Clefnotes Seeks New and Deeper Voices

Portia Hardy Contributing Writer

    The UMF Clefnotes, one of the two acapella groups on campus, is in dire need of male voices. Currently the club is composed of a majority of women with nine female vocalists and three male vocalists. 

    Vanessa Brown, co-president of the Clefnotes, says that having male vocalists is necessary to the functioning of the group. “They add a much-needed balance and sound to our group that we need for our arrangements,” said Brown in an email interview. “Having male voices also allows for us to meet new people, diversify our sound.”

    “Men tend to balance out the female voices with a deeper tone and a completely different sound,” said Teraesa Gioia, a second-year member of the group. “If there are too many female voices in a non-completely female group the sound will tend to sound very high and not quite complete, but with the tenor sound and the bass sound you can get a fully vocal experience.”

    The a cappella group has been historically more female oriented. “In the four years I’ve been in the group, we’ve always had more girls than guys. This is the first year that it’s changed,” said Brown. “A cappella, as a musical genre, has been fluctuating in general in popularity at many college campuses, but it’s slowly been fading out of interest.”

    Gioia echoed a similar sentiment as she said, “When I was a freshman there were four to five men, but there has never been more men than women, as far as I know.”

    Brown, however, said that a potential cause for this decrease may be in the UMF campus demographic: UMF has more female than male students.

    If the trend of more females joining the group continues, the Clefnotes may look to becoming an ensemble of female voices. “It wouldn’t be ideal, but we’re hoping that we can find more men to sing in our choir,” said Gioia. 

    Yet Brown feels that this version of the club’s future may not come true, noting that the club may adapt to a “different kind of music ensemble in general.” As a senior and co-leader in the club, Brown is focusing on “enjoying our last semester with these great individuals. It’s up to the group what their next step will be, and it’s my job and everyone else’s to help them get to that point.”

    Brown has a message for male singers on campus: “To all the male vocalists who are considering auditioning, or are afraid to audition, or don’t think they’re ‘good enough’ to audition: all voices are welcome,” she said. “You don’t need to be a perfect singer, there’s no such thing, we hope to see you there. And if it’s scary, we appreciate taking that risk; we’ve all been in your position, and we get it!” 

    The auditions for the Clefnotes this year will take place on Wed., Feb. 12, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Nordica Auditorium, in Merrill Hall. Interested singers should prepare 30 seconds of a chosen song. 

Hip Hop in the Literary Lens

Hip Hop in the Literary Lens

Faith Diaz Contributing Writer

    Post-Doctoral Fellow in Digital and Public Humanities, Stephen Grandchamp, will teach ENG 377: Hip Hop History and Culture, for the Spring 2020 semester. The course is offered as an English and Music History Course and will be an examination of the history of the genre and a cultural analysis of the music and its effect on American history.

    Grandchamp also intends to explore the genre’s evolution. “You might get more misogynistic party tracks in there but then you might get tracks in there from more female assertive rappers like going back to MC Light or Lauryn Hill, up to contemporary rappers like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Megan the Stallion, City Girls.” 

    He wants to clarify the cultural understanding of the genre as he said, “We’ll put all these different treatments of a theme side by side and talk about how they are relating and making connections and try to figure it out. Because Hip Hop is not monolithic in that it has one take on everything.” He continued, “I want students to be aware of some of those voices that have been marginalized.” 

    Students will also be exposed to the voice of a local underground rapper, Chris Brown, whose stage-name is Yung Breeze, and who is also the younger brother of Vanessa Brown, a UMF senior and TA for the course. 

    “I first talked about my brother and his music to Steve last semester during the New Commons course, and from there I sent some of his music along,” Brown said in messages. “Steve thought it’d be a great idea to talk about my brother as a local underground rapper and to have him be a part of the curriculum.”

Vanessa Brown, TA for the Course (Photo courtesy of Vanessa Brown)

    “I thought it was awesome that [Grandchamp] brought that idea up,” she continued, “mainly because my family and music are so intertwined, and to watch and celebrate my brother’s hard work in an academic setting is an accomplishment in itself.” 

    The course is intended to breed further discussion on the cultural effects Hip Hop has had on the American society as a whole. “One of my main arguments about Hip Hop,” said Grandchamp, “is that you need to view it as a regional United States genre where in the local scenes of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, Memphis, all of these different places have really vibrant hip hop scenes that have unique characteristics that differentiate them from all of the other ones.” 

    To better understand the unique principles and craft of each scene, students will create their own Spotify playlists based off of those scenes that will serve as a one to two hour premier for the general listener. Students will submit an essay alongside the playlist to explain why they chose these songs, the implications of those inclusions, and key themes. 

     The course’s main challenge lies in altering students perceptions of Hip Hop and its place in modern academia. “I would say it’s as controversial now as it’s ever been because of its willingness to take on taboo subjects in a really direct way, so race, class, gender, and politics. These are issues that are at the surface of Hip Hop music and we are not going to steer away from that,” Grandchamp said. “You have to get students to buy in to applying literary analysis processes to contemporary Hip Hop lyrics.”

    Grandchamp is excited overall for the course. “If you take the class, be ready to listen enthusiastically. One of the main tasks of the course is just to get students to listen to the primary text which are the recordings of the genre to better understand it.” 

    Another goal of his is to prepare students to, “meet the music on its own terms. In that, Hip Hop is an art form that was birthed out of African American culture. So its is inextricably linked to African American culture. So I am going to ask students to meet that culture on its own terms. To try to confront it directly, analyze it directly, and really try to figure out where this artistic movement came from and whats the engine behind it.” 

    Brown hopes to aid students’ engagement with the music and culture by acting “not only as a sounding board for thoughts, ideas, and other things. . .during discussions and projects,” she said, “but also engage and share experience and/or my music insight from the hip-hop world.”

    This course is now available for pre-registration on My Campus.