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Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?

MGM·Lion 02 Nov 10 - 09:04 AM
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Subject: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:04 AM

British popular singers have affected American accents since way·back·when ~~ certainly back to the 1920s and beyond. It's part of the deal: there's a 'pop voice' just as there's a 'folk voice' {but let us not get on to that for the moment}; and the pop voice is, by convention, American accented. My wife, who is very informed & knowledgeable about pop & can always beat the young people on University Challenge to the answer when the music question is that way oriented, always gives me an odd look when I speculate aloud on why this should be. "It's just the way this sort of song is sung," she will say, in the tones of one describing a constant and unvarying law of nature.

Well, OK. One can live with that, if only by listening to as little of it as can be achieved.

But why does this convention even affect so many British artists accepted by us, The Folk World, as "Contemporary Folk" performers and writers?

You all know who I mean. Let's just mention, for clarity, the names of Donovan Croft, Alan Taylor, Ralph McTell {continued page 94}. I would exclude those steeped in American music who perform it here ~~ the late great Pete Sayers, say, who spent much time in Nashville's Country music atmosphere, toiling at the music he loved, and came back here to spread its word. But the others I have named are British artists with no axe to grind as to the origin of their music. Yet they will still affect it, this accent known generally as 'mid-Atlantic'. I ask again ~~ Why?

Do their agents make them do it because they won't sell records or get gigs in USA otherwise? Somehow I just don't think so; or don't think that's the full story, anyhow.

I have asked it before, and I will ask it again ~~ does the anomaly never strike Ralph McTell of performing his best-known song in tones and accents which would be more fitting if were called "Streets Of Brooklyn"?

Or am I the only person in the entire universe who finds anything at all odd about it?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: stallion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:32 AM

Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, Clash, Sex Pistols, Ray Davis to name some sang/sing in the vernacular, I think I know what you are getting at, it isn't limited to recording artists, one girl that sings at a local open mike night for all the world sounds like kate Rusby one song and Tammy Wynnet the next! My son says there is one song I sing that doesn't sound like me singing it, I don't think I consciously do anything different, but maybe there is a subliminel influence in there, I don't hear it, he does. So why do so many people sing in a pseudo US accent, is it a glamour thing?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:37 AM

This is what is called "cultural imperialism". It stems from the fact that the US enjoyed largely a peacetime economy in WWII so consumer durables (and consumables) were readily available after the war. Similarly the problem with US troops in WWII was that they were "over paid, over-sexed, and over here". So being American became associated with the availability of consumer items and sex - as well as the possibility of casting off one's parents' strictures.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:41 AM

I think if you're singing which is truly "American" in style and context - Jimmie Rodgers' "Waiting For A Train", for example - then an accent which suits that style and context is appropriate. And the same goes for English songs - "The Rout Of The Blues" is an example here - then an English, rather than American accent is most suitable.

I know one good local singer-songwriter who performs his own songs. His natural speaking voice is a mellifluous Scottish one, but the moment he opens his mouth to sing one of his own songs, he sounds like second-hand James Taylor. The effect is to diminish, rather than enhance his work.

Mind you, I'm also mistrustful of those English folk singers who appear to affect a nasal 'Mummerset' accent when singing English songs. Why?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:43 AM

I think if you're singing which is truly "American" in style and context

should read:

I think if you're singing a song which is truly "American" in style and context


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Santa
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:48 AM

I think you must also include the general collapse of confidence in the British way of life with the end of the Empire, and the snobbishness/dislike directed at singing in any English local accent. It's not just class warfare, it's also parochialism. The Beatles managed it, and I dare say you can name others easily enough, but there's still the lingering attitude of "not really us". There's one (ar least one) member of my local club in Lancashire that finds Janet Russell's singing voice "too Scottish". In this context, the Mid-Atlantic/US accent is seen as acceptable because it comes from outside, without hangups.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:48 AM

Will ~ re your last point in penultimate post ~~ that is the 'folk voice' which I refd to, and which I always try to avoid: a critic once wrote how I 'got right into the spirit of a song without putting on the folk voice', which I value as one of the nicest things anyone ever said about me.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 10:26 AM

I don't object to singing in English local accents as such, but some UK local accents are hideous (Sarf Lunnon, East Lon'n into Essex (estuarine and mockney like Lily Allen) Birmingham and Wolverhampton, Glasgow, Cowdenbeath, none too keen on Sheffield either) whereas some are rather pretty (parts of Wales, most of the Highlands, Norfolk, real West country variants - indeed a case can be made for Yorkshire and Lancashire and Northumberland as being closer to traditional English than the court-evolved styles).

I think the criticism of a "folk voice" is largely yet another invention of those who dislike and have no understanding of folk music anyway.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 10:44 AM

Depends, Richard ~~ some are appropriate (I can only sing Butter&Cheese in sort-of-Norfolk), others clearly affected.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 10:52 AM

If it's any comfort, when I sing an Irish or Scottish song, I often find a brogue creeping into my Midwestern voice.

Voices do what they want, you know. All this talk of accents, of ethnicity, of consumer durables (for heaven's sake!) originates in the analytical left brain. The voice, through hearing, is connected to the lizard brain at the base of the brain.

The hearing and the voice do things the left brain cannot begin to understand.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 10:56 AM

I always want to ask which part of America their accent is from.

I don't agree with Richard - I don't believe any accent is ugly to sing with if it's the singer's own. A lot of people do get scared off singing in their own accent and think they ought to sound like someone else; it seems a shame.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 11:00 AM

I think the criticism of a "folk voice" is largely yet another invention of those who dislike and have no understanding of folk music anyway.

With respect, Richard - I think that's tripe. I've been listening to, and enjoying folk music on and off for over 40 years. What grates sometimes is when a singer assumes a kind of indeterminately accented country-ish voice which may be quite different from their natural voice and which is put on for all the songs they sing.

There are many examples of traditional folk singers who sing naturally and unaffectedly, without putting on a fake folky accent. I was at a John Kirkpatrick evening recently, and was - as ever - impressed by his unaffected, direct and extremely pleasing singing.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 11:46 AM

"East Lon'n into Essex"

Not a fan of Billy Bragg I'd wager then RB? I've nothing against it myself, though the excessively affected adoption of 'mockney' by middle-class kids from well-to-do Essex villages irritated me growing up "Awrih' BABES?!". It was Eastenders that caused it of course. By which I don't mean the actual Eastenders who came to Essex, but well spoken actors from drama-school pretending to be Eastenders on telly.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 11:57 AM

Bragg writes great stuff but I hate his singing! Curiously Ian Drury did not affect me in quite the same way.

IMHO the "folk voice" assumed to be commonplace is quite rare, and that in most cases where a voice has become part of the performance it is because the singer thinks it apt for the song: they may be wrong but that is not the same thing.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 11:58 AM

With reference to M's original question, the disconnect between the speaking voice of some major artists and their singing voice, was something I never noticed until learning trad. songs and being told to sing in my own voice. After I started to do that, it all became glaringly obvious. But we're so used to hearing it, that when some popular artists sing in their own accents, they stand out for it.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: BobKnight
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 12:36 PM

For thirty plus years I sang in bands performing country or country rock songs. Anything from Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, etc, to Neill Young, Eagles and the rest. Those songs would sound crap with an Aberdeen accent. In fact most listeners would probably think you were incompetent, because they often want you to get as close to the original sound as possible, and that's how they judge you.

Along comes semi-retirement from the music scene and I start to write songs just to amuse myself, and I write them in my own local voice. Suddenly I'm a Scottish folk singer, and not only that, but my voice is more Scottish than most of the other Scottish singers on the folk scene. You can see for yourself on You-Tube - just type www.youtube.com/bobknightfolk

It's all come full circle - I'm enjoying it, but at the same time I've realised how close my native Scots language is being eroded out of existance by the pervasiveness of the media, TV, film, etc.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 12:51 PM

Blame the Media - Especially the overwhelming 'Estuary' English of so many radio music show presenters which leaves so many people thinking that their natural local accent is wrong !
And , of course , learning songs from other peoples recordings and NOT trying to get away from that particular delivery .


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 02:04 PM

I think part is imitation of your influences. Never have been Mid Atlantic but may have been attempted Oirish at times... before deciding real voice (my own being some weird mix of Shropshire and N Wales perhaps with a bit of Kent) is the best way for folk.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: stallion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 02:14 PM

I am rolling on the floor holding my sides, all about accents, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer singing in the pub singer style springs to mind. That isn't what makes me laugh so much as to the advice I have been given by die hard traddies about saying that I sing traditional songs with a contemporary folk singers style and I should try singing through my nose (and like an old man! i suppose...oops I am getting there!) I certainly do not sing with a pseudo yankee accent, if anything the other two I sing with are a tad posh and that rubs off otherwise it's a yorkshire accent.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: stallion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 02:21 PM

PS "2BS&S" & "The Young'uns" had a private sesh just recently and I was struck that The Young'uns teeside brogue permeated all their singing and 2BS&S sounded a tad cultured, my colleagues sing in their own voices as do the Young'Uns.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 02:41 PM

Hmmm. I think of the Mid-Atlantic states as the area from New York to Virginia. I don't really know of Mid-Atlantic as a term for an accent. However, there is a distinctive accent in eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Northern Virgina that I might call "Mid-Atlantic." Max (from Pennsylvania) talks that way, and so does Roger in Baltimore (who now lives in Northern Virginia). And it seems to me that's the accent Lonnie Donegan tried to affect.

Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York City and environs have what I would call an "Eastern" accent, and Rhode Island and above speak "New England" (Kendall and the late Barry Finn), for example). "Southern" starts in Virginia and ends in northern Florida.

But back to mid-Atlantic - very few people sing in what I would call a Mid-Atlantic accent. For that matter, very few people talk that way - which may be why Max and Roger in Baltimore seem to have such a kinship when they see each other at the Getaway.

My son, now 37, is leader of a California band based in Brooklyn that does much of its performing in Europe. Until he was about 22 years old, he sang in a poor imitation of a British accent, because that's the way he thought rock music was supposed to be sung. When he sings now, he sounds like a Californian, or a Californian trying to be a New Yorker.

-Joe in California, who likes to think he speaks with a Wisconsin accent-


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 02:52 PM

I think Leadfingers has the answer - learning songs from other peoples recordings and NOT trying to get away from that particular delivery .
Over here, on the other side of the world, singers are inclined to sing songs the way they heard them.
So if you picked up a song from a Joan Baez record, you sang it that way but if it was from the Pogues, that's how it will come out.
You can hear the influences and the sources, singers or countries.
We not only have American sounding singers but Scots, mock Irish, Cockney and broad West country sounds turning up here.
But in our pub session, the rest of the punters just love something they recognise. And it has to have the 'right' accent, not a Kiwi one!
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 02:54 PM

Mid Atlantic to me is someone UK attempting to sound American, Joe


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 03:04 PM

Pip Radish wrote: I always want to ask which part of America their accent is from.

Spot on, Pip! This "mid-Atlantic" accent is not spoken anywhere in the US (at least, not as far as I know) -- although it is used to sing just about everywhere.

Growing up in the midwest US (Detroit area) in the 70s, I remember wondering about the accent that kids my age would use when they were singing -- especially any pop songs. As I was one of those "strange" kids who was not into pop music, perhaps it was more noticeable to me than to other teenagers.

Anyway, just wanted to point out that it is not only non-Yanks singing in this accent which is not their own...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 03:16 PM

Mid Atlantic to me is someone UK attempting to sound American, Joe

Or vice versa, Jon...

Or even (as in my own case) someone who has grown up in one place and lived quite a while in the other.

I once entered a trad singing competition at a folk festival in the UK. Amongst the comments I received from the judges was a criticism for singing my song in a weird sort of mid-Atlantic accent. I remember wondering (since I did not speak much before or after singing) whether the judges had realised I'm a transplanted Yank and was honestly singing in "my own voice". Guess I'll never know...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 03:43 PM

Mid Atlantic to me is someone UK attempting to sound American, Joe

Could it be that "mid-Atlantic" sounds something like this? - "Glug, glug, glug...."

I'll get me coat...
I hadn't heard the term mid-Atlantic accent - I wonder if the term is used more commonly in Britain, than it is in the U.S. This Wikipedia article says:
    Mid-Atlantic English was popular in Hollywood films from the 1930s and 1940s, and continues to be associated with people such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, William F. Buckley, Jr., Christopher Hitchens, George Plimpton and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the United States, it is often known as a "Boarding School accent".

I've certainly heard the term "boarding school accent," to describe a manner of speaking which seemed to be viewed with disdain by many Americans of my generation (although no American would ever criticize Cary Grant or Katharine Hepburn). Orson Welles was another who often affected this accent, and I read somewhere that this is Tony Blair's current accent. The term "trans-Atlantic accent" would make more sense to me, because the other term would be confused here with our multi-accented "mid-Atlantic region" (the area affected by both hurricanes and nor'easters).

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 03:50 PM

whether the [UK] judges had realised I'm a transplanted Yank and was honestly singing in "my own voice".

That is an interesting twist YY


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 04:00 PM

glug glug glug. Try the first few seconds of this, how he speaks and how he sings this


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 04:05 PM

I sing in a mid Atlantic accent, because that's the voice my grandmother and both parents sang in. That is my culture. My Mum used to do the dishes singing Slow Boat to China in an approximation of Bing Crosby.

Ian Campbell once told me that his Dad used to sing in the accent of Al Jolson. He had to make a conscious effort to sing in the voice that you hear on the folk ballads lps with ewan and in the Ian Campbell folk groups.

American acts becasme popular in the English music halls inthe 1870's.

Its not us who are being phoney and denying our roots - its you lot.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 04:18 PM

Jon-
I wouldn't call the Gareth Gates accent "mid-Atlantic" - it's "universal whiny teenager."

I think an American trying to sound British is "uppity" (except in the case of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Grace Kelly). My feeling about a Briton trying to sound American, is that he/she is trying to be egalitarian. I have a negative response to the former, but not to the latter.

....and I do have a negative response to the "universal whiny teenager" accent.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 04:27 PM

"universal whiny teenager" accent.

Now that is a term I'd never heard. LOL


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 04:27 PM

Gosh. I never realised that any US film stars were trying to sound English (apart from Dick Van Dyke to legendary hilarious effect - oh and the multi-transplanted Meryl Streep). If they were, I'd approve. Self improvement is admirable.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 04:29 PM

PS - but US folk singers trying to sound English does not work - they only rock in USAian.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 05:01 PM

I never realised that any US film stars were trying to sound English

I think Gene Tierney is here Gem of a film to me btw - seems to appeal to me sentimental side.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 05:07 PM

John Lennon never sounded too American.

Of course "mid-Atlantic" really ought to mean singing like a mermaid. Or perhaps like an Icelander...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: artbrooks
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 05:45 PM

Mid-Atlantic sounds all wet to me. As previously noted, there is really no such thing in the US. There are (IMHO) four distinct regional accents in the US - Southern, New York, New England and TV-Californian, distinguished by both pronunciation and word usage. There are local variants within these, mostly discernible only by locals...for example, a person from Boston would be able to (or claim to be able to) distinguish a Bostonian from a Providencer but someone from Ohio would not.

And Joe...ya don't tak like sumbuddy from Visconsin, ya heer? Ya hey!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 06:07 PM

I think the fake American accent gets called "mid-Atlantic" simply because it's metaphorically stuck in between the two countries.

Joe: My feeling about a Briton trying to sound American, is that he/she is trying to be egalitarian.

That strikes me as a bit of a strange reaction. Apart from anything else, do Oasis or Arctic Monkeys sound snooty to you?

For someone like me, trying to sound American would be like trying to sound Australian or South African: fake. Being egalitarian or snobbish wouldn't come into it.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 06:11 PM

·····John Lennon never sounded too American.·····

I had him much in mind in OP-ing this thread. He tried to sound Liverpool when he stopped and thought about it; but often would lapse into the sort of cod-American I am thinking of when he let his attention slip, because that is the natural mode of British pop/rock-singers.

My point is that it's a pity that some who are on the verge of folk, like McTell, lapse into it also ~~ often inappropriately, as it fights the actual content of what they are singing ("Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Tucson...")

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 06:11 PM

All musical interpretation is learned largely by ear. Opera singers epsecially subscribe to a certain artificial pronunciation because it is, in fact, traditional (though not quite in the sense we're accustomed to here).

It's only natural that a singer who truly identifies with asong will want to emulate the accent that they associate with it.

The issue, which is only problematic if we want is to be, is whether the singer's artificial delivery is acceptible to the audience. It might be unacceptable for any of a number of reasons - many of which have already been mentioned.

And audiences vary in expectation, levels of tolerance, and, yes, even the ability to distinguish a skilfully imitated accent from an atrocious one.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 06:55 PM

Artbrooks -- you've forgotten Midwestern! There is definitely a Midwestern accent which is not any of the others you mentioned.

And audiences vary in expectation, levels of tolerance, and, yes, even the ability to distinguish a skilfully imitated accent from an atrocious one.

Absolutely. I was amazed (as most other US-ians would be) to learn -- some time after I moved to the UK -- what universal mirth ensues whenever Dick Van Dyke's name is mentioned over here, where his name is a byword for a terrible attempt to sound Cockney (in Mary Poppins, for my fellow countrymen/women who will not be aware of this).

I hate to say it, but we all thought his accent was quite convincing. (In our defense, our exposure to the real thing was virtually nil...)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:03 PM

I checked these out.

Can't find "Mid Atlantic."

Hans Kurath: Linguistic Atlas of the United States

Linguistic Geography of the Mainland United States

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:17 PM

Well, Art Brooks alluded to the existence of a Wisconsin accent, but he broke my hear when he said I didn't sound like a Wisconsinite. But then, Wisconsinites never sound like non-Wisconsinites think they should sound.

Pip Radish, I think I should explain. Most Americans who try to sound British, try to sound like posh Britons. Most Brits who try to sound American, have no desire to sound like old-money Americans (who try to sound like posh Britons...)

So, in that sense, the Brits who try to sound like Americans aren't trying to be pretentious, and the Americans trying to sound like posh Britons are überpretentious...


-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:25 PM

Mr Bridge - There ARE a few American singers who make a VERY good job of singing English songs without sounding 'Orribly American - Louis Killen's American wife and singing partner Sally for one . and Mary Smith (Maryrrf in here) for another to start with .
I could NEVER really enjoy Joan Baez singing English songs simply because she DOES sound SO american . delightful though her voice is .


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 09:32 PM

Hmmmm, most of the indie bands I listen to now sing in regional accents. Eg:

Maximo Park

Ipso Facto

Tom Williams and the Boat

and a lot of the bands from my youth (eg Kinks, Yes, Ian Dury, The Nice, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Family and loads more) sang mainly in recognisably English accents.

Certainly some bands affect a faux US accent, but it's by no means as ubiquitous as the OP makes out.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 01:35 AM

American pop music has typically conformed to a more or less standard accent, too, and it is not the so-called "General American" accent (supposedly closest to the old Midwest accent). In fact, it has more of a Southern aspect to it -- perhaps reflecting the history of our popular music. Really, it is most notably an African-American accent (which has aspects of Southern accents). The majority of American pop music, until recently, can be seen as an outgrowth of Southern genres, be they "country" or "blues." The most notable feature is the avoidance of "r" (nonrhotic pronunciation).

Though my own Northeastern regional American accent is more or less rhotic -- albeit occasionally r-less in certain contexts/registers -- I don't feel a bit of a phony singing songs without r. It's how songs are sung. People/I believe it sounds appropriate to singing. We are not stupid for thinking so.

When I hear a Californian sing a similar style, and given that a Californian typically has a much more present 'r', I am slightly amused. That is because the difference between his/her speaking and the singing accent is much greater (i.e. than I perceive mine to be). However, who am I to judge? Singing with Southern/AAVE tendencies is part of what makes a singer sound competent -- some would say "authentic." If you can't sing that way, you're booted off American Idol immediately!

I am intrigued by what I hear as a more recent phenomenon, and I don't know exactly what genres it falls into (though I have heard it in, say, the Emo that my nephew listens to)... where the accent it quite different. The 'R' is VERY present. It is like an Oregon/Northern California/Washington accent (I guess). It seems to convey something very different than the more mainstream/typical pop music. On one level, it is distinguishing itself as something new and alternative to the mainstream. However, in my very humble opinion, it is putting out a very deliberate "White" sound that contrasts with the usual "Black" sound. Whereas the "Black" sound has become the shared sound of pop amongst singers of all ethnicities, I can't help feeling that this newly-accented music is very oriented towards "White" listeners!

For UK accents I'd cite Street Punk / Oi! as a genre that has remained very true to local accents. You can't very well sing "England Belongs to Me" in a Yankee accent.

When I DJ to Jamaican music, my chat on the mic is necessarily in a sort of posh Jamaican accent of sorts. It is not in deep patois -- that would be a sort of overacting. However, there is a sort of accent shift that has emerged as a sort of "received pronunciation" for Jamaican music and which is appropriate for foreigners to use (see e.g. English sound man David Rodigan). What I find jarring -- but which has nonetheless gained widespread acceptance by the "natives" -- is the use of real, basolect creole by young foreigners doing Jamaican music. So long as you are respecting the culture, adopting the accent seems to have emerged as preferable to singing in an accent that is "foreign" to the genre.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 03:03 AM

I remember a judge on a British TV talent show criticising a contestant - white British - for singing in a Jamaican accent; however, none of the other contestants were criticised for singing with American accents.
Those accents are so ingrained in British pop culture that most Brits don't "hear" those dreadful, phoney accents.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 03:34 AM

Absolutely, Tunesmith ~ very valuable point: so many [e.g. my wife ~ see OP] so accept that pop shall be sung in American that they don't even notice that it is happening; even when, as in talent shows, you hear the singers talk in [as in recent case of Bell-Amie] Liverpool accents and then take off into "HankyPankyYankee" for the song.

Rob Naylor: — and a lot of the bands from my youth (eg Kinks, Yes, Ian Dury, The Nice, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Family and loads more) sang mainly in recognisably English accents......

Up to a point, Rob; tho even these iirc sounded more American [obtrusive 'R', e.g.] when singing than when just talking.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Steve Hunt
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 04:43 AM

Reading through this thread has caused me to have a listen to 'Streets Of London' to see if the original poster has a point. IMO, the only "Americanisms" in it are in the use of (popular hip-speak at the time) words like: "the sun don't shine" rather than the singer's accent.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 04:46 AM

I remember a judge on a British TV talent show criticising a contestant - white British - for singing in a Jamaican accent; however, none of the other contestants were criticised for singing with American accents.

A matter of perspective. This sort of "crossing", in that it appears to involve a racial leap, may be too much for them. Or it may have been done badly (as compared to the American accents, which were done better).

***
My example again is that there are Japanese, Germans, Italians etc. that are performing in full on Jamaican accents and dialect and hardcore Jamaican music audiences have respect for them. The point of my example is that it is not the default position that one must perceive "singing accents" as phoniness or betrayal of one's prescribed identity. Taking an ethnocentric position of "We are English, so we shouldn't sing these horrid American accents" doesn't help much understand the "Why?" These artists show their competency through using appropriate accents. It is not necessarily a sign of their being passive, weak-minded slaves to media, cultural hegemony, low esteem etc etc, but rather can be active expression of identity and taste.

I am fully secure in my local identity. In fact, if anyone gets me started I am happy to go on for hours about the nuances of my regional accent -- I am consciously aware of them. I think that where I am from is the greatest place in the world! But when I sing I will select whatever accent I feel is appropriate to 1. the aesthetics of the music 2. the identity I wish to convey. When I go into a coffee house in California I will ask for a 'smawl khawfi' in my usual way -- Damn them if they have to say 'What?' You've got a Southern New Englander in the house; step out of your damn state for once in your life and get some exposure to others. :) When I sing a song tho, I may want most people to understand the words the very first time, and allow my region identity to fade into the background.

It can also be really fun to sing in different accents; speaking in them may be considered inappropriate, but since singing in them may not be, it offers a chance to shift into that character in a 'framed' context. I am offering this in answer to the question of "Why?"


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Darowyn
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 05:16 AM

Complain as you may, don't forget that there are sometimes good reasons for modifying both vowels and consonants when singing.
Microphones are, compared with our ears, over sensitive to plosive and sibilant consonants. Softening "S" in the direction of "SH" and "T" towards "D", and trying to avoid "P and B" when singing close mic are examples of good microphone technique- but they will tend to make a Briton sound American.
With vowels it's more complicated.
"Opera singers especially subscribe to a certain artificial pronunciation."
This makes musical and acoustic sense.
The formants that give vowels their distinctive sounds are sets of harmonic frequencies that overlay the fundamental pitch of the note. At some pitches, these frequencies do not sit happily together. Basic musicality will lead to a tendency to shift vowels towards those that sound better at that pitch.
If they all sang "mid atlantic"* it would be fine.
*that is the phrase used in the UK, whatever it means in the US.

It's not such a clear cut case of mindless imitation as you think, and it would often sound worse if it was not done.
Have you ever wondered why some of the best sounding choirs are regional?
If you had both Welsh, French and Yorkshire people, singing perfectly in tune, in English, in their own accents, there would be some horrible clashes on certain sounds- actually on most sustained vowels.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: doc.tom
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 05:28 AM

Fascinating thread. I always understood 'mid-Atlantic' to be shorthand (shortspeak?) for cod-American. People can affect whatever accent they like, of course (and many do) - I've even been known to get more Deb'n at times. However, an 'assumed' American accent is the first reason many 'wannabe booked' english artists' demo CDs go in the bin: we simply don't book performers who can't be bothered to use their own accents.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 05:42 AM

Steve Hunt: thanks for your trouble. On the strength of what you said, I too went to Youtube & played back several versions of Sts of Ldn. I retain my impression that there is a strong MID-Atlantic influence, with emphasis on the 'Mid" ~~ largely matter of where the emphases fall, and usages like [as near as I can repro them phonetically] "quawdah pa-ye-sst eleven" ~ not as say one from the Bronx might say '¼-past-11'; but not as, e.g., I should pronounce it if I were singing it, which would be nearer to 'quaw-ter [with the 'R' silent*] passed [long 'a' ~ his is, distinctly, short, with that hint of a 'ye' after it which you would not get even in an English accent {e.g. Yorks, where the 'a' might be short}] 11'. I still think my point holds about the "mid"-ness of his accent and intonations.

~M~

*as Shaw remarked long ago, we lack a letter for the indefinite vowel, which phonetics represent as an upside-down 'e', even tho it is the commonest of our vowel sounds & can be represented by all our vowels on occasions, as in "formal, listen, definite, custom, fungus"...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 05:51 AM

... and in the last verse, most distinctly, "in the winter ciddy the rain crahs [presumably 'cries'] a liddle piddy"...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 06:10 AM

·····AND LET ME MAKE AN IMPORTANT POINT REGARDING 'STREETS OF LONDON'

~~ I am by no means disregarding its excellence as a piece of creative art, either as music or as verse. I think its lyric should be included in any worthwhile anthology of 20C English Poetry, along with, say, Peter Bellamy's Farewell To The Land, MacColl's Champion At Keeping Them Rolling, &c, as well as more obvious inclusions as work by Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Edward Thomas, Owen, Sassoon & so forth... It is only some inappropriateness in the way it is performed which I am animadverting against here.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 06:26 AM

crahs [presumably 'cries']

That's Southern (American). Yes, it is part of the established popular singing accent, but I believe it is based on Southern speech, not on the Mid/Trans-Atlantic. One could add, as Dave notes, that certain sounds are considered more mellifluous for singing. In America, to sing the dipthong "craeee" w/ too much emphasis is unaesthetic because of the tense mouth position on "ee"; the monopthong 'craa' is preferred.

And the Mid Atlantic would distinguish itself from the common American 'ciddy' by actually saying 'city.' So these are not 'Mid-Atlantic' features, but they are features of 'pop music RP...which is based on American".

I agree that the Streets of London sounds appreciably American, which is the main thing.

I happen to think that 'Mid-Atlantic' is not the accurate term for it, but the term isnt important.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 06:27 AM

If you sing opera, then the accenting of the words works best when sung as written. Opera singers have known, appreciated and worked to this over the years.

To a degree, this also works with any song. Narrative ballads may well work better in the natural voice of the singer, but that is because the voice is a relayer of words rather than a musical instrument in its own right.

For me, authenticity is a two way street. I am English so a mid Atlantic voice can sound strange and cringingely false. That said, many songs I sing have words that don't sound the same as when I speak them, Harry Chapin and Kris Kristofferson songs especially...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 06:33 AM

MtheGM: ... and in the last verse, most distinctly, "in the winter ciddy the rain crahs [presumably 'cries'] a liddle piddy"...

This was the first one I opened:

Streets of London

and I just don't hear what you're hearing at all. He definitely articulates the "t" in both "city" and "pity" and "cries" has no hint of a "crah" in it to me.

Maybe I'm just not very good at accents, though I did once ask a bloke in Oslo whether he came from Morningside in Edinburgh, to be told "No, I'm Norwegian, but my wife's from Morningside". And apparently I speak Norwegian with an Icelandic accent. Three times Oslo taxi drivers have mistaken me for an Icelander!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 06:57 AM

Rob ~ in your version, certainly 'city/pity' indeed, though a somewhat obtrusive 'r' in the 'care' in the next line. In some others, tho [see how many there are on Youtube!] my 'ciddy/piddy' do occur. He wouldn't sing identically on all occasions over the years, of course ~~ perhaps someone had even suggested to him at some interim point that in an English context, 'city' would sound more seemly than 'ciddy'.

Still, as Gibb Sahib says just a few posts back ~~

"I agree that the Streets of London sounds appreciably American, which is the main thing."


~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 07:06 AM

I'm not sure that all that many recent British pop singers do have a mid-Atlantic accent - most of them sound to me as if they're singing in that curious second/third generation Jamaican/Asian form of the South London accent that lots of young people (regardless of ethnic origin) seem to affect these days. Nevertheless, aeons ago (in pop music terms) the Manchester/Salford accent, typified by Oasis (from Burnage), was fashionable for a while.

Regarding prominent British folk singers, I'm struck by how many male singers affect that distinctive nasal sound, whilst I can't think of a single female singer who sings like that (perhaps it's something to do with the differences between male and female voices - and the nasal sound is harder for women to affect - or perhaps they've got more taste?). Nevertheless, the nasal sound irritates the hell out of me - which is probably why most of my favourite singers, these days, are women.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 07:06 AM

We had a wonderful insight into the mindset that seems to go with this somewhat odd approach to singing.
We booked an excellent (blues based, Welsh) musician/singer at our club, who had provided accompaniments for an album of songs from the Radio Ballads.
He introduced one of his own songs something like this:
"Last summer I was working at Butlins Holiday Camp at Aberystwyth(?) and I became very friendly with a waitress there. We spent the summer together, and at the end of the season we parted and got on our different trains to return to our different parts of the country.
On the train I was thinking of how each station was a sort of milestone of the increasing gap between us; so I wrote this song on the journey home, naming all the stations.
When I got home and looked at what I'd written; the Welsh names didn't seem right, so I altered them to American ones" (Memphis is the only one springs to mind).
He then sang his perfectly good song, made about an experience which was obviously very dear to him, in a cod-American accent - totally destroying the effect that he had created with his preceeding story.
I do not believe that a singer can have any feeling whatsoever for the words they are singing when they are delivered in an accent other than their own.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 07:11 AM

Sorry - cross-posted.
".....which is probably why most of my favourite singers, these days, are women."
Tend to agree Shimrod, excluding those who sing in that dreadfully effected and artificial head-voice - every bit as false as cod-American.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 07:25 AM

Not sure I agree with your last point entirely, Jim. I happen to be good at some accents ~~ I once played the Hollywood film star in Noel Coward's Relative Values for the Shelford [Cambs] Drama Circle; some of our members in the audience brought some American visitors, who, they told us, said afterwards "Weren't you lucky to get a real American to play that part?" When I won the Best Actor award in a drama festival with the same company for Shaffer's Black Comedy, in which I played Harold Gorringe, the camp antiques dealer, as a Scouse, the adjudicator asked in his summary whether I really came from the North of England [I was actually born in Hampstead]. & remember Ewan's Scots which differed so greatly from his native Salford...

I don't make these points merely to boast, but to justify myself for sometimes singing in what I regard as an appropriate accent {Irish, American, Welsh, Norfolk}, if the song seems to call for it, and if I have confidence I can bring it off. Try, e.g., my Butter&Cheese&All or my Santa Fe Trail on my Youtube channel. But where no accent seems called for, in a purely narrative song with no specified local connections, I just try to sound like me, without affectation.

I think it is these last two words in the previous para that matter. I feel much of the American that infiltrates many singers' performances is an affectation rather than an attempt at enhancement ~~ which is my point as OP of this thread.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 07:33 AM

"I do not believe that a singer can have any feeling whatsoever for the words they are singing when they are delivered in an accent other than their own."

Why should that be? Even a terrible fake accent suggests an attempt to absorb every nuance of the song, successfully or not.

The singer expresses, the audience perceives. All kinds of complications can occur in the space between, but the two processes are distinct.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 07:34 AM

the Welsh names didn't seem right

Ach y fi. What a sad story.

Here's a bit of Billy Bragg to take the taste away (you'll probably guess the tune).

"If you ever go to Shoeburyness
Take the A-road, the OK road, it's the best!
Go motoring on the A13.
Well it starts down in Wapping
Then it ain't a-stopping
Bypass Barking and straight through Dagenham
Down to Grays Thurrock
And rather near Basildon
Pitsea, Thundersley,
Hadleigh, Leigh-on-Sea,
Chalkwell, Prittlewell,
Southend's the end!"

Obviously he wrote it as a joke, but (at the risk of Pseud's Corner) I think it works rather well as a celebration of place - it's certainly a celebration of how many placenames you can get into a song. You can hear it, bizarrely enough, on the V&A Web site.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 08:02 AM

Thanks, Pip. Greatly enjoyed that. Pseud's Corner? ~~ dear me know: a true celebration indeed ~~ as Henry James might have said, firmly rooted in the actual... and sung in the most appropriate of accents!

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 08:06 AM

Somewhat off topic I know, but Thank You Jon for mentioning Gene Tierney, my first teenage crush (on a movie star) and still in my opinion the most beautiful woman ever on the screen. Closely followed, but never overtaken, by the divine Audrey Hepburn.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 09:05 AM

Sing with the accent you use when you speak. If you are not American don't sing with an American accent.Why would you? Doesn't make sense and sounds dreadful.

The worse of all for me though is someone who tries to sing with a Scottish accent when they are not Scottish. Appalling!


    Please note that anonymous posting is no longer allowed at Mudcat. Use a consistent name [in the 'from' box] when you post, or your messages risk being deleted.
    Thanks.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: squeezeboxhp
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 10:01 AM

try Dave Burland doing Butter & cheese and all in mid Barnsley acce4nt


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 10:03 AM

She would have been too old for me, Burl but, yes I think she is good looking.

back to topic,

If you are not American don't sing with an American accent.Why would you?


I think if I was (not that I could) starring in a production of Oklahoma, I would. My mixed English accent may not seem right in the context.

On the other hand with songs that move around and get adopted, I don't really see being other than myself.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 10:04 AM

Sorry Mike - can't agree with your point on accents.
The mid Atlantic one always gives me the impression of repeating the song parrot-fashion rather than the re-living of it in performance.
The 'Oirish' one has the same effect on me, as does the yokel "oo-ar" one.
I'm sure MacColl's Scots accent is going to surface here somewhere, but I think that's a little different. Ewan grew up in a Scots household surrounded by Scots accents; if you spent any time with him you realised his speech was full of naturally acquired Scotticisms. His singing accent was in no way authentic; his early influences were mixed, High and Lowland Scots and, having chosen to sing the Scots songs he had heard as a child, he deliberately neutralised them (as does an actor) in order to make them intelligible to an English audience. I remember seeing the Edinburgh Festival's production of MacBeath once and not understanding a word (particularly Matt McGinn playing the gatekeeper).   
Walter Pardon, in his gentle way, took ubridge at the mock-East anglian one that he came across on the radio occasionally.
We were recording him talking about accents one night (we had just got hold of a very early recording of him at the Norwitch Festival noticed that his own had lessened somewhat over the years).
He went into a gentle rant about 'country accents' on the radio; "They always depict us saying ""ooo, ar"".
Pat said to him, "But you do sometimes say "oo-ar", Walter.
He sat for a moment, stared up at the ceiling as said, "Oo-ar".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 10:24 AM

"Or am I the only person in the entire universe who finds anything at all odd about it?" ~Michael~...No: I (and others) have been saying it for years on Mudcat, and here, e.g. - http://davidfranks.webs.com/#messages

And it's not just in our nation, of course: on Eurosport T.V., I was watching a gala of figure skating to what I thought was an American band playing live - until the lead singer began introducing the next song in a strong German accent.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 10:35 AM

In acting, it can work the opposite way to how you describe of course Mike.
Years ago I watched a television production of Théresé Raquin featuring the great Brian Cox.
Cox played it in a straight 'English' accent up to an extremely dramatic scene towards the end, where the role appeared to take him over and he roared his way though his lines in broad Scots - superb - still makes the hairs on the back of the neck bristle to think of it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 11:05 AM

Remember that lad from Salford Manchester who used to affect a Scottish accent in his singing and increasingly over the years, his general speech?
Even changed his name to the more Scottish sounding Ewan McColl....


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 11:14 AM

"Some UK local accents are hideous... Birmingham and Wolverhampton"

Richard, you can't truly believe that, can you? You may have the slightest point about Brummies, but the Black Country accent, especially when sung, is surely a thing of great beauty! It's a shame we don't hear more of it. Not folk in the narrower sense, but have a listen to Dan Haywood's New Hawks. Most of his songs are inspired by his travels around rural Scotland, but invariably sung in his lovely West Midlands twang...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 01:46 PM

When I was studying socio-linguistics, I remember an experiment that involved playing recordings of various English regional accents to two groups of people. The first group were English and they were asked to list the accents in order from favourite to least favourite. Birmingham and Liverpool were at the bottom and West Country at the top; but, interestingly, when the same recordings were played to the second group, Americans, the results were very different. This suggests that English listeners ratings involved certain prejudices.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 01:52 PM

Wolverhampton (yam-yam) is an excellent accent and quite unlike Birmingham in its expressiveness. And no I'm not from either but know a fine sound when I hear one.
Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys sings in a fascinating mix of posh geordie and faux Noel Coward. Then there's Morrissey's Betjeman/Bet Lynch hybrid.
One question I've often pondered is why all crusties, protesters, new-agers adopt a Swindon accent whatever their origins.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 01:57 PM

Interesting that somebody linked to this 1986 Ralph McTell recording of "Streets of London" as an example of "mid-Atlantic" accent. To me, he sounds completely British, perhaps softening the British accent a bit to make himself more understandable to a worldwide audience. But he sure doesn't sound anywhere close to any accent I've heard here in the US. Well, maybe he sounds a bit like British ex-pats who live in the US.

Now, if you want to hear Britons trying to sound American, listen to Lonnie Donegan or the Rolling Stones.

-Joe in California-


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 02:12 PM

I once met a brother and sister from Blackboys in Sussex who spoke an accent quite unlike the estuary or RP one might expect. I asked my BiL who has always lived nearby and he said there is a proper Sussex accent but it has largely died out. It had touches of Norfolk and the west country to my ear.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 02:23 PM

The 'proper Sussex accent' is of course that of the Copper Family ~~ at least up to the present generation of elders.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 02:35 PM

I agree, Joe, re. "Streets of London" - but I've also heard Ralph McTell attempt an American accent in other songs.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 02:41 PM

Oh well, if we're talking about actors, then give me Ray Winston as Henery the Eightf...

"Oi! Anne Boleyn! You sl-a-a-g!"


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 02:50 PM

Come to think of it, on "Streets of London," McTell sounds just like Pierce Brosnan doing a James Bond movie - it sounds British, but it's understandable to a wider audience. David Attenborough and a lot of BBC announcers do the same.
But it's not trying to sound like an American, fer chrissake. It's just trying to be understood.

Americans often do the same thing when they're on stage - dropping the regionalisms so they can be understood, and so the accent doesn't get in the way of their performance.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 02:59 PM

The first group were English    But from where? I suspect you'd get a different preferred order in different parts of the country.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 03:21 PM

"Even changed his name to the more Scottish sounding Ewan McColl.."
Sort of like the feller who changed his name to Bob Dylan, you mean - don't think he could even claim Welsh parents.
Jim


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 04:03 PM

Ewan MacColl always seemed to me like Theodore Bikel knowing fewer accents.

=)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 04:36 PM

But it's not trying to sound like an American, fer chrissake. It's just trying to be understood.

I can't say what it's trying to do -- that information remains with the performer. And I agree heartily with your point about trying to be widely understood, so far as that is one of the many reason someone would alter his/her accent. Maybe that is what he is doing.

Nevertheless it does have American qualities. Michael's example of "quarder", "ciddy" etc. is strong evidence. That sort of pronunciation is nearly universally "American" (regardless of region). If you wanted to make yourself better understood, I'd think you'd use the English/South African/New Zealander/etc. "t" rather than America's unique sound.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 04:39 PM

Now Theo Bikel ~~ there is a man brilliant at accents: remember his perfect Irish on One Sunday Morning? {Jim, please note.}

The point is, of course, that he is primarily an actor.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 04:45 PM

Another point re McTell is the style of delivery: every version of Streets is what I can only describe as "crooned", in a manner redolent to my ears of American pop singing styles of the pre-rock era [think Crosby, think Bennett, think Sinatra], which redounds strongly IMO to the overall feel of "American"-ness which others as well as me have expressed themselves here as sensing.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 04:48 PM

Remember that lad from Salford Manchester who used to affect a Scottish accent

I can not claim to know Manchester but on accents and languages...

A couple of years ago I got talking to someone I used to know when I was living in Wales. Accent would say Welsh first language (there are differences on the N Wales coast) and (not that I siarad Cymraeg) he is fluent - it may even be the language he teaches in. I was quite surprised to learn he was from Manchester but had a Welsh parent - and had always known Welsh.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 03 Nov 10 - 05:19 PM

Accents are funny things ; there is someone I know ,who comes from t' Midlands by t'sound of it,but INSISTS on singing all his material in a dreadful faux-American (Am-err-ik-aine) accent .(No names,no pack-drill,but he lives in Carterton !!).
               As to Will Fly's earlier comments ; well, I recently heard that song about Messrs Mason & Dixon, about the eponymous "line", and,whilst I recognised Mark Knopfler right away, I thought that the other voice belonged to Dougie MacClean !! ( apparently it's James Taylor !!).Hmmmmm....
         Whether or not Lonnie Donegan affected an American accent or not is open to debate ; I always felt that he somehow spoke / sang like that naturally, to be honest !
    Some years ago,I was working with a guy whose accent really had me stumped ; he looked quite Nordic,or Germanic, with piercing blue eyes and blond hair --one day, I decided that I just HAD to ask him from whence he came; "Germany ?" I ventured,tentatively-"Israel?"
    "Why no, man ! " he replied : " Ahm from Kingston ,Jahmaiker !"
I spluttered a bit,and then he said "There's lots o whart folks dat comes from Jahmaiker,yer know!". One lives & learns.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 05:05 AM

"Now Theo Bikel ~~ there is a man brilliant at accents: remember his perfect Irish on One Sunday Morning? {Jim, please note.}"
Don't know a lot about Theodor Bikel, except a couple of his films I enjoyed - The Defiant Ones - still magnificent.
But he earned my lifelong respect when I read the story of his embarrassing Bob Dylan into participating in the Civil Rights Demonstrations - Dylan had said that he wasn't taking part (along with Seeger and many of the other singers at the time) because he couldn't afford the fare South - Bikel paid it, more or less forcing him to go.
I'm not saying that singers, as well as actors, can't 'do' accents other than their own well - of course they can. But I do believe that once you sing a song in an accent that is outside your own personal experience, then you run the risk of placing the song at arms-length from you and it becomes a 'technical performance' rather than an emotianal interpretation. I believee that this is what the Welsh singer I mentioned earlier did with an emotional experience of his own; and it diddn't work - for him, for me, for the other residents, and for some of the audience.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 06:04 AM

I blame the Bay City Rollers....


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 06:24 AM

As I said in a brief talk, about this time last year, as part of the BBC/Sage Gateshead Free Thinking Festival, "If you are not American, don't Americanise, for the love of our world being multicultural" - quickly stressing the difference between being anti-American and anti-Americanisation, of course.

And this year, by the way, at 3.30 on Saturday at the Sage, my brief talk will be: "Cut Capitalism."


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Nicholas Waller
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 08:14 AM

Joe Offer - Now, if you want to hear Britons trying to sound American, listen to Lonnie Donegan or the Rolling Stones.

Or Elton John. I like a lot of Elton John's songs, and the Rolling Stones' for that matter, but I've never been enough of a fan of either to actually acquire much more than a best-of album, and I think that's partly to do with a resistance to the accents. (And just imagine the mockery if English artists felt they had to sing everything with a French or Italian accent).

Again, this is about British people singing with an "American" accent, or mid-Atlantic accent (which I read as being neither one thing nor the other, but falling somewhere in the sea between two stools). Americans singing in American - like Dana and Susan Robinson or anyone else - great, perfect. (Similarly, I don't much like to see British actors playing Americans, as it looks fraudulent - though oddly, as a Brit, I am utterly unbothered by Rene Zellweger or Russell Crowe or Cate Blanchett playing Brits).

There were a couple of good songwriters and singers in the West Country folk/acoustic club I used to go to (before it had to fold), and they too spoke in English accents but insisted on singing in American, often about American subjects too. Obviously they genuinely loved the sound and the stories and culture of US music, but I still thought of it as a pretence of some sort.

Having said all this, I recognise a singing voice is never going to be the same as a speaking voice, well, except for the likes of William Shatner, and no-one expects opera singers to sing with a voice like their speaking voices.

@ bubblyrat - Caribbean accent: when I first heard Tony Cozier, the cricket commentator from Barbados, on the radio, I assumed he was a black West Indian - but he looks like a white retired bank manager from the Home Counties.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: CET
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 08:17 AM

I am trying to get my head around the idea that there are people on this planet (presumably, people who like music) who are capable of criticizing Janet Russell for sounding too Scottish. That's like saying: "Chaliapin was OK, I guess, but he would have been better if he didn't sound so Russian and didn't have such a deep voice."


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 08:44 AM

Well, Nicholas,there you go !! Elvis,until he actually met him (they became friends) always thought Tom Jones was black !!
    I have to say, I really do like the idea of an accent falling between two stools !!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Ned
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 09:02 AM

This is a good thread. I agree with the original poster. Michael, you're not "the only person in the entire universe who finds anything at all odd about it". Reminds me of an Eddi Reader quote in the current issue of The Word. She was interviewed about Kirsty MacColl:

"It's a very English voice. In the sense that she's a really authentic singer and very much of her culture, I'd relate her to Sandy Denny. She used her accent the way Sandy used her accent - getting that Englishness across without sounding like Chas and Dave..."


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 09:10 AM

Joe said "I think an American trying to sound British is "uppity" (except in the case of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Grace Kelly)."


Cary Grant was not an American trying to sound British. He WAS British.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 09:57 AM

Jim ~~ You write, "I'm not saying that singers, as well as actors, can't 'do' accents other than their own well - of course they can. But I do believe that once you sing a song in an accent that is outside your own personal experience, then you run the risk of placing the song at arms-length from you and it becomes a 'technical performance' rather than an emotianal interpretation."

I do see what you mean: but how would you define "outside your own personal experience"? I repeat, I have played Americans in plays, once getting the comment from American visitors that we were 'lucky to get a real American to play that part'. I have played Irishmen [in 'Shadow of the Glen'], Welshmen [in Under Milk Wood]. I won a Best Actor festival cup for playing a Scouse with an accent which the adjudicator admitted he thought was real. So in what way precisely are the accents demanded by such performances 'outside my personal experience'? Playing a part is personal experience, surely? And singing a song is a performance: I think it no accident that two of the greatest of folksingers, Ewan MacColl & Theo Bikel, were both professional actors. If I can bring them off on stage to convince an audience, why shouldn't I sing appropriate songs in them? I try to sound natural and avoid exaggeration. I have just been back to my Youtube channel & replayed my Skillet Pot, Longhorn Cows, Butter&Cheese... I try to be self-critical, & they do, honest, sound OK to me. Glasgow friends have been most appreciative of my "Day We Went To Rothesay-O".

& remember, I was OP of this thread, so you can tell that I detest accents used inappropriately.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 10:35 AM

I can't agree that singing a song is necessarily a performance. I am pretty sure that most people sing for their own enjoyment of a song because they like that particular lyric and or melody.
I remember many years back I used to sing for my own enjoyment "Pub with no beer" and to sing it in anything other than an attempted "strine" accent made it sound ridiculous. Likewise I have a liking for the songs of the American south. To sing about catfish, possum, grits and gravy etc. in an english accent sounds equally so.

Regarding Glasgow friends being most appreciative of and englishman singing "Rothesay-O", I suspect that they were being polite. I had a similar experience when I was asked to sing by a couple from North Carolina. I sang an american song and when I finished the husband turned to his wife and said "see when he sings he don't have an accent". Very polite those southerners.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 10:48 AM

to sing it in anything other than an attempted "strine" accent made it sound ridiculous

Not sure why - I think I've only ever heard it sung in a fairly broad Lancashire accent. Sounds fine.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 11:14 AM

Don't you think it is rather rude of you to doubt my word about my friends' reaction, Hoot ~~ to me and to them? But, hell, "what cares I for praise!"

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 11:22 AM

I'd have thought that any attempt to sing anything to an audience is a performance - whether you're singing in your own accent or someone else's. By performance I mean making the effort to breathe some life and drama into the song by whatever means necessary.

Jim suggests "once you sing a song in an accent that is outside your own personal experience, then you run the risk of placing the song at arms-length from you and it becomes a 'technical performance' rather than an emotional interpretation". The difficulty with this, is that one's own experience is not merely limited to accent but also to the content matter of the song. In my case it would mean limiting myself to little more than songs about growing up in the Black Country in the 1970s and being a social worker. I don't know many traditional songs (or contemporary ones for that matter) about either subject. I suspect we need to worry less about authenticity - our entire folk revival is a pretty artificial construct anyway and none the worse for this - and more about enjoying the songs. If that means - for some people - performing in terms of accent and delivery as well as attempting to emotionally inhabit world other than our own, bring it on!

If I sing about a "minister's daughter in the north" murdering then being haunted by the ghosts of her children, I am not and will not become that minister's daughter...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 11:32 AM

Not sure why - I think I've only ever heard it sung in a fairly broad Lancashire accent. Sounds fine

That'll be because of all those wild dingoes roaming the Lancashire hills, Pip.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 12:57 PM

Pip Radish: "Pub with no Beer" written by an Australian I believe and certainly made famous by an Australian singing about dingoes and the outback. It might sound fine in broad Lancashire but in my opinion it doesn't sound right in my accent despite some Americans mistaking my natural speaking voice for someone originating in the Antipodes.

MtheGM: Not being rude at all or doubting your word about the reaction you got, just suggesting that your friends like mine may have been too polite to react honestly to your efforts.

I too have a tendency to be polite about people's efforts unless I am being asked to pay money to see and hear them.

In the end it doesn't matter a jot what accent you use if the end result is enjoyable.

Enjoy the music and don't get too serious. Most of us do it for fun.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 02:29 PM

Remind me - what does an English Accent sound like again ?

I don't even recognise my own kids accent as English ( and they definitely are ...) !!

Ken


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Tim Chesterton
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 03:16 PM

I have a natural mid-Atlantic accent. I was born in England, lived in several different parts of it, then moved to Canada at the age of 17. I'm now 52, and my natural accent is half way between. In conversation with fellow-Canadians, it gets more Canadian. In public speaking (I'm a pastor) it reverts to its British roots. I don't do this on purpose - it just seems to happen.

But I do agree that some English folk really make me laugh when they sing with American accents (funniest of all, to me, is Sting singing about being 'An Englishman in New York' in a very non-English accent!).

But I question this statement: ' "once you sing a song in an accent that is outside your own personal experience, then you run the risk of placing the song at arms-length from you and it becomes a 'technical performance' rather than an emotional interpretation".

That may be true if you were singing your own compositions. but if you're singing traditional folk songs, most of them are outside your own personal experience.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 03:38 PM

The comments about Jamaican accents and so forth reminded me of a social work colleague of mine who used to find people were taken aback when they met her on a first visit, because they'd assumed from her Jamaican accent that she must be black. In fact I believe something like one in five Jamaicans are white.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 04:51 PM

"I think it no accident that two of the greatest of folksingers, Ewan MacColl & Theo Bikel,"
Can't speak for Theodor Bikel Mike - my memory of him is a multi-language album not long after I became involved in folk; seem to remember him being a somewhat polished singer who didn't really leave much of an impression - sorry, probably being very unfair.
Ewan's connection between singing and acting was a somewhat complicated one. Don't know what he was like as an actor, but I know that he used Stnislavski's acting techniques to get a singer to connect with a song rather than to perform it - to internalise the song and make it part of them, using things like 'emotion memory' and 'application of the idea of 'if''.
His 'bible' in runnng the Critics Group was Stanislavski's An Actor Prepares. He in no way advocated a singer acting out a song, or using theatrical techniques, but to bring a song to the singer rather than a singer to the song.
It was quite a difficult process to get used to, but when it worked, I saw some of the most electrifying performances from some not very experienced singers using this method.
People have often accused MacColl's singing of being 'theatrical' - I have to say that, apart from some very early recordings, I never really saw this (though I do have a fascinating recording of him singing 'The Death of Hector' made for the BBC some time in the forties, I think) .
I don't really think accent has very much to do with this, except that, for me anyway, singing in an accent other than your own, or one you are not very familiar with, has the effect of not only externalising the song, but of holding it at arms length.
Happy to discuss this fully, but will have to sleep on it first (or rather, to have several pints, then sleep on it) - it's been a long time.
Another thought - when we started recording in Ireland, we got a load of very singable songs, but I avoided putting them in my repertoire because of my fear of sounding 'Oirish'.
The same with my love of Scots ballads; I spent most of my life listening to them but not singing them because I felt my Liverpool accent (now all but disappeared) didn't suit them.
Over the latter years I have taken to Anglicising the songs I like, and nowadays, now I am not singing as much, these are the ones I fall back on in sessions. Most of them (but not all) work perfectly.
Now where did I put that Guinness?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 06:06 PM

Hoot ~~ without wishing to be heavy or touchy or any such, feel in justice to them & me that I should make clear that I am talking of real friends of 40+ years standing ~~ the sort from whom one will expect & get candour; not the sort of casual acquaintance who would feel obligated to be 'polite' to avoid offence.

Jim ~~ enjoy your Guinness.


~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,glueperson
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 06:17 PM

The definitive spoken mid-atlantean was Kent Walton. Vintage grapple fans will recall him commentating on a Mick McManus vs Jackie Pallo bout from a crumbling town hall surrounded by abusive dowagers. Kendo Nagasaki, Les Kellet, Steve Logan and Mike Marino, we will not see their like again.

"Have a good week - till next week".


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 04:04 AM

I refresh this thread with some hesitation ~~ it had gone on & on for some while ~~ because the unhappy death of Gerry Rafferty, & consequent U-Tube links on his obit thread to his Baker Street, have brought it all back to mind. Not speaking ill of the dead if I say that that was a perfect example of the phenomenon which made me OP this thread in the first place last Autumn ~~ a Scotsman (born Paisley) singing about a street in the West End of London in an accent which would have been much more appropriate to a street running somewhere between Broadway & Central Park in the W80s.

Again ~~ why oh why? And did nobody but me think it strange?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:01 AM

A conundrum, eh, Michael? Well, you could say - if you wanted to - that the song is about a stranger in a strange land. It's about the hopes and dreams and failures of a non-Londoner musician in the harsh world of 'trying to make it down in London' who's yearning for home. So that, perhaps, crosses off one of your caveats. :-)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:40 AM

Good point, Will ~~ but does he sound as if he's come there from Paisley? Honest, now...

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 07:15 AM

You're a man of accents yourself, MtheGM - when you sing Butter & Cheese & All (for example) it's hardly in the persona of your true Glittering Groucho Club Gliterato self. Likewise the down-home rusticity of Cotton Mill Girls isn't quite you either, is it?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 07:24 AM

Zis "MtheGM" - 'e eez 'oist wiz 'is own petard, n'est-ce-pas?

(Just trying out a French accent over my native Lancastrian...)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 07:29 AM

GR had that soft rock accent down pretty well. The sound of Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, a lost highway of broken dreams, the accent of fallen archangels one likes to think.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 07:47 AM

But, Sean, if I now & again depart from my native accent, I endeavour to do so in some way relevant to the topic or milieu of the song. Butter&Cheese is a Norfolk song. Cotton Mill Girls is a down-home rustic American one. But if I sang every one of them in the same cod-Mummerset [as so many folkies do], then 'oist should I surely be wiz my own petard {Mille remerciments, Will}.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 07:50 AM

... & glueman, the accent of fallen archangels is surely nearer to Miltonic blank verse than to Fleetwood Mac?

~M~

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree
aaaagggghh don't get me going...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 08:19 AM

Hmmm - never been too good with accents myself, which is why I never bother; even Santa Fe Trail tends to come out in the voice of a ex-pat Northumbrian Border settler, though I've felt odd bits of Americana creeping in of late - that said even on Hog of the Forsaken I don't stray too far west of Backworth.

My old favourites The Manband (or just Man as they called themselves to look big on posters in the days before internet search engines) sang beautifully largely on account of their being Welsh but did so in American accents. The great Eric Burdon is a Geordie who absorbed the blues as much as the blues absorbed him (even finding his way onto the cover of the Mothers' We're Only in it for the Money) and whilst his stage intros are done very much in character, in interviews it's Walker all the way.

Happily, people can - and will - do what they want.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 08:35 AM

Akkadian is the favoured language of archangels, I like to think, a knowledge of Babylonian being pretty essential in the smiting business. This must surely be the soundtrack of any descent to the underworld:
Go


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 08:46 AM

Ha! No shit:

The Hog of the Forsaken got no reason to cry
He got to chew the angels fallen from on high
He ain't waiting for no answer
baking woeful pie -
Pie of eyesight pie blue-black
Woe that pie
The pie of by and by


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 04:10 PM

Just reading back with disbelief at some of the sneering sods criticisng Ralph McTell's accent.

Some people wouldn't recognise creative endeavour if it bit their balls off.

Personally i count myself blessed to have seen Ralph work and own some of his recordings. His lifetime of songwriting work speaks for itself. His guitar work has been inspirational.

Over a period of forty odd years Ralph has established through his many achievments the right to sing in exactly the voice he wants. he has proved with his life the artistic validity of his contribution.

In the bowels of Christ, consider that what you think you know about folk music might be wrong.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 05:28 PM

I say again, Al ~~ I have nothing but respect for Ralph McTell's CREATIVE ENDEAVOUR. Please reread my posts of 03 Nov 10, 06.10AM & 04.45PM. But that doesn't compel me to admire the taste or manner of his performance ~~ whatever might have been his contribution for however long

Have you ever heard T S Eliot reading The Waste Land? Toneless & horrible, to my ear. Any competent actor could do it better. I can't offhand think of a cover of Streets Of London; but I am sure there must be some more appropriate to the atmosphere & milieu of the song than Ralph's own renditions. The creator is not necessarily the best person to perform his own work: nothing ~ not even the fact of being the author, or having contributed for 40+ years ~ gives anyone "the right to sing in exactly the voice he wants", if that voice fights [in this case, literally, absolutely FIGHTS] the milieu & atmosphere of his work. The man has reduced his own cogent social comment to a crooning sentimentality which sets the teeth on edge. What amazes me is how he can have failed to have observed this anomaly for himself.

In those same bowels, consider you may be critically incorrect here.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:14 PM

When I was 18, TS Eliot reading the Waste land was my favourite recording of anything. I listened to it many times. That is the voice that creared the Waste Land. The rhythms and resonances of of old Toilets voice still echo in my mind every time I read the lines now.

But that's neither here nor there Mike. what is crucial is McTell's right to create with exactly the brushes from the pallete that HE chooses. Not some prefigured stereotypical way a Croydon lad should sing.

Charles Strickland in The Moon and Sixpence is asked to consider what if he turns out to be a bad painter - should he have abandoned his wife and family.

Strickland says something like, when a man finds himself drowning in the river - he has to swim. It doesn't matter whether he swims well or badly. All he knows is, he has to swim, and that is my predicament. It doesn't matter whether I paint well or badly, I have to paint.

And I think that is Ralph McTell. A completely committed artist, who has put his best foot forward (as it feels to him) and people have to make what they will of it. Thankfully there are quite a few of us who find what he does acceptable - remarkable even. We know we couldn't do it as well.

What is stunning is that this chap from a very poor background has realised his ambition to be an artist. Ralph, when he started out had this persona as a sort of ragtime cavalier. His reference points were US folksingers and the glamour of the European continent that few of us had seen, but he had.

It was an ambitious pose. Perhaps a bit uppity for a working class kid. But I reckon he pulled it off, pretty damn well.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:15 PM

PS happy new year Mike!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:20 PM

I refresh this thread with some hesitation ~~ it had gone on & on for some while ~~ because the unhappy death of Gerry Rafferty, & consequent U-Tube links on his obit thread to his Baker Street, have brought it all back to mind. Not speaking ill of the dead if I say that that was a perfect example of the phenomenon which made me OP this thread in the first place last Autumn ~~ a Scotsman (born Paisley) singing about a street in the West End of London in an accent which would have been much more appropriate to a street running somewhere between Broadway & Central Park in the W80s.

I hadn't noticed that song until he pulled off the ultimate publicity campaign for it this week (and will probably forget it forever in a few hours, in fact I can't remember anything of the tune a minute after it stopped, except that it was a faux-Dylan droning monotone of emasculated blues).

It does sound American to me at about the three-minute mark, but earlier on the voice is more like that of a Scottish actor trained in RP to get a job in the English-dominated drama cartel (I have known quite a few of them and always find their very existence depressing). Rafferty's Scottish origins are so throroughly disguised that if I didn't know better I'd have guessed he was a Liverpudlian putting that accent on.

Nice sax solo, though.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:40 PM

Nick Keir of the McCalmans sums it up in this song!

http://www.the-mccalmans.com/lyrics/lyrics-American-Accent.htm


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:41 PM

ok,lets cut the crap.
he sings with a southern English accent,CUP, NOT COOP,he clearly enunciates, pity, not piddy, in the version i heard.
he does sing gal instead of girl, does that make him an upper class twit or a yank. his[mctells] diction is pretty good. my guess is that he is a south londoner possibly Streatham/Brixton /Tooting, not even soUth east london, his accent is fairly similiar to Carthy, who is a south londoner, and to myself, I was born in lewisham.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhAeV6EfzEs


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:48 PM

ok i have just googled Mctell, he was born in Croydon and raised in Farnborough kent, I was born in lewisham, lived there until I was 10 and then moved to Downe kent[DOWNE IS 5 MILESfrom FARNBOROUGH]
Mctell has almost the same accent as myself, and it is hardly American.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:49 PM

Croydon to be precise (that's if you're talking about Ralph, GSS - cross-posting has rather mixed things up!) I've just read his autobiography of his childhood and earlier years - fascinating stuff!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:55 PM

Hootenanny, grr grr grr
Pub with no beer was written by an irishman,
It was popularised by slim dusty an Ausralian


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 06:58 PM

TATTIE BOGLE correct MCTELL was born in Farnborugh kent raised in Croydon


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 12:57 AM

Al ~~ Somerset Maugham's point, tho, is surely that Strickland's compulsions were a matter mnemonic to him, but did not place the actual achievement of his art above criticism by qualified & interested third parties. Thus surely too McTell??

Thank you: & a Happy New Year right back to you...

〠Michael〠


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 06:52 AM

So, lets get this right, you're going to be the 'qualified and interested third party'.

best of luck with the role, Mike.

al


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 07:23 AM

A coop is where chickens are kept. A northerner pronounces cup as 'cup', not 'cap'. The Beatles sang as they did because they were influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis and Leadbelly and they, like numerous other English performers, used the 'voice' of their medium and unselfconsciously spoke scouse when not singing.

Billy Bragg, Neil Tennant, Morrissey, Noel Coward, used different forms of vernacular English to sing with, others like Gerry Rafferty use universal rock and roll. Who cares as long as it sounds good?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 07:37 AM

Glueman ~~ the director of the Cambridge Folk Fest, many·many years ago, said to me that most people didn't care what music he gave them so long as it was good. He never responded to my request in my very next Folk Review column for the the Allegri String Quartet playing Beethoven's Late Quartets + the London Bach players performing all six Brandenburg Concerti as mainstay of the next year's festival. Wonder why?

Al ~~ your tone is saecastic; but why? I didn't say I was going to be the qualified and interested 3rd pty; but as I have been a professional critic of folk music since 1969, for journals as diverse as The Times, The Guardian, Folk Review, Record Mirror, TES, Cambridge Evening News [cont p 94], in what way do you regard me as a 3P neither qualified to comment on, nor interested in, the topic, please?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Sometimes The Norm
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 08:05 AM

Met a funny little German once who hung around for awhile.
(He reckoned he was an expert on the 5-String banjo and had intimate knowledge of the "Folk Music" of his forefathers)....
I somehow managed to get him so pissed that he fell over backwards before he ever samg a word.
Don't remember which direction he was facing when he came to....

[Norm]


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Sometimes The Norm
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 08:19 AM

Further to your complaint may I add that:-

1)I have just watched a wooden version of "King Arthur" wherein the Arch-Saxon drawls in an accent unbeknownst to any other incontinent but America.

2)A reversable question.... How did KC get away with it in "Robin Of Hollywood".

P.S. Forget Dick Van Dyke

Norm


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 09:14 AM

Well as you say Mike you're qualified all right - however any project which starts off with elocution tips for singer song writers....well I can see it being more of interest to elocution nerds than singer songwriters.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 09:20 AM

Northerners and midlanders pronounce cup differently from southerners, Ralph May[aka Mctell, has a south london accent,which is quite clear in his singing, it is a south london accent very similar to Carthy


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 09:21 AM

hi,Norman, welcome to the asylum


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Mr Red
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 09:25 AM

Mid Atlantic accent?

Where is Skarpi when we need him?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 09:54 AM

Pleased to see mention above of the Coppers. Bob had a lovely voice and very pleasant Sussex accent.

Not only is there still a Sussex accent to be heard from time to time, but there is also still a rural Surrey accent. Understated rural,not Hampshire, nor Sussex,a bit pinched maybe. Difficult to describe, and not glaringly obvious, but there nonetheless. I hear it sometimes in neighbours. The man next-door tells me his family have been local - well, a mile away in Farncombe - for the last three hundred years. A father and son up the road have a similar accent. They don't sing.

Don't think I've picked it up in 35 years, but who knows.

40-something years ago we might adopt a Scots or American accent or whatever in folk-club chorusing. As schoolboys, we did a cod-rural accent - extreme Borsetshire - for the Bog Down in the Valley-Oh. Wouldn't intentionally do any of that these days.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 10:30 AM

Bob Copper, Yes indeed a great singer and a good honest Sussex accent. But on one occasion when I visted him at his club he sang a blues number in his usual - as far as I am aware - voice and to me it just diddn't work. I seem to remember that he also committed a Sleepy John Estes song to disc which had the same effect on me. That doesn't mean that he shouldn't have performed them but for me it explains why a "cod" accent is sometimes preferable.
I know from a converastion with Bob that evening that we both shared a love and respect for American vernacular music and if we wish to sing it and enjoy doing so what the heck.

Someone above mentions the Barking Bard, one who does not sing with a cod or "mockney" accent. Personally I cannot listen to him especially when I have heard him do a Woody Guthrie number. But still he is a liberty to do so.

Regarding critics professional or otherwise, the opinions are only that of that one person.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 10:52 AM

Ah Mike! If only we were both younger, we could be teaching a course at Newcastle University - Elocution for Singer Songwriters 101.

All those lovely undie-graduates, we could have got our hands on......


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 10:53 AM

"Northerners and midlanders pronounce cup differently from southerners"

I'll borrow that brush to clean my yard. East midlanders and west midlanders speak differently from one another. Even within the a small area vowel intonation is different, a Birmingham dweller typically has a long 'south eastern' a, down the road in Wolverhampton, a short northern a is the norm.

Universal rock is closer to northern english than southern.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Allan Con
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 06:09 PM

"I have just watched a wooden version of "King Arthur" wherein the Arch-Saxon drawls in an accent unbeknownst to any other incontinent but America"

Mind I can't imagine a modern English accent would be any closer to how Arthur (if he existed)would have talked than an American accent is. Arthur would have talked in a P-Celtic language akin to Old Welsh.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 06:31 PM

There once was a king called Art
Who perfected the silent fart
He'd say, Arfur mo!
And he'd then let one go
but he said it in Welsh, which was smart.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 06:49 PM

did he speak welsh with a mid atlantic accent


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Taconicus
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 08:19 PM

Two comments.

First of all, it's possible to have different accents singing and speaking. I remember back in the 1960s I was puzzled because I would listen to the Beatles speak and they had a decidedly English accent, but when they sang, they sounded American – unlike other British groups like Herman's Hermits for instance.

I don't think with the Beatles it was a matter of trying to speak with an American accent. I think the fact is, they spent so much time listening to, and singing American music, in particularly rock 'n roll, that they developed that particular accent while singing. I don't think it required a conscious effort or desire to "fake" an American accent; I think it was a natural development, just as a person develops a secondary accent when they live for a while in a country different from their native land.

I know that I myself, having spent so much time singing Celtic (Scottish and Irish) music, have developed an accent when singing that is different from my speaking accent. I wouldn't call it a Scottish accent, or an Irish accent, but there are some elements of that in there. I'm not trying to "fake" a Scottish or Irish accent, it's just the way I sing now.

The second comment I have is directed to the person who says they particularly hate when someone tries to sing in a "fake" Scottish accent. Bear in mind that it may not be an accent you're hearing. It may be that the person is singing a Scottish folk song that has words of the Scots dialect in it. A lot of Scottish music has Scots words in it, and a lot of the time they just don't sound right – they don't really scan properly – if you don't use the Scots pronunciations for the words, for example hae, hame, lang, dee instead of have, home, long, die. So it may not be accent (fake or otherwise) you're hearing – it may be a legitimate attempt to properly pronounce Scots dialect lyrics, in order to sing the song properly!

Finally, I'll just say that I sing because I love the music. And I sing it the way I want to hear it sung. That's all. I sing the music because I love it, and I sing it the way I love to sing it. And if you don't like it, you don't have to listen.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 08:33 PM

You see Mike - even the Romans agree with me!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 08 Jan 11 - 08:40 AM

From Jim Carroll's post on 3rd Nov (just catching up with this thread!)
"Walter Pardon, in his gentle way, took ubridge at the mock-East anglian one that he came across on the radio occasionally.
We were recording him talking about accents one night (we had just got hold of a very early recording of him at the Norwitch Festival noticed that his own had lessened somewhat over the years).
He went into a gentle rant about 'country accents' on the radio; "They always depict us saying ""ooo, ar"".
Pat said to him, "But you do sometimes say "oo-ar", Walter.
He sat for a moment, stared up at the ceiling as said, "Oo-ar". "

I'd agree that there are very few actors or others who can do an East Anglian accent: it usually comes out as "standard BBC rural" complete with Oo-Arrs. But one thing East Anglians DON'T do is roll their rrs. In the West Country OO-arr seems to be used as a term of agreement, whereas what they say (frequently!)in Suffolk and Norfolk is OO-WAH (no r!) and that's more an expression of surprise at something someone has said than in agreement!
O becomes OO
A gets elongated
and et becomes more like ut or 't
So Stowmarket (mid-Suffolk) becomes Stoomaaahk't.
And they can't say a "you" sound properly - hence Bernard Matthews' famous "boot'ful" or our son's name (EWAN) became OOWAN.
(I lived in Suffolk most of my schooldays and again in the 80s)

Just listen to some Sid Kipper or The Singing Postman on Youtube: here's one example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnioP0T_3Ao


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 08 Jan 11 - 02:48 PM

If you want to hear some hideous accent mangling try a Northern Working Mens Club Country and Western act. Singing half the time in a mock American accent and constant lapsing into broad Yorkshire on certain phrases! I've seen it done trust me!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: tritoneman
Date: 08 Jan 11 - 03:13 PM

I've been reading through this thread with increasing unease. So, after decades of singing - and every now and then pondering over the problems of accent (particularly the 'mid-atlantic variety)- I've finally decided to sing everything in my own accent. No more sounding like a demented Ramblin' Jack Elliot for me! I was born in Surbiton and so shall stick to a Surbitonian accent - whatever that may be.... and I think it would probably be best to stick to English songs too.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 11 - 04:52 PM

Allan Francis Smethurst (19 November, 1927[1] - 23 December, 2000), aka The Singing Postman was an English postman and singer.

Born in Bury, Lancashire, the son of Allan and Gladys Mabel (née Curson),[2] Smethurst was raised in Sheringham, Norfolk. His mother came from the nearby village of Stiffkey. He later moved away from Norfolk.
much as i admire the singing postman, in view of the fact he was born in lancashire, I think he should come straight down from heaven and re record all his songs in a lancashire accent


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: tritoneman
Date: 08 Jan 11 - 06:52 PM

I was taken in by the Singing Postman. I thought he was totally authentic Norfolk Man.
This makes me start to re-think my decision on the accent to sing with. Although I was born in Surbiton and spent the first nearly thirty years of my life in London I moved to Exeter thirty years ago. Maybe I should adopt a Devon accent to sing in?
Going back to the Singing Postman, he said that his biggest influence was Jimmie Rogers.
A Lancashire man singing a Blue Yodel with a Norfolk accent.....


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 08 Jan 11 - 07:59 PM

Taconicus wrote on 6 January:

"I sing the music because I love it, and I sing it the way I love to sing it. And if you don't like it, you don't have to listen."

Agree entirely. Perhaps after that, as Hamlet says, "The rest is silence…"

Or perhaps that line suggests another way of considering this issue?

I've heard quite a number of American actors taking on Shakespearean roles. Many of them have (IMHO) performed very creditably, delivering their words with intelligence, with feeling, and with sensitivity to the dynamics of native English speech. Orson Welles' Falstaff, Marlon Brando's Mark Antony, and Paul Robeson's Othello were outstanding examples.   Nevertheless, it was still obvious from their accents that they were Americans.

And yet I wouldn't dream of dismissing what they did as 'mid-Atlantic'. These actors were, I think, trying to preserve the English speech-rhythms of the text, but without faking an English accent. Now there are many British singers who love American folk (and jazz, and rock) music just as much as these American actors love Shakespeare. And the songs they love to sing have speech-rhythms that are just as distinctive as Shakespeare's. To sing them convincingly, it's essential to understand and respect those rhythms. But IMHO it isn't necessary (or even desirable) to produce a perfect facsimile of the original accent.

I would submit that the Beatles sang Carl Perkins songs for exactly the same reason that Orson Welles played Shakespearean roles – because they found them irresistible. And critics who ignore the power and passion of their performances, and merely carp about the 'inauthenticity' of their accents, are totally missing the point.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 08 Jan 11 - 09:36 PM

Re the Singing Postman, he moved to Norfolk when he was 2 and his mother came from Norfolk.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 12:19 AM

Mike of Northumbria: I think you miss the point. No-one objects to Americans using their own accent; nor even to Brits doing the·best·they·can with American accents to sing songs which are American (or for that matter, if they can, Irish accents to sing Irish songs &c). It's that instinctive [for some reason] adoption of none-too-convincing "Mid-Atlantic" to sing just any song, esp when this is clearly inappropriate to the song's subject/milieu, as in e.g. 'Baker St' or 'Sts Of London', which is at issue.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 05:11 AM

If you want to hear some hideous accent mangling try a Northern Working Mens Club Country and Western act. Singing half the time in a mock American accent and constant lapsing into broad Yorkshire on certain phrases!

Excellent - "Phoenix Nights" moved across the border! There was a wonderful ending to one of Peter Kay's "Phoenix Nights" episodes - the bit where they always auditioned new acts. A one-legged man, dressed as Elvis, was doing a Presley song and beating out the rhythm on his tin leg with drumsticks. They all said, "Great - can you do any more?"

His reply was, "yes - "Blue Suede Shoe!"


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:15 AM

I've heard quite a number of American actors taking on Shakespearean roles. Many of them have (IMHO) performed very creditably, delivering their words with intelligence, with feeling, and with sensitivity to the dynamics of native English speech. Orson Welles' Falstaff, Marlon Brando's Mark Antony, and Paul Robeson's Othello were outstanding examples. Nevertheless, it was still obvious from their accents that they were Americans.

What I have a problem with is the far worse fakery British actors bring to these roles. They are nearly always done in "RP", the standardized form of the class-laden dialect of the southern English upper bourgeoisie. Actors learn that accent no matter where in Britain they come from, because the drama establishment insists on it. It would have been barely intelligible to Shakespeare and completely fucks up a lot of his rhymes and assonances (effects that often would be preserved if the roles were delivered in a regional working-class accent). That's considered irrelevant. The point of the RP crap is to establish *ownership* of Shakespeare by the ruling elite, to make him "one of us" and to assert through every vowel that he speaks for the ruling class alone. I find Olivier's voice an unlistenable obscenity because of the political statement it's making.

And there's a lot more RP in Rafferty's voice than there is American. They're equally distant from the speech he grew up with. He very successfully internalized both the voice of British class hegemony and the voice of American cultural imperialism. After doing that to himself, small wonder he achieved sweet fuck all and ended up as a deranged self-mutilated mess.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM

The reason actually is much more scientific. I remember some science show on TV some years back looked into this phenomena of 'american' accents in Singing. I can't remember much detail but there was certainly proof that the answer is in the lyrics of most popular songs. The R sounds and vowel sounds especially when sung do naturally produce a sound similar to what we think of as a standard american accent and somewhat more in Females than males, hence even many female folk artists develop what appears to be an american/trans Atlantic accent

Which is why it's much less prevalent in Folk music which is largely written in a more british and often dialects, and suits a more British accent, it may also be why much irish music lent itself to originating U.S country music, due to the strong R and vowel sounds. So usually it's not even deliberate, though in the rock n'roll days I'm sure many record producers encouraged artists here to Yank it up a bit


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 01:38 PM

jimmie rodgers influence on alan smethurst, is most noticeable in his guitar playing, he also took the tune the wabash cannonball for one of his best songs, on the night of halloween, this is imo a well written song.
alan smethurst did spend 90 percent of his formative years in norfolk, from age 2 onwards.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Taconicus
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 03:42 PM

MikeofNorthumbria wrote on 8 January:
Now there are many British singers who love American folk (and jazz, and rock) music ... [a]nd the songs they love to sing have speech-rhythms that are just as distinctive as Shakespeare's. To sing them convincingly, it's essential to understand and respect those rhythms. ... [T]he Beatles sang Carl Perkins songs for exactly the same reason that Orson Welles played Shakespearean roles – because they found them irresistible.
I think that's exactly right. And the same goes for Yanks who sing Scottish songs with Scots pronunciations.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 04:58 AM

I'm firmly with Mike (theGM one) on this.

When one sings a song that comes from a part of the English-speaking world different from one's own, there are pros and cons to assuming the corresponding accent -- whether deliberately or by unconscious imitation of one's source.

I loved it when I heard Maggie Holland sing blues in an English accent. It can work and it certainly did with her. But it might not with other singers or for other listeners.

Personally I make a distinction between Scots and the rest, partly because Scots has some claim to be a language rather than a dialect (but let's not get side-tracked into arguing about that) but mainly because, as Taconicus mentioned, English pronunciations of Scots words don't sound right; and because many rhymes don't work.

When I hear a Scots song sung in an English accent with just an occasional Scots word such as "frae" instead of "from" and "hae" instead of "have", to me it just sounds wrong.

I will either sing in Scots (generic, based partly on "staying" near Edinburgh for part of my university career but mainly on listening to lots of Scots singers from all over the country) or, if I can manage it, anglicise.

Anyway it is utterly daft for a British singer-songwriter singing their own song to use anything other than the same accent that they speak with. It may sometimes be necessary to adapt both for a particular audience, but if the audience can understand the introduction they can understand the song.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:35 AM

Interesting Richard! Your comments made me think of the time I figured I might earn a living from the acoustic guitar by gigging the Irish theme bars.

Its more than pronunciation, you know. the actual rhythm of the words take you into an alien accent. someody said to me one night - you know you did that song with exactly the same phrasing at Christy Moore. And sometimes you'd come off stage - not having spoken all night - some places you didn't say a word hardly - just cranked out the music - and you'd be speaking unwittingly with an Irish accent.

Palph McTell is pretty straightforward compared to us singers who dabble in a variety of songs from different places.

He sings in one voice - talks in another. And its all pretty constant.

Oh hell - we're entertainers, or at least we should aim at entertaining people. Its like an actor has different voices for different characters.

we're allowed!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:02 AM

Its like an actor has different voices for different characters.

I think the one I'm not fond of would be more along the lines of an actor using one accent for say giving a tv interview and another for speaking to his friends. I wouldn't get why he could not be himself for the tv interview.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:41 AM

That's a very good point Alan. As An Irish Ballad singer, performing Iris songs correctly is as much to getting the mood and feeling righ. I know an English chap regularly sings Iris trad stuff and plays it well and has a good voice. But it never feels right to my ears. On the other hand I've heard other English and other non Irish singers perform them wonderfully well, and in most cases had gone and played in Irish session, which I reccomend any singers to experience. It is really quite a difference playing over there than in your average folk club. you go along with the mood of the night much more. I go back as often as I can to play in Sessions, and I've always returned having learned that much more and playing that little bit better. I reccomed Cleeres Bar in Kilkenny especially, wonderful sessions every Monday there


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:58 AM

Since the debate is widening, let's turn over another stone.

At primary school,my contemporaries and I learned to speak one dialect in the classroom, and another in the playground. Both were somewhat different from the way we were expected to speak at home, in the presence of our parents.

There was an equally sharp linguistic contrast between the hymns we sang in school assembly, the 'polite' songs we learned in music lessons, and the much cruder songs and chants we picked up in the playground. This didn't bother us - we took it for granted, the way kids do.

By the time we hit puberty, a lot of us had become so excited by American songs (jazz, blues, country, folk or rock,according to taste) that we wanted to sing them ourselves. Putting on what seemed to be an appropriate accent felt like the right thing to do. After all, we were well used to putting on different accents for different occasions. Sometimes the results were dire, but sometimes the process appeared to work reasonably well. Most of us didn't reflect on it much, we just got on with doing it.

Fifty years later, after a listening to a great deal of ethno-musicological and ideological debate, I'm still inclined to the 'just do it' approach. Sometimes I learn a song because its words expresses something I want to say better than I could say it myself. Or sometimes a song's tune haunts me like a spectre until it's infiltrated my repertoire. And sometimes I pass these songs on to other people, hoping that they will share my pleasure in them. Where the song originally came from, and what accent it 'ought' to be sung in, matters less to me than whether it works in front of an audience.

This seems to be the path that Ralph McTell and many other British 'mid-Atlantic' singers have taken. A lot of people have enjoyed listening to them. And quite a few of those listeners have been isnpired by them to discover more traditional music (from both sides of the pond). On the whole, this seems to me to be a good thing.

Once upon a time, so the story goes, Peggy Seeger nearly fell off her chair laughing at a young Londoner's attempt to sing a Leadbelly song. And once upon a time I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at Dick van Dyke's attempt at a cockney accent in 'Mary Poppins'. Well, a good laugh usually does us no harm, but let's get over it and move on. Just do it - and if it works, keep doing it!

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 09:22 AM

'I think the one I'm not fond of would be more along the lines of an actor using one accent for say giving a tv interview and another for speaking to his friends. I wouldn't get why he could not be himself for the tv interview.'

I think the answer to that one is rather strange. Namely, for a guy on the news being asked about the motorway scheduled to come through his garden - the interview is just talking and giving a point of view.

for the skilled performer - the radio interview is a creative opportunity.

I used to do interviews for paul Mackenzie on radio Derby for Paul Mackenzie's afternoon show.(I and a few others, were always persona no grata on Folkwaves - that's why I didn't join the general clamour at its demise). However nothng ever really came of these radio shows i did. and I was semi-deatched - I was never sure anybody was listening. i was teaching one time when Paul asked me to do a live radio gig with George Melly - so I never did it - something I regret.

Anyway one time, possibly the last time I did a show for Paul. A few days later I heard Glen Campbell do a similar interview on Loose Ends a few days later. And suddenly I knew all the things I had been doing wrong on the radio. Glen had had his own radio show from the age of ten. He knew how intoduce a song, what guitar to choose, how to promote his gig without being pushy.

In a short, the radio is separate skill. I had done thousands of pub gigs, a fair few festival spots, even had a record out and mimed to it on telly. But I was completely shit radio guest.

No wonder Kenneth Williams was always being invited to do these radio things. Like Glen Campbell - he knew his craft.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 12:25 PM

I know I come late to this discussion, and it's likely no one will pay attention to what I have to say, but here goes—

I think people are reading way too much into this—it has nothing to do with "cultural imperialism," or "the collapse of confidence in the British [or any other] way of life." And they are being way too judgmental.

The fact is: people imitate what they hear. This is the most natural thing in the world. Children do it all the time. That's how they acquire language in the first place. That's why a Yorkshireman sounds like a Yorkshireman, and why a Texan sounds like a Texan. It isn't "in the water" and it isn't in their genes, and it isn't even dictated by geography. It is determined solely by what you hear.

For example, if you grow up in Texas but both your parents came from Boston, your own accent will be a mixture of Texan and Bostonian. It may sound strange to both Texans and Bostonians, but it is perfectly natural for you.

If there is anything "unnatural" it is the belief that all imitation ought to stop when you're, say, 10 years old.

I suppose this would be hard to understand if you have lived in one place all your life and your family has lived in that same place since time immemorial. For you, accents might seem naturally immutable, and to change one's accent might seem "unnatural," "affected," or "artificial." (Those are some of the judgmental terms I have seen in this thread.)

But if your brother or sister has moved hundreds of miles away, and lived "away" for 10 years or so, and then you go to visit them, you will notice that their accent has changed. The change might be unconscious and barely perceptible to your brother or sister, but it will be obvious to you.

Even more surprising, they might become "bi-accented" (to coin a phrase) in the same way that people become bilingual. They might speak one way to their neighbors and coworkers and another way to their visiting relatives.

I repeat: imitation is the most natural thing in the world. It is part of our adaptability as humans. It is a strength that helps us survive. I think it ought to be praised, cherished, and admired—more so when it is more successfully done—rather than criticized and condemned.

And I don't see that it should be treated any differently in the context of music.

Music is a language unto itself. Like spoken language, it has myriad components: tone, rhythm, style, tempo, and lyrics. (Am I leaving anything out?) When you learn a new song, you typically learn everything at once. It would be unusual (although, I suppose, not impossible) to deliberately separate out the various components: "Today I'll learn the notes, tomorrow I'll learn the rhythm" or "I'll learn the notes, but I'll apply a different rhythm."

Well, suppose a certain accent feels to you like one of the components of a song, along with rhythm and all the rest? I don't see why that feeling—which you could also call an artistic judgment—should necessarily be considered wrong.

For those who want to do it that way, I say, more power to them. Anyway, I'm glad we have some people who have the courage to do what feels right to them, even if it sounds wrong to someone else.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 12:38 PM

sing the songs and shut up, this thread is a load of old squit.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Taconicus
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 01:18 PM

Thanks for that well reasoned post, Mike of Northumbria. I agree with you completely. And Jim Dixon, you're right too. It's perfectly natural to have a different accent when speaking, when singing, and even when singing different types of music. It doesn't have to be something done purposely; it just naturally happens. Sometimes it's just what feels right.

But I can identify with the story about Peggy Seeger. I remember one time, while visiting Scotland for the Stonehaven Folk Festival, having to stifle a fit of giggles while listening to a late, well beloved (by me, too) Scottish folk singer singing the American folk song Shenandoah (one of the many American folk songs that seem to be more popular in Scotland than in America). Hearing him singing "Oh, Shen-en-dough-uuuuh" was just the funniest thing, sounding so strange to my American ear. I imagine it would be kind of like hearing someone singing a song about Edinburgh and pronouncing it Ed-in-burr-ooooh. Since then, I've been too self-consious to ever sing Scottish folk music when in Scotland. That's what I mostly sing here in America, because I love the music, but when performing in Scotland I'll generally stick to American folk music, which is appreciated.

Here's a strange thing, as an addendum. Sometimes parts of my pronunciation that people think are "imitating Irish or Scottish" actually stem from my having lived in the Ozark mountain area (Missouri/Arkansas area, American Midwest) for about a decade. The accent there isn't noticeably Irish or Scottish, but there are some similarities, probably because the Ozarks, like the Appalachians, were largely settled by immigrants from those places, which probably also accounts for the similarities between bluegrass and Celtic music.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: s&r
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 01:23 PM

I tend to think that, far from being an awful imitation of a Cockney accent, Dick van Dyke did a wonderful tongue in cheek pastiche of a Cockney accent. It made me chuckle because it was intended to...

Stu


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 11:05 AM

GSS: Allan Smethurst's accent was definitely Norfolk: I doubt if he'd retain much of the Lancashire accent if he moved away from there when he was 2! Kids can change their accents quite successfully maybe up to mid-teens, and tend to talk more like their peers than their parents or folk in place they were born.
I was born in Glasgow but no way have I a Glasgow accent: I speak with a slight Suffolk accent, the place where I grew up.
My daughter went through three different accents according to where we lived, before coming to Scotland when she was 9: she, and our son, who came here aged 3, both have an unequivocal Edinburgh accent.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 11:18 AM

do i know you tattie, i used to live in Suffolk too


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 11:29 AM

Maybe? I was there from 1957 - 1970s then 84-86 (showing my age again!)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 04:29 PM

I lived in one house and stowmarket, around that period.I lived next door to the Shepherd and Dog pub at OneHouse


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Sometimes The Norm
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 07:30 AM

When trying to sing in the Mid Atlantic, not many would expect to get further than "Burp Oogle Gloop" (in any accent) without first having hired a boat.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,KP
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 11:55 AM

I don't know what you're all on about, the real mid-Atlantic Accent is of course this one!
Folk music from the Azores

KP


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,More than 3 chords is jazz
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 12:02 PM

Boy has this thread run and run?

I can tell you why I sing in an accent not my own? It's not an affectation, I don't talk between songs like I'm Steve Earle's cousin. And I don't want anyone to think I'm 'Merkin.

With me (and I think with some others) it's because I am not a natural singer and if doing a cover or whatever I sort of default to the accent I heard it in originally. Gotta be honest though if I am covering a Billy Bragg or Chris Woods song I become far more aware of trying not to sound like a mockney cockney than if I am covering say Darrell Scott. I think this probably has to do with what is generally accepted in many forms of music?

I was quite interested to read recently that Woody Guthrie's wife commented on the fact (as she saw it) that Bob Dylan's distinctive singing style was him copying how Woody sang. More than that she argued that Dylan copied how Woody sang after he became ill with Huntington's, and that he (Woody) was always precise with his phrasing and clear with his singing until ill; and that Dylan was copying how he sounded at the start the start of his illness?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6S7agOnOTE


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,More than 3 chords is jazz
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 12:16 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6S7agOnOTE

Hopefully the link is now there properly? Sorry about that.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 12:37 PM

Close your eyes and imagine this:

Hank Williams finally makes it to The Grand Old Opry. The steel guitar comes in on the first few bars of "Your Cheating Heart" and Hank is about to sing. And then, blow me, Hank starts singing in a Brummie accent!

A ridiculous idea? Perhaps, but not essentially different from what so many British singers do with cod-American accents, even when they're singing their own songs to other British people!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 01:29 PM

I suspect that will take place in heaven. It would have to be there, for you traddies to mind your own bloody business as to how people want to sing.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 07:13 PM

Hmmm.. a folk and blues discussion forum where we're instructed to "mind our own bloody business" and not have any opinions on how people sing! How curious!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Taconicus
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 07:48 PM

I think he's saying that only in heaven will they mind their business. Of course, that's his heaven. In your heaven I suppose folks would sing only as you'd like them to. ;)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 24 Jan 11 - 08:27 PM

Sorry Melodeonboy. Its just the relentless attempts to devalue anything that doesn't into the parochial'in the tradition' aesthetic which annoys me. They see to me like a personal affront to the best writers and performers the folkscene has produced.

Many of these folk people are now retired or dead and have produced a lifetimes work without the subsidies and benefits that toeing the 'finger in your lughole' party line would have easily produced.

There was a civil war. you lot won. You all but emptied the folk clubs. I hope its made you happy.

Now bugger off without insulting any more the memories of people like Gerry Lockran and Roger Brooks - who were bloody brilliant, but spent most of their working life in exile.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,jeff
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 12:20 AM

Alan White,

Just did a googlesearch on Gerry Lockran. Wow. There were several audio/videos up on youtube to where I could get a good feel for his amazing talent(s). Thank you for the lesson. Killer version of Summertime recorded w/an old cassette player. Brilliant.

Roger Brooks was a different story. Wasn't able to find anything w/a g-search as it's a very common name. If you can throw a link on here I'd be grateful as the Gerry Lockren connection has proved enlightening. Thank you, Jeff

Btw, I've got a Mid-Western-USA accent as I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Can I still hang out here?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 03:56 AM

The name is Whittle, Jeff.

Yeh - Gerry was amazing. Towards the end of his career -he played an amplified Ovation guitar. But for the most part he played an unamplified Martin D35. He played just two or three notes and the whole joint was rocking - swept up in an incredible technique. Then that voice....

Derek Brimstone called Gerry, the Errol Flynn of the folkscene. He always looked great. All the men were in awe of his guitar playing - all the women seemed to fancy him.

Roger Brooks's memory and website is tended over by 17 year old Sanjay Brain - who should win the young folk musician of the year - no probs as soon as he cares to go in for it. Sanjay is simply the best young talent I have ever seen.

http://www.freewebs.com/rogerbrooks/

I'm sure its okay for you to hang out on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: tritoneman
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 04:07 AM

I totally agree with the comments about Jerry Lockran. I used to see him at The Half Moon in Putney - amongst other places. His singing, guitar playing and whole delivery of what he did was awe inspiring. He was a great bloke too!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 07:51 AM

Gerry Lockran was one of the best blues singers and guitarists I've ever heard performing live. I first heard him at the Surbiton folk club, where he was a resident in the early '60s,(along with Derek Sargent, Jack Parkinson, Arthur Johnson and Mick Wells). Soon afterwards I poersuaded our university folk club to book him, and he had a tremendous impact there - especially with the ladies!

BTW, in those days he spelt his surname "Loughran" and pronounced it "Luffran"- I believe he changed it because continental Europeans found the original version difficult to deal with, and in later years he got most of his work over there.

And incidentally,Gerry told me that one of his parents was Irish and the other Indian - so what kind of accent do the folk purists think he should have been singing in?   

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Geoff
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 01:09 PM

We would all do well to remember two things about Melodeonboy?

1. He plays the Melodeon, which is basically a mouth organ for people who are short of breath.

2. He is just a boy.

Play nice y'all!!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 03:55 PM

Gasp! Pant! Wheeze! Squeeze! :)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 11:02 PM

"Downeaster Alexa" sounds better in a Long Island accent.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 07:47 AM

Well, my position on "Brits singing American" is that it is not the truth!
It's a bit like these "tribute bands"; they might be fine musicians but they are copyist, and if they wanted to make a "true" musical statement then they would have to find their on voices.
I must admit, I want to laugh out loud when I hear Brits singing in these pseudo-American accents.
Of course, the Americans themselves have a history of young well-educated white kids ( John Hammond Jr, for example), trying their best to sound like some black chap from 1920s/30s Mississippi.
It's all very entertaining, but it will never be the real deal.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 08:40 AM

Its the real deal for us - that's what we did with our lives.

I take it your idea of folk music is The Watersons with the accent from the dark side of the moon. (take my word for it - not too many people in Hull sing in that accent.)

Leave us alone, and we'll leave you alone.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 10:27 AM

Wrong!
I include all those silly sounding English folkies in the "not the real deal" category as well!
BTw, there are some "English" sounding blues singers.
I heard one a while back on the Paul Jones Show.
He sang with a Geordie accent, and it was delightfully refreshing to hear him I must say.
BTW,btw
Do English blues guitarists play with an American accent?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 01:20 PM

If the thing that strikes you about a performance is the accent, tyher singer has failed.
Whatever works, works.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 01:38 PM

A Canadian aspect: mainstream singers here sound like they come from Kentucky, a million miles from their own speaking voices. I believe they're completely unaware of what they're doing - I've never heard or read any public discussion of this, so it's probably "unthinkable". I call it cultural imperialism of the worst (because unconscious) kind. I once heard a musical group in Kuala Lumpur without a word of English between them who sounded as if they were all born in Liverpool.

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 01:52 PM

I assume that Billy Bragg laying the East End/Essex/Mockney accent on with a trowel is to do with 'street cred' during his punk days. His speaking voice is nowhere near as over the top. Interestingly he sings Woody Guthrie songs in a more or less 'normal' voice, much the same as his speaking voice.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 01:59 PM

I should like to speak up here for Shirley Collins, my favourite English folk singer (I don't have many as it happens). She sings (sang :-( ) in her own natural voice with her own accent, not an affectation in sight, and it's wonderful.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 02:07 PM

Well, Billy Bragg laying his local accent on with a trowel is far more preferable than someone from London laying on an American accent with a trowel(and thousands of singers fall into that category!)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 02:11 PM

Do "Mid-Atlantic accents" sound British to Americans?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 02:25 PM

Who is this Ralph Mctell anyway? British, but, according to bio, steeped in the playing of Blind Willie McTell, Blind Blake, Robert Johnson and other blues players. He even changed his name to match.
The mid -Atlantic accent, whatever that is, could be a bridge from these southern blues singers.
On the other hand, why not bury this thread in the mid-Atlantic and lissen up.

(Streets of London- not half-bad.)

Hmmm, now how would Slim Dusty do it?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 03:00 PM

McGrath of Harlow asks "Do[sung]"Mid-Atlantic accents" sound British to Americans?"

Well, I would say - most of the time - no!

Certainly, when the Beatles first went to American, they were asked why they sang in American accents. John replied, " Because it sells better"

Interestingly, most Brits are so so used to hearing fellow Brits singing in American accents that it doesn't consciously register and has to be pointed out.
For example, recently somebody that I was talking to was convinced that Adele sings in her natural voice; well, you only have to hear her switch from her English accent - when introducing songs - to her mid-Atlantic "singing voice" to know that isn't true.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Big Al Whittle
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 05:22 PM

What do Mike Waterson, peter Bellamy, Pavarotti, and Derek Brimstone have in common?

They do (did) it the way they believed it should be. If Adele sings in a different accent from her singing voice - so do (did) all these people


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Tootler
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 06:35 PM

I do agree that it is better to sing in your own natural accent but I do think Tunesmith is being just a little intolerant.

Tunesmith has pointed out one reason himself. You get so used to hearing songs sung in an American accent that you subconsciously pick it up and adopt it as part of your singing voice. This will be especially true if you have been listening to such songs from an early age when you very quickly pick up accents.

My normal speaking accent is Northern English and most of the time that is the accent I sing in but when I sing Scots songs people here tell me I sound Scots. That is probably because I spent four of my first seven years in Scotland. One person even identified it as Aberdeen which is where my mother came from and where I was born. It is not something conscious, though I do try to pronounce the words correctly.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 06:50 PM

I'm a northerner too. Solid Lancashire lad. You're OK, Tootler, as long as you don't end up sounding like Kate Rusby. OK OK, Kate Rusby an octave lower...


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 07:34 PM

BTW, nearly everyone here's heard the Billy Joel song The Downeaster Alexa, haven't they? That song sounds best in an American accent. That's why whenever I listen to Show Of Hands' version, I get thrown for a loop (No disrespect to Phil Beer, his singing and playing is great and that version is great), but IMO this song needs a bit of acting in it. You (g-you) have to really convince the listener that you are a fisherman from Long Island, which requires an accent. All this is just IMO, but that's how I sing the song.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 08:15 PM

Morwen,

IMO "Downeaster Alexa" doesn't contain any particular Long Island accent. Joel is not "acting" (as far as I can hear) to sound like a stereotypical or exaggerated Long Island fisherman. Joel's one speaking voice is a form of Long Island accent, but I don't hear that in the singing. So I guess I have never heard a Long Island accent as essential to the song.

As a matter of fact, I think its rare (i.e. in my experience) to EVER hear a Long Island accent sung in professional music. Singers with Long Island speaking voices, I imagine, adjust their accent when singing. This is just as UK singers might find it desirable or appropriate to adopt an American style of accent for singing, so do American singers adopt certain widely-appreciated singing accents that are different than their speaking accents.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 11:53 PM

@ Gibb: "Alexa" sounds like "Alexer" when he sings it. And he drops his g's and final consonants. Like this:
"Well I'm on the (th pronounced as d) Downeaster Alexer, and I'm cruisin' through Block Island Sound." And "Montauk" is "Montawk". I'm no linguistic expert, but apparently dropped final consonants are common in New York accents, according to Wikipedia. And Atlantis sounds like "Atlantus".

But then, Australians (IME, at least I would) pronounce "Alexa" as "Alexer" as well.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 11:55 PM

*with the emphasis on the first syllable.*


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 12:03 AM

So I can hear his accent in the song, and that IMO adds to my ability to see him in the role of a fisherman. And would you agree with me that the song requires the singer to somehow convince the audience that they feel the character's emotion?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 12:23 AM

my advice is to not worry about this drivel, but to enjoy singing and playing music, to quote a song {we got a short time to be here and along time to be gone]


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 12:31 AM

Plus, the song is American, referencing Montauk, Martha's Vineyard, and Block Island Sound so doing an American-style accent would be kind of justifiable. (Anecdote time: I once had a story (being revised) inspired more-or-less by this song, but set in Australia. It didn't work, and so I changed it to the Aleutian Islands.

Another question; Joel uses "ain't" twice in this song. "There ain't much future for a man who works the sea,/and there ain't no island left for islanders like me." Is "ain't" just a Southern American thing, or is it used all over America?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 03:09 AM

Well, of course, for me "the truth" is important.
Singing in a "foreign" accent to me is like singing out of tune: It grates!
If it doesn't matter to you, fine, but, just like singing in tune is important to most people, singing in ones natural accent is essential for me.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 03:50 AM

Surely what is natural to you depends on human nature - and like Heinz soup, there are at least fifty seven varieties.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 04:12 AM

If you're happy with somebody from Newcastle singing in a pseudo-American accent that's fine; but for me...well, it's just plain silly!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 04:25 AM

"I should like to speak up here for Shirley Collins, my favourite English folk singer (I don't have many as it happens). She sings (sang :-( ) in her own natural voice with her own accent, not an affectation in sight, and it's wonderful."

Yes, Steve. I couldn't agree more.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 05:09 AM

I think we copy the sounds we hear and enjoy. For instance, when I sing (make that 'sang') with my R&R band, I sang in an 'American' accent, because R&R came from the USA. But when I sing folk songs, I sing in my natural Lincolnshire, UK accent.

Do it any way that's good for you, and fuck the smart-arse know-it-alls who want to inflict their own warped opinions on everyone else.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 06:29 AM

Backwoodsman, as I said, to me singing in ones own voice is important, but for you it isn't.
It's a pity though, because you would be far more interesting - without any doubt - as a singer, if you sang you're R&B material in you natural voice! Why? Because, apart from anything esle, you would stand out from the crowd as a true individual rather than one of tens of thousands of Brits who adopt silly American accents.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 08:18 AM

I sing in my own voice - I don't try to sound like anyone else.

But we're discussing accents, and I sing in the accent appropriate to the music I'm performing, and American music sounds ridiculous sung in anything other than an American accent, IMO (and that of the vast majority I'd like to bet). You have a different opinion - your choice - but that doesn't mean you're right, it just means you're out of step.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 10:40 AM

Backwoodsman, your reasoning doesn't stand up!
Following your argument, Irish folk songs should always be sung with an Irish accent! ( even if the singer is from America, France, China or wherever)
Do you agree with that statement?


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 01:29 PM

I sing songs of English and American origin. i never sing Irish songs because I can't mimic an Irish accent and they sound ridiculous sung in an English accent. Likewise, I don't sing Scottish songs for exactly the same reason.

However, I am able to do a decent representation of a US accent (albeit the aforementioned and non-regional 'Mid-Atlantic' accent) so I sing in that accent as and when appropriate.

That's my opinion, and its what I do. You can do as you like - absolutely your prerogative - but FFS stop pontificating and telling those of us that do as I do that we're somehow 'wrong' - it's only your opinion, which has no more weight than anyone else's.

And WTF am I wasting my time justifying myself to you? You do it your way, that's fine by me. I'll do it my way, and I don't give a FF whether or not I'm graced with your approval.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 01:53 PM

Backwoodsman said,

"I never sing Irish songs because I can't mimic an Irish accent and they sound ridiculous sung in an English accent"

Does that mean that someone singing "She Moved through the fair" in an English accent would sound ridiculous?

Or, vice versa, an Irishman singing "The Seeds of Love" in an Irish accent would also sound ridiculous.

Surely, not!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 02:03 PM

For what it's worth, if you study the song lists of singers like 'Pop' Maynard you find irish and scottish songs amongst the english. Did 'Pop' affect an irish accent when singing "The Pride of Kildare"? I very much doubt it. Similarly, songs like "Butter and Cheese and All" are not limited to,say,Norfolk.
If someone feels the need to 'ape' the accent of the singer they learnt a song from then that's their affair. As far as I'm concerned it's completely unnecessary with the exception perhaps of blues/R'n'B,calypso/ska/reggae and jazz and film 'standards'. "You say potato....." sounds ridiculous in English RP!
Otherwise I've no idea why some british singers apparently feel they have to adopt a 'mid-Atlantic accent' when they sing. Try asking them.As far as I'm aware I've never used an accent- and I sing not only songs from the British Isles but also from North America and Australia.It's not that I can't do the accents, I'm up on stage to sing songs, not to do vocal imitations. Pete Seeger manages without accents as do Martin Carthy, Pete Coe, June Tabor etc etc.
As an aside, working as a voice-over in Germany I notice that quite a few potential clients want 'Neutral/Mid-Atlantic English'. I think this is a chimera since the differences in RP between the British Isles and North America will betray and locate the speaker immediately - 'news','schedule','potato' etc etc. Not only that, what a lot of v-o colleagues consider to be Neutral/Mid-Atlantic turns out to be, on the basis of the demos on their websites/Youtube vids etc, very clearly north american english.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 02:17 PM

It's a case of "Each to his own".
End of.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 02:59 PM

Tunesmith--

Most people within the cultural groups we're talking about, I think, make a distinction between singing and speaking. There are different aesthetics and "rules" for each of these forms of expression. They might be quite similar or very very different.

Singing certain things precisely in one's "own (speaking) accent" is just as and no more "artificial" as doing it in another accent that is "embedded" within that song's style.

Accent is an unreliable indicator of authenticity, and correlating the expression of the "self" directly and exclusively with accent seems a bit shallow. Come out from under your provincial rock in this case, and check out what people are doing/have done musically around the world. There is so much more to it than what we might see through the narrow lenses created by the agenda-driven early English musical folklore scholars.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 03:35 PM

Shirley Collins is a very pleasant woman.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Jan 14 - 03:18 AM

A dear friend of mine who is a gifted singer-songwriter in the pop genre, Marcie Mycroft, is a N Londoner like myself. She has sites in Reverbnation &c, and several youtubes & is really beginning to make the breakthru ~~ approaches from agents, airtime on indie radio channels, fandom on Facebook, Twitter &c. You can find her by googling. I've asked her why she sings with an American accent when her songs are not in any way specifically American in context, and she replies that she just goes into American-accent mode when she sings and has never, from childhood onwards, been able to do otherwise. "It's just," she sez, "the way songs like mine are sung".

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Jan 14 - 04:29 AM

The obvious parallel might be the use of Latin in the Middle Ages - but I don't think the Carmina Burana would necessarily have been sung in a fake Roman accent.

I'll remember to give Marcie Mycroft a swerve.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 12 Jan 14 - 04:53 AM

Indeed, church Latin had different pronunciations in different regions; some musicologists are very fond of trying to get Spanish Renaissance polyphony to sound like the "right kind" of Latin. Which I suppose counts as "putting on" an accent, although to be fair most people probably don't have a natural accent for Latin!

Ironically, because I was a choirboy in Liverpool and thus learned to sing in Latin surrounded by other choirboys in Liverpool, when I sing Latin I sound more Scouse than when I sing a lot of stuff in English.


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Jan 14 - 05:18 AM

Michael - a Happy New Year to you - and I see that your recent post on Marcie Mycroft is word for word the same as one you posted many months ago!

Just wondered what prompted you to resurrect the thread - not that it wasn't fun to read through it all again... :-)


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Jan 14 - 05:36 AM

No it wasn't, Will. It was just a copy-paste of one I posted simultaneously on the What is a Folksinger thread where the topic of American accents came up & I thought it would go suitably on this one I OPd some time since also. Can you give me a ref to a supposed earlier one. I don't remember ever having mentioned Marcie on this forum before today.

Happy New Year to you too.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Jan 14 - 05:41 AM

Ah, you're quite right, Michael - 'Twas the What is a Folksinger thread:

From: MtheGM - PM
Date: 12 Jan 14 - 02:28 AM

"...American accent. I've met people from outside the folk world who find it hard to sing in any other kind of accent." Brian Peters above
.,,.
Indeed. A dear friend of mine who is a gifted singer-songwriter in the pop genre, Marcie Mycroft, is a N Londoner like myself. She has sites in Reverbnation &c, and several youtubes & is really beginning to make the breakthru ~~ approaches from agents, airtime on indie radio channels, fandom on Facebook, Twitter &c. You can find her by googling. I've asked her why she sings with an American accent when her songs are not in any way specifically American in context, and she replies that she just goes into American-accent mode when she sings and has never, from childhood onwards, been able to do otherwise. "It's just," she sez, "the way songs like mine are sung".

~M~


Must get out more!


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Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Jan 14 - 05:51 AM

As I was strolling up our village street to get the Sunday paper just now, I imagined one of the Doc Watson songs I perform - "Sitting On Top Of The World" - done in my (reasonably) native Lancashire accent...

"'Twere in't spring, one summer day,
Me sweet 'eart left me.
Eee, she went away.
And now she's gone,
An 'ahm not worrit,
Ahm sittin' on't top o't world."

My father's family were all from Lancashire - Westhoughton mainly - and my mother's from Suffolk (Lowestoft). I was born in Chorley in the last years of the war and we moved almost immediately after my father was demobbed from the RAF to spend several years in Glasgow - where I acquired a good Glaswegian accent.

We returned to Lancashire in the early '50s, but then moved to the northwest of that county - on the border with what was then Westmoreland. In the early 60's I went to college in Leeds (had my passport stamped at the border) and, after returning home for a bit, moved to London. In '76 moved to Sussex and have been here ever since.

So, what accent shall I use tonight, at my local monthly session/singaround, as I perform a mixture of Jimmy Rodgers songs, music-hall stuff and any old tosh that takes my fancy? Bit of a problem, eh, what?


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