The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56771   Message #889922
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
13-Feb-03 - 07:49 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Dust to Dust (John Kirkpatrick)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: DUST TO DUST - John Kirkpatrick
If my memory isn't completely off-track here, I think that John entered this song for some sort of competition that Jim Lloyd was running on "Folk On Two", or whatever the programme was called in the late '60s, and either won or came close to it. It was the first time I'd heard of him, but I never forgot that "Locrian Mode" business.

The point about transcription probably deserves its own discussion, but I'd just make a few points here. When transcribing a song text from a traditional singer, there may be a case for reflecting as accurately as possible the way in which it is sung; that's about being true to the source, though it should be remembered that it's virtually impossible to reflect individual pronounciation without descending into bizarre "mummerset", and that most of the old singers considered that they were singing in "normal english", and would have been mortified to see their words represented in a mutilated form that reflected an ousider's perception.

Transcribing from a record made by a professional performer is an entirely different matter. People like Roy Bailey are not traditional singers (and don't claim to be), so their personal pronounciation of words is irrelevant, particularly in the case of a modern song like this one. If you insist on writing "digging" as "diggin'", and so on, you are in effect establishing a spurious authority for that form; people will learn the text as you have given it, and many will believe that they have to sing it like that.

For what it's worth, the only grave-digger I've ever known at all well was public-school educated, but that's beside the point (as is the story about the skull he took home). I can assure you that Roy won't have moderated his pronounciation in order to reflect the educational background (real or perceived) of the fictional narrator of this song; that's just the way he sings. It has nothing whatever to do with grammar, but everything to do with ease of communication, and the intent of the writer.

Of course, if John actually wrote diggin, grievin and so on, then I'll go and get my coat. Meanwhile, though, I really do think that it's best to present a lyric in straightforward form, with as little subjective moderation as possible. It's fine to reflect dialect in transcription (when you really know what you're doing), but in cases like this, pronounciation is quite another matter, and really has nothing at all to do with the song.

Not a personal criticism in any way, I should add; just something that I've long felt the need to comment on here, as so many song transcriptions in the Forum and DT are made from recordings by Revival performers, whose personal approaches to phrasing and pronounciation are usually irrelevant to the songs under discussion.