Why everyone should listen to a cappella music at least once

I have a problem with musical imagery. Music is always playing in my head - so I put on more music to drown it out. I also get bored reasonably easily and keep looking for new music to listen to.

I whacked on some early music - Renaissance and Baroque stuff - because I hadn't listened to it in a while and I genuinely like it. (Yes, I'm pretentious. Complexity is my thing and early music offers plenty of it.)

I haven't done any choral singing since July, so hearing a cappella music was something of a shock - like being slapped in the face with colour. I forgot how much I missed it.

Unless you're into certain types of music, you're unlikely to come across much a cappella music, or even care that much. I think people should care more.

Firstly, a cappella music emphasises the voice far more than usual. When you sing a cappella, you have no instruments to help keep you in time or on pitch, or to "mask" your voice. You just have you, and maybe an audible echo. The effects vary: purity for an ensemble, maybe, or rawness and vulnerability for a solo voice. But they're effects heightened by the lack of instrumentation.

Instrumentation is opaque. A cappella is more exposed, more transparent. It's valuable.

Secondly, a cappella music can be technically demanding. (I'm a technical snob. I go for this sort of thing.) As I already said, there's no instrumentation to follow; you have to look at and listen to others. There's nothing to double your vocal line - and what's worse is that many people tend to go flat over the course of a piece. If you're singing and don't have absolute pitch, you probably won't be able to hear this, but an audience will. Learning how to work with this takes time and effort, and I respect anyone who does this. At the same time, one voice alone can have a raw, unpolished effect which works really, really well.

Finally, a cappella music provides its own background. In particular, choral a cappella music for common practice was written to be performed in traditional churches and cathedrals, where the sound reverberates around the space and you can get harmonics quite easily. When you have many different vocal lines singing together, you get echoes and overtones. They're subtle, but they're there, and they enrich the piece greatly.

Music without accompaniment is music like no other - and it spans many genres. At least give it a try.