Song and significance : virtues and vices of vocal translation



Song and significance : virtues and vices of vocal translation

[edited with prelude and preface by] Dinda L. Gorlée

(Approaches to translation studies)

Rodopi, 2005

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Proceedings of a seminar, Song and Significance: Intralingual and Intersemiotic Vocal Translation, which was part of the 2003 International Summer Institute for Semiotic and Structural Studies

Summary: Includes translation studies on music, word and music studies

Errata slip inserted

Includes bibliographical references and indexes


  • Singing on the breath of God : preface to life and growth of translated hymnody / Dinda L. Gorlée
  • Musical rhetoric - the translator's dilemma : a case for Don Giovanni / Marianne Tråvén
  • Music-linked translation [MLT] and Mozart's operas : theoretical, textual, and practical perspectives / Harai Golomb
  • A semiotic clash in Maria Stuarda : music and libretto versus the Protestant version of British history / Ronnie Apter and Mark Herman
  • The pentathlon approach to translating songs / Peter Low
  • The Saami yoik : translating hum, chant, or/and song / Myrdene Anderson
  • The plurisemiotics of pop song translation : words, music, voice and image / Klaus Kaindl
  • Musical comedy translation : fidelity and format in the Scandinavian My fair lady / Johan Franzon



Vocal translation is an old art, but the interpretive feeling, skill and craft have expanded into a relatively new area in translation studies. Vocal translation is the translation of the poetic discourse in the hybrid art of the musicopoetic (or poeticomusical) forms, shapes and skills. This symbiotic construct harmonizes together the conflicting roles of music and language in face-to-face singing performances. The artist sings in an accurate but free flow, but sung in a language different from the original lyrics. Vocal translation is a living-together community of composer and poet and translator; they work together though separately in time and place, through the structure and meaning of the vocalized verbal language. The meaning of the songs is influenced by the elements of musical expression: melody, impulse, pitch, duration, loudness, timbre and dynamics, each of which is governed by its own rules and emotions. The movement of the lyrics is an essential and meaningful attribute of the musical rhythms, pauses, pitches, stresses and articulations of the entire songs. The presence of the original and translated song structures its sounds, senses and gestures to suggest semiotic meaningfulness. In opera, folksong, hymn and art song, as well as in operetta, musical song and popular song, we have musical genres allied to a libretto with lyrical text. A libretto is a linguistic text which is a pre-existing work of art, but is subordinated to the musical text. The essays in Song and Significance: Virtues and Vices of Vocal Translation provide interpretive models for the juxtaposition of different orders of the singing sign-events in different languages, extending the meaning and range of the musical and literary concepts, and putting the mixed signs to a true-and-false test.


Dinda L. GORLEE: Prelude and Acknowledgements Dinda L. GORLEE: Singing on the Breath of God: Preface to Life and Growth of Translated Hymnody Marianne TRAVEN: Musical Rhetoric - the Translator's Dilemma: A Case for Don Giovanni Harai GOLOMB: Music-Linked Translation [MLT] and Mozart's Operas: Theoretical, Textual, and Practical Perspectives Ronnie APTER and Mark HERMAN: A Semiotic Clash in Maria Stuarda: Music and Libretto versus the Protestant Version of British History Peter LOW: The Pentathlon Approach to Translating Songs Myrdene ANDERSON: The Saami Yoik: Translating Hum, Chant, or/and Song Klaus KAINDL: The Plurisemiotics of Pop Song Translation: Words, Music, Voice and Image Johan FRANZON: Musical Comedy Translation: Fidelity and Format in the Scandinavian My Fair Lady Notes on Contributors Name Index Subject Index

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