The Late Movies: Collegiate A Cappella

College students have been forming a cappella groups since at least the late 1800s, with the Rensselyrics of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute being the oldest known group. (They started out as the RPI Glee Club in 1873.) Women's collegiate groups, though, weren't formed until 1936. (Smith College's Smiffenpoofs were the first.)

Today, college a cappella groups are increasingly popular—Northwestern University has at least 15—and usually known for their fun renditions of classics and current hits. The videos below are just a small sampling of the many collegiate a cappella groups across the country—and the world.

The Rensselyrics

Formed in 1873, RPI's Rensselyrics is the oldest known college a cappella group. Here they're performing Feist's "1234."

The Whiffenpoofs

Yale's Whiffenpoofs is the longest continuously performing college a cappella group. Cole Porter was a member in 1913. Here they're performing "Haven't Met You Yet" by Michael Bublé.

The Smiffenpoofs

The Smiffenpoofs formed in 1936 at Smith College after some Smith students were inspired by a Whiffenpoofs performance; they chose a similar name in honor of Yale's group. Here they perform The Beatles' "Because."

The V8s

Mount Holyoke College's Victory Eights, or V8s, founded in 1942, is the longest continuously performing all-female college a cappella group. Here they perform "Come On Eileen," the Dexys Midnight Runners hit.

The Beelzebubs

Tufts University's oldest a cappella group is The Beelzebubs, an all-male group that formed in 1962. Here they perform Styx's "Come Sail Away."

The Amalgamates

The Amalgamates is the oldest co-ed a cappella group at Tufts University; they've released 11 albums since their formation in 1984. Here they perform Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

Straight No Chaser

Straight No Chaser formed as a student a cappella group at Indiana University in 1996. After a recording of one of their 1998 performances went viral in 2006, the original members landed a record deal. Today, the original members perform and record as Straight No Chaser, while the university's a cappella group performs and records as Indiana Unviersity's Straight No Chaser. Here the original members sing Solomon Linda's "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in a 1998 school performance.


Redefined is a co-ed a cappella group at University of Wisconsin-Madison known for their "Nintendo Medley." This performance of the medley is from their 2009 spring show.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue is an all-male a cappella group at the University of Oxford, although membership is not limited to Oxford students. Here they perform Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls." (Look out for the "Harry Potter" at the 00:39 mark.)

Rhythm and Jews

Rhythm and Jews is the University of Chicago's Jewish a cappella group. Here they perform "Schneinu B'Yachad," a variation of The Turtles' "So Happy Together.

New AI-Driven Music System Analyzes Tracks for Perfect Playlists

Whether you're planning a bachelorette party or recovering from a breakup, a well-curated playlist makes all the difference. If you don't have time to pick the perfect songs manually, services that use the AI-driven system Sonic Style may be able to figure out exactly what you have in mind based on your request.

According to Fast Company, Sonic Style is the new music-categorizing service from the media and entertainment data provider Gracenote. There are plenty of music algorithms out there already, but Sonic Style works a little differently. Rather than listing the entire discography of a certain artist under a single genre, the AI analyzes individual tracks. It considers factors like the artist's typical genre and the era the song was recorded in, as well as qualities it can only learn through listening, like tempo and mood. Based on nearly 450 descriptors, it creates a super-accurate "style profile" of the track that makes it easier for listeners to find it when searching for the perfect song to fit an occasion.

Playlists that use data from Sonic Style feel like they were made by a person with a deep knowledge of music rather than a machine. That's thanks to the system's advanced neural network. It also recognizes artists that don't fit neatly into one genre, or that have evolved into a completely different music style over their careers. Any service—including music-streaming platforms and voice-activated assistants—that uses Gracenote's data will be able to take advantage of the new technology.

With AI at your disposal, all you have to do as the listener is decide on a style of music. Here are some ideas to get you started if you want a playlist for productivity.

[h/t Fast Company]

Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice

Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]


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