dialect change?

Duane Campbell dcamp911 at JUNO.COM
Fri Nov 1 16:47:26 UTC 2002

On Thu, 31 Oct 2002 21:40:00 -0600 Tom Kysilko <pds at VISI.COM> writes:
> Was there sacred music in the Waring editions?  I remember anthems
> from
> church choir in the '60s that had pronunciation notations below the
> lyrics
> (and I mean English lyrics).  Seems to me that they came from one
> or
> another of the directors of the St Olaf College Choir.

Both Waring and St. Olaf's publish sacred music. I don't recall that Olaf
had phonetics, but I could be wrong.

The "dialect" of musical pronunciation is purely functional. As someone
else noted, a choir sounds much better singing aaahhhh than eeeeeee.
Same, to a slightly lesser extent, with soloists. Songwriters know this,
so you have:

        Ahhhhhhh-l be th-air

With the word "be" deliberately on a very short note. Almost "I'll

Musical tones sound more pleasing with the vocal passage wide open on
vowels, and many consonants sound just dreadful. Pronunciation by a
trained singer makes use of this. We are so used to these conventions
that we hardly notice it. For example, take the line, "You are the
promised breathe of springtime."

The first two words both have harsh sounds in them and are drawn out. To
make it sound decent, the diphthong in "you" is shortened to "Yoooo"
instead of "Ye-ooo" and "are" is sung as just an open aahhh, often with
the "r" at the end totally dropped, or at most just suggested.

An exception that proves this rule (in the original sense of the phrase)
is blue grass music (if you haven't seen Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, you
must) which cherishes the musically harsh speech of Appalachia. A blue
grass singer would sing (only slightly exaggerated) "Yew arrrrr ...."


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