9th June, Birmingham – Organised by ITI WMG and MAT group.
When the Music and Translation workshop in Birmingham was advertised earlier in the year, it went straight in the diary: my specialist field is music and so this was a not-to-be-missed and rare opportunity to get some CPD in my area of expertise.
I had a concert the night before, so despite being up at the crack of dawn, I unfortunately missed the first session. This was “Singing with Other Voices – translation in opera and music theatre” with John Lloyd Davies, an opera and theatre director, designer and dramaturg who has worked in many of the world’s leading opera houses.
After a quick coffee and a résumé of John’s talk from my (as always) friendly colleagues, I was straight into the hands-on activity of translating a song in our language groups. I really enjoyed translating as a group, learning from the various strengths that we each brought to the table. We had people working in the creative sector, who came up with alternative versions to fit the music better, and people with a strong religious background in both languages who helped with the text-type: we needed to decide whether it was appropriate to use “thee and thou” and whether or not the German was based on a standard version of the psalm. If it had been, we may have felt we should try to stick closely to the standard English “Book of Common Prayer”. As a musician, my biggest input was probably how singable our efforts actually were!
We rounded off the morning session with a choir singing through both the original versions of the songs and our translated versions. We were working under a lot of time pressure, but given that, I don’t think we did too badly!
The afternoon session was led by Klaus Kaindl, Professor in Translation Studies at Vienna University, where he specialises in opera and popular music translation. His excellent and wide-ranging presentation looked at the linguistic aspects of opera translation, singability of texts and the opera in changing cultural contexts. He also looked at popular song in translation and how the image of the artist is of primary importance here. This was nicely illustrated by Elvis Presley’s “Surrender” – actually a version of “Torna a Surriento”!
The day ended in mixed language groups, where we looked at different translated versions of “La Paloma”. These differed widely according to the different traditions and conventions of the target cultures.
You can see some samples of my own translations of musical texts on my website, http://www.katherinewrentranslator.co.uk/sample-translations
Many thanks to Dr. Ulrike Nichols and Juliet Hammond-Smith for organising such a stimulating workshop and making the long trip down so worthwhile.