From East to West, North to South; in pursuit of perfection.

Music It’s been a while. I’ve been busy trying to coax language out of fossilized theoretical compartments into more fluid, active and engaging use. It’s not easy and takes time, patience and resolution; as long as I have any two of those 3 at any given time I’ll be okay and students will learn. Or learners will study. Depends which side of the fence you’re on.

The theme for this post took me on a musical voyage. Over the past few years, in trying to explain in class how dynamic and experimental English is, I’ve had to delve into its history in terms of how the language had changed and evolved, thus having a better idea of global variations and cultural usage. English is a remarkably flexible and open language. It’s been described by those who know better than me as a ‘monster which devours all in its path.’ When it meets a new language, it doesn’t resist it but pulls from it what it needs, incorporates it into lexis at incredible speed and moves on, and on, and on.

A bit like music really. That’s where jazz and blues come in. I could describe so many other styles but these two have the most interesting balance between what language is – what perfection is – what art is – what experimentation is.

These most artistic of musical expressions were born in the 19th and evolved through 20th century america. It was the music of the poor, the racially oppressed and the grammatically illiterate. It also, however, went on to transcend preconceived ideas of what music was and became an art form; so much so that the ‘doesn’t’ is rarely pronounced in the 3rd person in any modern musical form with english speaking artists of the highest cultural level much preferring the musically better sounding ‘he /she/it don’t’, or the authentic qualities of the double negative (I ain’t got no time).

So what is perfection? When is a language simply a communicative device, and when does it transcend grammar and become an art form?

I’ll let van morrison help you make up your mind on that one. Born in Ireland; moved to the states as a young adult; made astral weeks in 1968; virtually unclassifiable, an album which is commonly considered one of the finest of all time and an album that transcends multiple musical genres; was literally starving when it was released; was unable to tour with the album due to the lack of financial and artistic support from his record company, until he finally performed his masterpiece live in the hollywood bowl, 40 years after its recording. It had been a very long time.

His spoken pronunciation is now a mix of American South and his original North of Ireland twang (North of Ireland and Scottish accents being principally responsible for that Deep South twang in the first place).

But when he sings, accent, form and grammatical precision disappears as the performance transcends music and language form, the way the best artists do!

Oh my common one

With the coat so old
And the light in the head

Sufferin’ so high
Take a walk with me

Among the regions

Among the regions
Let’s take a look

I was sittin’ down

In a mystic church
In the mystic church

At the Notting Hill Gate
Notting Hill Gate, I was sittin’ down
In the mystic church, at the Notting Hill Gate
At the Westbourne Grove bus station
At the Swedenborg church

At the Notting Hill Gate
I was thinking about it

I take you out, get you in my car

Gonna go for a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long drive

Take you down
To a town called Paradise
Baby we can be free
We gonna drink that wine
Gonna jump for joy
In town called

Paradise

I wanna squeeze you tight
Make everything alright

Until we get that, ‘till we get that, ‘till we get that, until we get that, until we get that

get that, get that, get that, get that, get that, get that, get that, get that get that get that
Squealin’ feelin’, squealin’ feelin’, squealin’ feeling, squealin’ feeling

(Voice as instrument)

Go ahead and scream

Can you feel the silence?
Can you feel the silence?
In a mystic church…
Can you feel the silence?

Can you feel the silence?
In the mystic church
In the brotherhood of the light
At the Notting Hill Gate

Can you feel the silence?

In a mystic church

In the brotherhood of the light

Can you feel the silence?
Can you feel the silence?

Can you feel the silence?
In the mystic church
Can you feel the silence?

Can you feel the silence?
In the mystic church

Vowels – iphone / ipad / i / i: / i.e.

a e i o u

Hello again,  

I wasn’t going to post this week as I’ve been up to my eyeballs, i.e. very busy.  I’m not going to do too much grammatical analysis on the following piece. The creator of the video goes through vocabulary which identifies not only vowels, but vowel sounds and diphthongs, which are a feature of English pronunciation. All the words you hear pronounced in the clip are not simply vowels in the written sense, but are the representation of the phonetic alphabet, as seen in the picure in the top left-hand corner of the post.  

Videos that I had uploaded from non-youtube sources in the past seem to have had compatability problems with the iphone and the ipad. This is because the iphone / ipad don’t display flash technology without specific apps. New apple devices come equipped with built-in youtube readers, yet this doesn’t apply to other sites like vimeo, which deals with better quality video. I’ve uploaded this video in an ‘iframe’ format and would be interested to know if this plays on iphone and ipad, as well as playing on other browsers. So all you iphoners, ipadders and i-something or other, do let me know!   

Thanks.   

Click on the ‘HD’ button to turn off High Definition and speed up browsing. 

Music

Different types of language…

Hello again,

So, why / did / I / choose/ this particular song?

1. It has lyrics which I can use to draw attention to vocabulary and pronunciation.

2. I can put it online without copyright problems.

2. It was made using 2000+ pieces of recycled paper and was filmed using an iphone4 and time-lapse photography editing, which I think is pretty cool.

3. It’s short and you’re all extremely busy, aren’t you? Although at the same time you want to improve your English, don’t you? (slight hint of irony there).

4. You might actually watch it,  listen to it and learn something new; this being the objective of the blog, after all.

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough /tʌf/ one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me.

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough /tʌf/one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me.

now I’m driftin‘,  but my heart /hɑː (r)t/ is sinkin‘, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart /hɑː (r)t/ is sinkin’ like a stone (x3) (UK).

Now I see land ahead, I see blue skies, these crashin’ waves they are wearin’ me down, and the water’s leavin’ salt /sɔːlt/ (UK) /sɔlt/ (US) in my eyes.

I am driftin’,  but my heart  is sinkin’, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart is sinkin’ like a stone (x3) (UK).

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me,

now I’m driftin’,  but my heart is sinkin’, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart is sinkin’ like a stone (x3).

What / is / your / question? What / do / you / want / to know? How / would / you / like / it pronounced?

Q & A

Questions are the keys to conversation. It’s a tricky area due to the use of auxiliaries in English. We usually structure the question in English in the following way;

Question word / Auxiliary / Subject / Verb / Object or Complement

The person speaking in the clip has a standard south of England accent, well, that which you’d come across in and around the Greater London area anyway. Pay particular attention to the pronunciation (or non-pronunciation) of the ‘r’ after vowel sounds. You can see from the dictionary links with phonetics that the American dictionary includes the /r/ sound yet the British version includes it as an option (r). I’ve marked some examples under the video itself. You can check those against US pronunciation of the same word.

Click on the ‘pronunciation’ button beside the phonetic text when the dictionary opens.

Ever wondered (have / you / ever wondered) where a question might take you? UK /ˈwʌndə/ – US /ˈwʌndər/

Why / do / cats / purr? UK /pəː/ – US \ˈpər\

How / can / we / turn / garbage into energy? – UK /ˈɡɑː(r)bɪdʒ/ – US /ˈɡɑrbɪdʒ/

___ / Can / robots / change / their mind? – UK /ðeə(r)/– US – /ðer/

Explore the impossible. UK /ɪkˈsplɔː(r)/ – US – /ɪkˈsplɔr/

The moon was once a pie in the sky.

You have the power (UK /ˈpaʊə(r)/) – US (/ˈpaʊər/) to change things for the better (UK /ˈbetə(r)/ – US /ˈbetər/)

To find the answer – UK /ˈɑːnsə(r)/ – US /ˈænsər/