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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: Authentic Performance
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1706  Friday, 8 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Sep 2000 15:49:51 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1700 Re: Authentic Performance

[2]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Sep 2000 15:49:51 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1700 Re: Authentic Performance

[3]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Sep 2000 15:49:51 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1700 Re: Authentic Performance

[4]     From:   Arthur D L Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Sep 2000 10:37:07 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1700 Re: Authentic Performance


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Sep 2000 15:49:51 +0100
Subject: 11.1700 Re: Authentic Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1700 Re: Authentic Performance

> Bob Haas wrote:

> RP?  Right perfect?  Could you elaborate, Sam?  I don't think I've heard
> this one.

The question of accents in England (not so in Scotland, Ireland or
Wales) is very complex and can occasionally get extremely vindictive.
Around 30 years ago the Director General of the BBC, (Lord) John Reith ,
decided that the current accent used on the BBC was no longer
representative.  Indeed, if you listen to old English films before 1960,
the middle class characters sound like 19th century royalty.  BBC
newsreaders and 'announcers' were pretty much the same.

Reith decided to go for a clear, slow pronunciation based on the current
southern (or London) accent.  The vowels in particular were toned down
and absurdities like trilling the Rs were dropped.   (Noel Coward did
this all the time in the 30s) .  The new accent was called "Received
Pronunciation", or RP.   Reith said it "offended the least number of
people".

However, it left the people in the north of England speaking "wrongly".
In fact their accent in nearer to the American accent - such as the A in
"castle" is spoken like the A in "apple".  The American version is a
sort of double vowel of the same thing - "ca-a-stle".  The linguist,
Professor John Honey, estimates that a mere 3% of English people speak
with an RP accent, it being mostly used in the media.  Patrick Stewart
and Judi Dench have RP accents.  Unfortunately this artificial accent
has become the "standard" for all actors and actresses, certainly in
England.  Even Michael Caine's perpetual working class accent has done
little to break the grip of RP.

What always bothers me when listening to Shakespeare performed by the
English is that the RP pronunciation is yet another artificial stage
away from the original - and away from the people. (We just don't speak
like that- honest!)  If you follow the link you can see my poor
Shakespeare project but can hear me reading parts of some sonnets with a
southern English country accent.  To many listeners in England my fault
is not my talent, but my accent.

http://www.simplescreens.co.uk/shorts/

SAM SMALL

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Sep 2000 19:51:22 +0100
Subject: Authentic Performance
Comment:        SHK 11.1698 Authentic Performance

Terence Hawkes wrote:

Did Shakespeare's words sound 'less pompous?' asks Sam Small. Perhaps
'pompous' is the wrong word. They would certainly have sounded less
portentous. After all, the original audience would have been listening
to the work of a promising, indeed interesting English playwright called
Shakespeare. On the other hand, we're confronted by the effusions of the
creature 'Shakespeare': universal lion-hearted, golden-thighed genius,
and dispenser of industrial-strength wisdom about the way things are,
always have been, and always will be.

Quite so, Terence.  This further piece of translation can radically
affect players, directors and audiences when confronted with the "text
of texts".  A similar thing happened to the Beatles.  In 1963 they were
a cheeky art college band who wrote catchy tunes; now revered as great
composers of the 20th century.  The great danger is that Shakespeare is
now so lauded that he may actually don the Emperor's new clothes.  The
future might be interesting.

SAM SMALL

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Sep 2000 20:08:33 +0100
Subject:        Authentic Performance

Dale Lyles wrote:

I am not the expert in history of our language, but the Sonnet 14
non-rhymes Sam Small refers to are not that hard a nut to crack.  'Wind'
rhymes/rhymed with 'kind,' as per a footnote in the *Oxford Book of
Carols for Choirs I*.  'Convert' rhymes with 'art.'  This is just a
couple of examples of how pronunciation has changed over the last four
hundred years.  Others can point us to appropriate sources for this
information.

As for astronomy/quality, I think the answer is that we're not dealing
with W.S. Gilbert here.  Shakespeare is just rhyming the last syllable,
as odd as that may be to our ears.

Thank you Dale.  You are so right.  At least in part.  "Wind" (as in
blowing air) 400 years ago really did rhyme with "bind" - I can accept
"astromom-ee" and qualit-ee" - but "convert" does not rhyme with "art".
Shakespeare - like pretty much anyone else - rhymes the last vowel
sound.  The latter pairing do not.  A worse anomaly is in sonnet 154 -
the last couplet rhymes "love" and "prove".  I have tried all modern
English accents and none fit this one.

SAM

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur D L Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Sep 2000 10:37:07 +0800
Subject: 11.1700 Re: Authentic Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1700 Re: Authentic Performance

RP = 'received pronunciation', currently defined (usually) as Thames
Valley educated speech, formerly 'BBC English'.

Arthur Lindley
 

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