November 15th, 2005

beatnik

Gedankenexperiment

My MP3 player just threw a track from Popshopping, the collection of 1960s/70s West German commercial lounge-jazz, at me. For some reason, funky syncopated grooves with vocals in German sound amusingly incongruous; the sound of the German language, with its sibilant consonants and angular syllables, is an odd fit for such music. Though, on reflection, there is no reason why German should work any worse than English, or, say, Spanish or Welsh or what have you, with funky music.

Which made me wonder: how would music of African-American origin (being soul, gospel, blues, funk and indeed most pop music from Chuck Berry onwards) differ if the fledgling United States of America had adopted German, rather than English, as its national language (which folklore says almost happened; the folklore is incorrect, but this is a hypothetical exercise)? Would, to German-speaking parallel-universe Americans, it sound subjectively identical to the way English-language pop sounds to us? And, in that case, in what language would scary industrial metal be?
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