Rum, hobbitses, and the Kirk

A few weeks back, N introduced me to the catchy video remix "Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain; why is he climbing a mountain?"

It does a neat job of turning spoken intonation into quasi-melody (and adding music and video). As I wrote in an old column on intonation:

I'm fascinated by spoken-word recordings in which intonation almost provides a melody. There's a Scott Johnson recording which includes clips of someone saying, "Remember that guy, J-John somebody? He was a—he was sort of a jerk" over and over. It's not really a melody, but when repeated it begins almost to sound like one. Peter Berryman suggests elaborating on this notion by recording conversations and basing melodies on them. Jim Moskowitz adds that minimalist composer Steve Reich has used spoken-word techniques like this, most famously in a piece called "Different Trains," which uses recordings of people talking about 1940s US passenger trains and Nazi concentration-camp trains.

Turns out that Kirk is not the only subject of such remixes. Suddenly everyone seems to be talking about "They're taking the hobbits to Isengard!" and "Why is the rum gone?"

Who knew spoken words could provide such catchy melodies?

Title of entry, of course, refers to the three great traditions of the British Navy.

Join the Conversation