1st Edition

Translation and Music

ISBN 9781905763108
Published July 10, 2014 by Routledge
282 Pages

USD $49.95

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Book Description

Popular and multimodal forms of cultural products are becoming increasingly visible within translation studies research. Interest in translation and music, however, has so far been relatively limited, mainly because translation of musical material has been considered somewhat outside the limits of translation studies, as traditionally conceived. Difficulties associated with issues such as the 'musicality' of lyrics, the fuzzy boundaries between translation, adaptation and rewriting, and the pervasiveness of covert or unacknowledged translations of musical elements in a variety of settings have generally limited the research in this area to overt and canonized translations such as those done for the opera.

Yet the intersection of translation and music can be a fascinating field to explore, and one which can enrich our understanding of what translation is and how it relates to other forms of expression.  This special issue is an attempt to open up the field of translation and music to a wider audience within translation studies, and to an extent, within musicology and cultural studies.

The volume includes contributions from a wide range of musical genres and languages: from those that investigate translation and code-switching in North African rap and rai, and the intertextual and intersemiotic translations revolving around Mahler's lieder in Chinese, to the appropriation and after-life of Kurdish folk songs in Turkish, and the emergence of rock'n roll in Russian. Other papers examine the reception of Anglo-American stage musicals and musical films in Italy and Spain, the concept of 'singability' with examples from Scandinavian languages, and the French dubbing of musical episodes of TV series. The volume also offers an annotated bibliography on opera translation and a general bibliography on translation and music.

Table of Contents

Translation and Music: Changing Perspectives, Frameworks and Significance, pp. 187-200
Şebnem Susam-Sarajeva (University of Edinburgh, Scotland)

Until quite recently, research on translation and music has been rather neglected within translation studies, despite the vital role that music plays in the day-to-day lives of individuals and the development, cohesion and organization of societies. The reasons behind this peripheral disciplinary position are explored and a critical examination of recent research on the topic is offered. Translation and music is shown to be a fascinating area to explore, not only for specialized translators/scholars but also for researchers in translation studies, cultural studies, media studies and musicology. By investigating the role played by translation in the context of musical performances, we can enrich our understanding of what forms translation can take and how it may relate to other forms of expression. The article concludes by suggesting future avenues of research and theoretical frameworks, especially favouring the use of a descriptive and systemic approach to both micro- and macro-level investigations in this field.


Translation, Authorship and Authenticity in Soviet Rock Songwriting, pp. 201-228
Polly McMichael (University of Nottingham, UK)

Soviet rock songwriters were deeply concerned with the difficulties involved in adapting rock music - a form they perceived to be 'foreign' in its very essence - to the demands of their own culture. Soviet rock fans had a certain limited access to Western cultural products and they often found fault with what they regarded as misreadings and distortions in the criticism, rewriting and appropriation of rock music by the official Soviet media and cultural institutions. The idea that rock music had to be transferred and translated correctly in order to retain its authenticity was central in the unofficial rock journalism during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Russian musicians and songwriters called upon a 'canon' of Western rock authors when making claims about the meaning of the genre. This article discusses the forays of Leningrad's rock community into theorizing and thematizing the relationship between Soviet and Anglophone rock music and investigates 'translation' as it appears in songs by Boris Grebenshchikov (Akvarium) and Maik Naumenko (Zoopark). The article thus reveals the ways in which referring to or reworking a prior text could constitute a creative strategy, either as a satirical tool, or as a means of entry into a tradition of rock authorship.


Folk Songs, Translation and the Question of (Pseudo-)Originals, pp. 229-246
Senem Öner (Mainz Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany)

This article examines the translation of Kurdish folk songs into Turkish, an issue which became the subject of a heated debate and controversy in Turkey during the 1990s. It outlines three areas of criticism related to the translations in question and analyzes the translation strategies used as well as the textual-linguistic make-up of the lyrics. Although criticism tended to focus on the cultural policies of the Turkish state, on the translators themselves, and on questions of ethics and economic exploitation, the translations paradoxically display loss, destruction and forgetting on the one hand, and gain, survival and remembering of Kurdish culture on the other. The translators seem to have appealed to two target audiences at the same time, one of which is also the source audience. The article suggests that the main reason behind the controversy concerned the way in which the songs were presented to the audiences rather than how they were actually translated. Given that the Turkish versions were presented as original songs, they are referred to here as 'pseudo-originals', though the concept of 'original' itself is shown to be questionable. The article concludes by problematizing any claim to an 'original' in the context of folk songs.


Translation and Code Switching in the Lyrics of Bilingual Popular Songs, pp. 247-272
Eirlys E. Davies and Abdelâli Bentahila (Abdelmaalek Elssaadi University, Tangier, Morocco)

This paper examines the ways in which translation and code switching may be exploited in the creation of song lyrics featuring more than one language and points out some contrasts between the functions they fulfil in such songs and the ways they are exploited elsewhere. The discussion is based on illustrations drawn from a variety of sources, ranging from Western pop to North African rai music. The strategies identified include using translation to either replace or reduplicate the source material, rewriting with varying degrees of divergence from the original, juxtaposing components from different languages, and composing directly in a code switching variety. It is argued that in such lyrics translation and code switching often serve to produce very similar effects. Both may be used as affirmations of identity, as in-group markers, as stylistic devices, as a means of opening up the lyrics to outsiders or of producing effects such as alienation and exclusion. The effects achieved in particular cases are related to such variables as the identity of the performer/persona, the background of the audience and the specific content and theme of the song.


The Song of the Earth: An Analysis of Two Interlingual and Intersemiotic Translations, pp. 273-294
Jessica Yeung (Hong Kong Baptist University)

This article discusses the creativity and originality that can be generated by both interlingual and intersemiotic translations. The text of Gustav Mahler's song symphony Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) is taken from Hans Bethge's adaptations of Chinese Tang poetry. In 2002 a modern Chinese dance was set to Mahler's masterpiece by Chiang Ching, a Chinese choreographer now living in the US. For this performance, Mahler's text was translated into Chinese by Cheng Chou-yu, an influential contemporary Chinese poet, and was recited as interludes between the movements. The present article explores this loop of intertextuality surrounding Das Lied von der Erde, created by interlingual and intersemiotic translations, and illustrates how the idea of 'translation' is deeply embedded in Mahler's composition and Chiang Ching's staging of the dance. For Mahler the idea of his text being a translation justifies his musical innovation; for Chiang Ching the overall aesthetic of her dance hinges on the idea that her 'source text', namely Mahler's lyrics, is already a translation.


The American Film Musical in Italy: Translation and Non-translation, pp. 295-318
Elena Di Giovanni (University of Macerata, Italy)

After the climax of the Golden Age of the American film musical at the beginning of the 1950s, Hollywood musicals quickly reached Italy and were screened and broadcast frequently over the years. Italian distributors were eager to exploit the success these productions had achieved in their country of origin, as the magical and utopian worlds evoked by these films were equally appealing to Italian audiences. Yet the genre was received rather unevenly in Italy. This article examines the factors that influenced this reception and attempts to establish whether the unsystematic and partial translation strategies employed played a role in this process. It first offers a brief overview of the genre's evolution and of its unique and multifaceted 'language'. It then analyzes the context of production and release of the Italian versions of fifteen popular American film musicals produced between the 1950s and late 1970s, before describing the translation strategies employed. Finally, some examples from macro- and micro-level translational decisions are presented.


Anglo-American Musicals in Spanish Theatres, pp. 319-342
Marta Mateo (Universidad de Oviedo, Spain)

This article aims to stimulate interest in the translation of musical texts by examining Anglo-American musicals sung in Spanish, a genre which has yielded some of the most outstanding successes in Spain's theatre world ever since its arrival in the 1970s. It offers a historical overview of the reception of stage musicals in Spain and examines the criteria for the selection of source texts for performance in sung translation. Extra-textual factors such as audience needs and expectations, production processes and commercial and economic constraints are examined closely in an attempt to contextualize a translation phenomenon which has helped to fill a 'cultural gap' and has had a significant impact on the Spanish theatre system. The article demonstrates that the successful importation of Anglo-American musicals into Spain has been instrumental in fostering the autochthonous production of a genre apparently foreign to the country's musical tradition. A number of concepts are borrowed from theatre and cultural studies, as well as from pragmatics, to explain this phenomenon, including 'reverence', 'productive reception' and 'social relevance'.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Characterization in the Musical Episode of the TV Series, pp. 343-372
Charlotte Bosseaux (University of Edinburgh, Scotland)

Translating audiovisual material such as songs that contribute to a film's narrative is a challenge yet to be systematically researched in translation studies, and in its more specific branch of audiovisual translation (AVT). This article suggests a new line of research in the analysis of audiovisual material and the perception of fictional characters in original films and their translations, focusing on characterization in the dubbed French version of a musical episode of the American TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more specifically on a song entitled 'Something to Sing About', translated as 'Donnez-moi ma vie' (Give me my life) in French. Lyrics, which are instrumental in allowing the viewer to make sense of the storyline and in constructing the characters' personas, thus provide the main data for analysis. Characterization is investigated by examining shifts at the level of linguistic elements, including modality, complemented by an examination of parameters from cinematic modalities, such as shot composition, performance and voice quality. The analysis reveals shifts in the way Buffy is perceived in French. In the French dubbed version of the episode, Buffy comes across as more mature and sophisticated, and seems to have more control over her life.


Choices in Song Translation: Singability in Print, Subtitles and Sung Performance, pp. 373-399
Johan Franzon (University of Helsinki, Finland)

This article examines options in song translation and the concept of 'singability' from a functional point of view and describes the strategic choices made by translators/lyricists in translating songs. Moving from the assumption that a song has three properties (music, lyrics and prospective performance) and music has three (melody, harmony and musical sense), it suggests that a song translator may have five options in theory: not translating the lyrics, translating the lyrics without taking the music into consideration, writing new lyrics, adapting the music to the translation, and adapting the translation to the music. In practice, some of these options may of course be combined. The article also suggests that the ambiguous term 'singability' can be defined as a musico-verbal fit of a text to music, and that this musico-verbal unity may consist of several layers - prosodic, poetic and semantic-reflexive. These layers may sometimes be modified, or optional, but they would be united in a fully functional and singable target text lyric. In order to illustrate these points, the article examines a number of examples from different musical genres - a popular song, a hymn, a fictitious song and songs from musical plays (mostly in English, Swedish and Finnish) - translated for sung performance, for subtitles or to be printed in books.


The Translation of Opera as a Multimedia Text, pp. 401-409
Claus Clüver (Indiana University, USA)

Review of: Die Oper als Textgestalt: Perspektiven einer interdisziplinären Übersetzungswissenschaft. Klaus Kaindl, Studien zur Translation, Vol. 2.  Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag Brigitte Narr, 1995.



Jennifer Lindsay(ed.) Between Tongues: Translation and/of/in Performance in Asia
Reviewed by Peter Low (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)

Pirjo Kukkonen: Tango Nostalgia: The Language of Love and Longing; Finnish Culture in Tango Lyrics Discourses: A Contrastive Semiotic and Cultural Approach to the Tango
Reviewed by Katja Pettinen & Myrdene Anderson (Purdue University, Indiana, USA)

Riitta Virkkunen: Aika painaa. Oopperan tekstilaitekäännöksen toiminnalliset rajat (Time Stresses/Time to Press. Functional Boundaries of Translating Surtitles for Opera)
Reviewed by Marja Jänis (University of Joensuu, Finland)

Dinda L. Gorlée (ed.): Song and Significance: Virtues and Vices of Vocal Translation
Reviewed by Eduard Bartoll (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain)




Opera Translation: An Annotated Bibliography, pp. 427-451
Anna Matamala and Pilar Orero (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain)

This annotated bibliography is a product of the authors' long-standing interest in opera translation and media accessibility. It covers earlier works in the field from musicology, as well as the later works from within translation studies; both reflect the multifarious nature of opera, which requires examination from a variety of perspectives. The bibliography includes entries in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish, because these are the languages the authors  are familiar with; nevertheless, many of the entries offer examples also from other language pairs. The authors include works of specialists in the field, such as Ronnie Apter, Mark Herman, Klaus Kaindl, Dinda Gorlée, Lucile Desblache and Marta Mateo, but they also review articles which have been overlooked yet are still significant in the realm of opera and its translation, such as those by W.H Auden and Sigmund Spaeth. Although the bibliography cannot lay claim to comprehensiveness, the selection offered should be useful to future researchers in the field.


Translation and Music: A General Bibliography
Şebnem Susam-Sarajeva (University of Edinburgh, Scotland)

This special issue on translation and music was conceived as an opportunity to take stock of what has been done on the topic so far and to explore future research possibilities. A bibliography covering existing research in the field is therefore indispensable. This bibliography is not genre-specific. Although it includes several references that focus on opera translation, it mainly covers research on or in relation to the translation of other non-canonized musical genres. The languages covered are mainly English, and to some extent French, German, Swedish, Finnish, Italian and Spanish. The majority of the works covered appeared in the last two decades, although a few texts date back to the first half of the 20th century.

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