 2005 she did a full a cappella version of The Who Sell Out that charmed just about everyone.

Try Haden's "I Can See For Miles":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc6IqwM0Z_U

Beeks said...

"Good grief", the internet sure makes it easy to invite the foul. btw Swingle Singers love her.

Derel Swanson said...

Do your homework... The Swingle Singers are big fans of Mrs Haden. This blog is meaningless drivel. Anyone can vomit their opinions all over the Internet, but Petra's resume speaks for itself.