Print

Print


On Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 8:29 AM kechpaja <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Ékivrin!
>
> I have to disagree with you there. For me, trying to sing in a
> phonologically complex language sounds much easier than trying to
> produce natural-sounding speech — when I'm singing, I'm paying much
> closer attention to what sounds I'm articulating and when, the
> intonation is much more quantified (i.e. you have to hit specific
> pitches, rather than contours, at least most of the time), and (at least
> if this is a song I'm putting real effort into performing), I've
> probably spent a lot of time practicing that specific bit of text, and
> will likely know it by heart by the time I'm actually performing.
>

Nothing could be further from my experience. The way I put it to John, I
feel like I only have so much focus (and this is me myself; I'm sure
professional singers would be much better). I can put that focus into
perfect pronunciation, or I can put it into singing well, but I can't do
both very well. I just run out of brain space. The same is true of karaoke
when I'm standing far away from the screen and not wearing glasses *and*
don't know the song by heart. With Ithkuil, while I'm better at much of it
now (and John helps me out by breaking up long words into shorter pieces,
which is easier for me to handle), I don't think I could ever get to a
point where I could produce it effortlessly. There's too much that's
random. It's not as if any of the sounds individually is difficult, but
they can occur in *almost* any combination, and that makes it incredibly
taxing.

For example, if you speak English or Hindi, you'll be able to perfectly
produce the sounds [s], /t/ and /tʰ/ (the places of articulation differ
between Hindi and English, but that's not important for this example). Both
Hindi and English speakers have those sounds down cold. However, it's
challenging for an English speaker to produce [stʰV], and challenging for a
Hindi speaker to produce [stV], because those sequences never occur in
these respective languages. Stops are never aspirated after [s] in English,
and they're always aspirated after [s] in Hindi. In Ithkuil, you can have
both.

That's just one example of the type of patterns you come to expect in
natural languages that you don't get in Ithkuil. Because of that, there's
much less you can hang your hat on and get used to. You have to be engaged
at all time, because it can always be a sequence you haven't done before.

When I'm singing in Ithkuil, I tend to do it a chunk at a time (one stanza,
maybe two, sometimes less, depending on the complexity). I start out by
speaking it to myself, to make sure that I'm pronouncing it correctly, and
then I practice it a little bit to try to get some patterns/routines down.
(Of course, these will only be useful for *this* section, so my brain
basically dumps it when I'm done.) Then I practice singing it, focusing on
pronunciation. When I go to record, I record that section five times in a
row. The first couple I try to make sure I'm getting the pronunciation
right; then the next two I try to make it sound as good as I can (melody
wise); then for the fifth one I try to correct any mistakes I made, because
I always make mistakes when I'm focusing on melody.

Now, if John weren't particular about pronunciation, the process would be a
lot faster, but pronunciation is crucially important in Ithkuil (where a
change between aspiration or laxness or velar and uvular can change the
precise meaning of the word), so John usually uses all my takes, stitching
together a word here or a sound there, to get one take that sounds good
enough and is pronounced correctly. He's gotten pretty good at this editing
process.

Of course, added to this is that while the vocal melodies tend not to be
complex, the music around it is quite complex, and often how the vocal
melody sits on the song isn't intuitive, because John is doing some really
complex music. Sometimes the time signatures completely throw me off and I
have to kind of work through it on my own (sometimes with a ukulele) to
make sure I understand how it works musically. So sometimes the music
itself is also a little taxing and uses up some focus.

All told, I really doubt I could get through a full song in one take
without either the musicality or the pronunciation suffering (and I'm sure
if we were to perform it live, it'd have to be the pronunciation that
suffered for the sake of the audience). To improve the pronunciation (so it
didn't require so much of my attention), I'd need to actually study the
language on its own just for the sake of learning pronunciation to try to
at least pick up on some of the more common (if there are any that truly
are common) morphophonological patterns. Ithkuil is really a different
animal, though. It's a true challenge. A fun one, but a mighty one.

A useful analog (at least in my mind) would be trying to sing karaoke in a
language you don't speak but *can* pronounce fairly well but whose
orthography you cannot quite grasp. Like Gaelic, for example (unless you've
studied it). I'm sure most of us could probably pronounce Gaelic well
enough to sing it, but the orthography is so arcane, if you haven't studied
it, that it would be effortful for you to figure out how things ought to be
pronounced in the moment. It would require your brain to be doing too many
things at once to handle all of them. That's a little what this is like.

-David