More on tones

One of the few terms in yoofspeak not susceptible to HRT is LOL, never ascending.

OMG is curious: often intoned at a rather high constant pitch, like the first tone in Chinese—and (perhaps through the pervasive influence of Friends) drawn out dramatically: O——M——G…

Another recent entry in the lexicon of tonal variety is that weird announcing thing the female presenters of Strictly do, in mantric unison:


Chanted hypnotically, this time at a rather constant mid-range pitch, it might sound merely jaded, but has been magically rescued from its previous function of expressing sullen apathy to suggest instead some awesome process, divinely decreed. Again, this may be related to gender.

Of course, there’s a wealth of academic discussion about the importance of the semantics of stress and pitch in English. Here’s just one stimulating example, with some inter-cultural comparisons.


Meanwhile, back at Chinese ritual, unlike choral hymns (easily notated, with fixed pitches and tempo), the performance of shuowen solo chanted introits in Chinese ritual doesn’t necessarily attract much musical analysis (or transcription). But again, if we seek to learn how to be a Daoist, we need to pay attention to their rendition—not spoken but parlando, rather fast and high, each phrase descending. Listen again to the way Golden Noble sings this introit at the soul hall before the Invitation procession (my film, from 58.14):

May the deceased souls come to the Bathing Hall,
Transforming their shape and countenance to return to the immortal realm.
Now dipping into the bowl to bathe their bodies,
For an audience with the Three Treasures on the way to the Western Quarter.

3 thoughts on “More on tones

  1. Pingback: Corpsing: Inuit culture and Haydn | Stephen Jones: a blog

  2. Pingback: Strictly north Shanxi Daoist ritual | Stephen Jones: a blog

  3. Pingback: Accentuation | Stephen Jones: a blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s