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James Kirby: "Singing in tone: An introduction to tonal text-setting"

Many of the languages of Asia and Africa are what linguists call tone languages, meaning that they make use of pitch to indicate differences in lexical or grammatical meaning. This leads naturally to the following question: if pitch is being used to distinguish meaning, how can speakers of tone languages understand lyrics when they are set to music? In other words, how is (linguistic) tone reconciled with (musical) melody? In this presentation, I will discuss the text-setting principles that underlie the traditional and modern musics of several East Asian tone languages, and point out some linguistic and musical differences that are reflected in tonal text-setting principles.