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Mid-Atlantic (accent) ~~ Why?

MGM·Lion 02 Nov 10 - 09:04 AM
stallion 02 Nov 10 - 09:32 AM
Richard Bridge 02 Nov 10 - 09:37 AM
Will Fly 02 Nov 10 - 09:41 AM
Will Fly 02 Nov 10 - 09:43 AM
Santa 02 Nov 10 - 09:48 AM
MGM·Lion 02 Nov 10 - 09:48 AM
Richard Bridge 02 Nov 10 - 10:26 AM
MGM·Lion 02 Nov 10 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Nov 10 - 10:52 AM
Phil Edwards 02 Nov 10 - 10:56 AM
Will Fly 02 Nov 10 - 11:00 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 02 Nov 10 - 11:46 AM
Richard Bridge 02 Nov 10 - 11:57 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 02 Nov 10 - 11:58 AM
BobKnight 02 Nov 10 - 12:36 PM
Leadfingers 02 Nov 10 - 12:51 PM
GUEST,Jon 02 Nov 10 - 02:04 PM
stallion 02 Nov 10 - 02:14 PM
stallion 02 Nov 10 - 02:21 PM
Joe Offer 02 Nov 10 - 02:41 PM
Little Robyn 02 Nov 10 - 02:52 PM
GUEST,Jon 02 Nov 10 - 02:54 PM
YorkshireYankee 02 Nov 10 - 03:04 PM
YorkshireYankee 02 Nov 10 - 03:16 PM
Joe Offer 02 Nov 10 - 03:43 PM
GUEST,Jon 02 Nov 10 - 03:50 PM
GUEST,Jon 02 Nov 10 - 04:00 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 02 Nov 10 - 04:05 PM
Joe Offer 02 Nov 10 - 04:18 PM
GUEST,Jon 02 Nov 10 - 04:27 PM
Richard Bridge 02 Nov 10 - 04:27 PM
Richard Bridge 02 Nov 10 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,Jon 02 Nov 10 - 05:01 PM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Nov 10 - 05:07 PM
artbrooks 02 Nov 10 - 05:45 PM
Phil Edwards 02 Nov 10 - 06:07 PM
MGM·Lion 02 Nov 10 - 06:11 PM
Lighter 02 Nov 10 - 06:11 PM
YorkshireYankee 02 Nov 10 - 06:55 PM
GUEST,Russ 02 Nov 10 - 09:03 PM
Joe Offer 02 Nov 10 - 09:17 PM
Leadfingers 02 Nov 10 - 09:25 PM
Rob Naylor 02 Nov 10 - 09:32 PM
Gibb Sahib 03 Nov 10 - 01:35 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 03 Nov 10 - 03:03 AM
MGM·Lion 03 Nov 10 - 03:34 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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