Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, August 14, 2005


In a sidebar comment on his blog to
this post on Sheryl Crow's breakout smash "All I Wanna Do," M. C- of The Standing Room says, “My problem w/ that song is the prosody: “Santa MoniCA Boul...’”

I have no argument to make -- one's reaction to subtle details of that nature feels so deeply personal and subjective -- and that subjective relationship to the noises that language makes reminds me of a story.

George has been posting on works of Bertolt Brecht, bringing back memories of acting with the Brecht Company at the University of Michigan, back in the '80s when I was a student. A professor and a non-tenure-track teacher led the group. I acted in 4 plays -- "A Man's a Man," "St. Joan of the Stockyards," "Don Juan," and "Caucasian Chalk Circle," generally playing naive young men in medium-to-small roles.

The professor, Martin Walsh, was the company's principal actor. I loved his acting; nuanced and wide-ranging; and I remember listening to him and noticing how, when he chose to, he could chew the consonants of his speeches like nobody I've ever heard. A slightly exaggerated diction that he wouldn't pull out always, but only when a dramatic or thematic situation warranted it. Hard to describe, maybe even moreso 18 or 20 years after the fact. I've never noticed anything else quite like Martin's diction. Only one thing I've ever seen has ever reminded me of it, even though it was on the surface not much like it: Muddy Waters's singing in the movie "The Last Waltz," the way he sings each note with his whole body, with every bone and muscle and sinew. Martin's diction was like that when he turned it on. Full-body diction.

A soft-spoken, shy man, he lit it up on onstage. Heckuva nice guy too; haven't seen him in years.

There's a reason we call it our "Mother Tongue": our relationship to it is intimate and complicated. I can understand why "Santa MoniCA" might feel wrong to someone.
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