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Original Pronunciation Post…

…or to start the post with Canadian Content, the OPP, the Ontario Provinical Police, which as a teenager we used to call the Ontario Party Poopers.

Canadian Content is a standard on Canadian radio and TV and our YLuvSh FB group. I believe 30 percent of played content has to be Canadian. So there’s a lot of re-runs of the same artists. Good for the Anne Murrays and Corey Harts of the world.

Anyways Original Pronunciation has entered my world en masse this last week. If you are curious about OP then start by pressing here: which leads you to Paul Meier’s excellent free e-book. A book that talks to you and brings you that much closer to a Shakespearean accent.

Granted there are some phonetic symbols to be learnt, but I’ve always thought that skill to be part of an actor’s palette.

Especially if you’re interested in accents. Of which OP should just be another in your arsenal, alongside Received Pronunciation and General American. The link above takes you to the phonetic symbols at All aspiring or established actors take note.

But that’s not the only reason. There is a levelling of the accentual playing field happening with OP. The hegemony of RP as the accent of Shakespeare is being challenged. Shakespeare’s English sounded nothing like Sir John Gielgud and Sir Larry.

Take a trip to David Crystal’s newest website called Original Pronunciation dot com.
There we find our Ben regaling us with tales of hunch back Kings for the British Library’s OP collection.

There is also a rather brilliant talk with John Barton on Youtube at 4 minutes 20 secs on this link. And here we should talk about why RP and not OP has been the standard. The Brits have for good reason been the standard bearers of Shakespeare’s language.

The accent notwithstanding Shakespeare demands a clarity and facility of speech. The practitioners we all look up to from the early 20thC were working with a shared vocal tradition passed on from the Restoration of the theatres in 1660.

Speaking of the Interregnum (between Kings) and Restoration, I never realised what an effect that had on all those British colonies and conquests of that period. e.g. Jamaica, Barbados and the Original United States.

This material covering the intersection of music and language is in Book 3: Shakespeare’s voice and speech, Book 4 Shakespeare’s Music, and Book 5 Embodying Shakespeare of Voicing Shakespeare by Paul Meier.

The single most important chapter in my ears being chapter 4. The musical dynamics of Shakespeare as Meier rightly reminds us:

We live at a time when the most powerful expression of our language is now, sadly, written rather than oral. In the spoken word sense and sound have been disconnected from one another. Meaning and music are thought to serve different masters……we have forgotten that the synergy of tone, tempo, stress, intonation, phrasing and rhythm actually creates meaning when a written text is voiced.

Nuff said. Except for some testimonials for Paul Meier. Check the names: from Ang Lee to Samuel West.

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