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Roomful of Teeth

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Album Review

Roomful of Teeth is a New York-based a cappella octet, but if you think you have any idea what they sound like now that you're armed with that information, think again. It's been said that Roomful of Teeth straddles the boundary between classical music and pop, but more accurate would be to say that the group goes so far beyond existing conceptions of a cappella vocal music in both the classical and pop spheres as to make the terminology meaningless. This is one wild ride. The 13 compositions on the album are by a variety of contemporary composers, but rarely have composers been so subordinate to the capabilities of an individual group. Those capabilities begin with classical training and a mastery of virtuoso close-harmony singing, but they expand outward from there in a way that may seem limitless to those hearing Roomful of Teeth for the first time. The extra ingredient in most of the pieces is not classical extended technique but vocal devices borrowed from world music traditions, including Tuvan throat singing, Korean traditional music, pop belting, and more. The texts are mostly simple and incantatory, something resembling vocal exercises. They are there as a vehicle for Roomful of Teeth above all. Even those who might find this album on the extreme side will concede its absolute originality. In short, it's like nothing else you've ever heard. The engineering is nearly as original as the music, making creative use of distortion but not interfering with the basic immediacy of the singers' natural voices.

Customer Reviews

Astonished Listener

The album redefines classical music of the 21st century. The bar has certainly been set a few notches higher. Each song sends the listener on a wild journey around the globe, glimpsing a new cultural imagination in every measure. This is certainly not to say the album is chaotic and without direction. In fact, the flow of every song is part of what makes this composition astounding. The work's true beauty is unmasked by the robust harmonies and use of dissonance. Had I not known better, I would have thought this was a choir of over fifty singers. Don't stop making art.

classical training + world techniques = modern awesome

I really love this album. The vocal production is astounding, the cohesion and direction is tight, and the sound is so clean. I find this kind of soundscape, which stretches traditional vocal categories, to be extremely powerful and dramatic, and there is overtone work that blows me away. For me, it's not hyperbole to say that I find this album more exciting than the Chanticleer, and I hope to bring RoT to my campus on their upcoming tour.

The negatives are tiny for me. As a tenor, I wish the men took a little more of the spotlight. The exposed voicing leads to a couple of moments when the high voices don't start perfectly together. Most of the pieces are accessible to me as a listener, but I don't feel like I have enough information to really understand Amid the Minotaurs as a composition, though it contains some great moments.

I've worked with the director, Brad Wells, before, and it's really inspiring to see what he is doing with this concentration of talent.

Sorry Dizzzzp...

But Caroline Shaw just won the Pulitzer prize for her works on this album. PULITZER PRIZE.


Formed: 2009 in Massachusetts, United States

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '10s

Formed in Massachusetts in 2009 under the direction of Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth is an a cappella octet specializing in contemporary compositions that bridge classical, world music, and pop at their most virtuosic. With a founding membership of Cameron Beauchamp, Dashon Burton, Martha Cluver, Eric Dudley, Esteli Gomez, Avery Grifftin, Caroline Shaw, and Virginia Warnken, the ensemble's name was taken from a line in the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby film Road to Morocco, indicative of the group's free-spiritedness....
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Roomful of Teeth, Roomful of Teeth
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Customer Ratings