Monday, 12 September 2011

On OP latest

Several correspondents have written recently asking about the latest developments in 'original pronunciation' (OP) - a recurrent theme of this blog. I've delayed a response until I had something to report - which I now have. This week sees the launch of an OP website. The idea behind the site is to provide a place where people can find out about OP, archive their events, announce plans, and share their experiences of working with it and listening to it.

Although Shakespeare was the stimulus for current interest in OP, the notion is much broader. Any period of English history can be approached in this way, and indeed there have been several projects where people have tried to reconstruct the pronunciation of earlier works in Old and Middle English, notably for Chaucer. The British Library exhibition, Evolving English, which ran from November 2010 to April 2011, had an audio dimension which included OP extracts from Beowulf, Caxton, Chaucer, and the Paston letters, as well as Shakespeare. The 2011 anniversary of the King James Bible also prompted readings in OP, some of which can now be found on the OP site. And there is an ongoing project on one of John Donne's sermons which has an OP dimension.

More than literature is involved. There are opportunities for people interested in the vocal dimension of early English music, as well as for those involved in heritage projects which present original practices, such as Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. Examples from these perspectives include an OP rendering of vocal music by William Byrd and of the songs that appear in Shakespeare's plays.

Interest in OP has been remarkable over the past couple of years, and the Future Events section of the website already has three events and will doubtless soon have more. I very much hope so. Each time a new text is explored from an OP point of view, something fresh and interesting emerges. Only half a dozen Shakespeare plays have been OP'd so far, and (as far as I know) none from other dramatists of the period - so there's plenty of scope.


Marc Leavitt said...

I assume the OP site is not yet up and running? Googling produced Paul Meier's site, which I've seen before. I've been dabbling in OE and its pronunciation for years, strictly as a dilletante, and despite much research, no one seems to have come close to a "definitive" consensus. I realize what many of the pitfalls are, and of course we don't have the benefit of original audio files(I forgot to bring them back the last time I used my time machine), but the whole business still fascinates me. I suppose, from my limited knhowledge,that Cynewulf's Colloquy is possibly the closest we'll get to a sense of how people actually spoke, but the pronunciation to me, at least, is still a bit of a mystery. I say that taking into consideration that I've read at least a dozen scholars' conclusions.


Marc Leavitt

DC said...

The site is live. Click on the OP link in the post to get to it. Googling won't help for a few days, as it takes the search engines a while to spider new sites - and this one only went live today!

Mike Church said...

An extraordinary achievement, but I wouldn't expect anything less from you. Future generations of literature lovers will thank you for this inspired initiative.

OP website is looking good. I think I have a lot of catching up to do!