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Thread: Do you have a language preference?

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    Senior Member mud's Avatar
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    Default Do you have a language preference?

    For operatics, it can be difficult to distinguish words unless you know the language and the lyrics, but for musicality, do you prefer the sounds or flow of a certain language or dislike any singing because of the language itself?
    Last edited by mud; May-17-2012 at 13:09. Reason: wording

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    None, really, other than a more than marked preference that a vocal work always be sung in the original language in which it was cast.

    That from me is a massive understatement, since vocal works sung in translation is something about which I am near to a proselytizing zealot, and will reflexively make tirades against.

    My argument for 'musicality' and sung language is the composer was thinking musically in regard to the language they were using in the song, cantata, opera, etc. Musicality is then bound to that selected language.

    Singers have endless unresolved debate about which is the easiest language, or best, for musicality, but the truly great singers who have learned to sing in any number of languages have the technique and intelligence to get equally musical results from any of those - all a matter of technical adjustments.
    Last edited by PetrB; May-17-2012 at 13:32.

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    Senior Member Moira's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mud View Post
    For operatics, it can be difficult to distinguish words unless you know the language and the lyrics, but for musicality, do you prefer the sounds or flow of a certain language or dislike any singing because of the language itself?
    In South Africa we occasionally have oratorios and operas, and often have songs, in one of the vernacular languages which are rich with clicks (there are at least three, a dental click for C, a palatial click for Q and a labial click for X). One gets used to it. I can even identify which of the two main groups of languages are being sung - the kind of basic skill required for telling whether a song is being sung in French or Italian, but often no stylistic differences to assist.

    Unlike PetrB, I don't mind if something is translated into English and sung in English, providing the diction is good. When it is in Italian or some other language I don't care about the diction. Joan Smotherland, sorry, Sutherland, was renowned for very poor diction, but it worried me not one whit. It would have if she had been singing in English.

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    Senior Member mud's Avatar
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    I have found German to be repulsive more often than not. But there are some good songs of course. I think the language actually shapes the music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moira View Post
    Unlike PetrB, I don't mind if something is translated into English and sung in English, providing the diction is good. When it is in Italian or some other language I don't care about the diction. Joan Smotherland, sorry, Sutherland, was renowned for very poor diction, but it worried me not one whit. It would have if she had been singing in English.
    What I don't like about that is when it creates a conflict with listening to the original version. If I like the Italian version, I do not want to have an English version competing with it in my memory (especially if the lyrics are absurd in English).
    Last edited by mud; May-17-2012 at 14:00.

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    I like German the best, followed by Italian. French is a hideous language.

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    Senior Member mud's Avatar
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    I am mixed about the French language, some great songs, but it can get weird.

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    Senior Member Moira's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mud View Post
    What I don't like about that is when it creates a conflict with listening to the original version. If I like the Italian version, I do not want to have an English version competing with it in my memory (especially if the lyrics are absurd in English).
    That's often because the lyrics in any language would be absurd. The reality is that it is one of those human quirks. For some people being able to understand the language is key to liking the music. For others anything but the original is heresy.

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    Senior Member mud's Avatar
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    Yeah, I guess in that case it's more about the foreign language being entirely musical and the translation being less so, and further distracting with meanings that are not as beautiful as the abstract words had been.

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    Senior Member mud's Avatar
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    It almost seems strange that there is not a musical language for the voice which has no meaning beyond the sounds produced, as with other instruments.

    Actually there must be, considering Ravel's Vocalise en Forma de Habanera, or Bachianas #5 by Villa-Lobos, which are purely musical in vocals. I like that language of course.

    I guess that means most instrumental pieces could be arranged for voice too. That could be funny.
    Last edited by mud; May-17-2012 at 15:40.

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    Senior Member Moira's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mud View Post
    It almost seems strange that there is not a musical language for the voice which has no meaning beyond the sounds produced, as with other instruments.

    Actually there must be, considering Ravel's Vocalise en Forma de Habanera, or Bachianas #5 by Villa-Lobos, which are purely musical in vocals. I like that language of course.

    I guess that means most instrumental pieces could be arranged for voice too. That could be funny.
    Paradise Road, a 1997 movie starring Glenn Close and Cate Blanchett, directed by Bruce Beresford provided an example of exactly this.

    Set in a Japanese concentration camp in World War II. The women form "vocal orchestra" -- a chorus that astounds audiences of fellow prisoners by performing hummed renditions of the work of Mozart, Dvorak, and Holst.

    It is an exceptional movie and I understand that it was based on a true story. It is a story of hope and courage rather than a mindless tearjerker. I recommend it if you haven't seen it.

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    Senior Member quack's Avatar
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    I think the translation used in Reginald Goodall's production of the ring pretty good and I have no problem with translated versions of operas in general. Usually the music is designed to fit the libretto, so it might be akin to using a Cagean prepared piano in a Rachmaninov piano concerto, but such experiments can be illuminating. An English version of Pagliacci I listened to recently revealed just what a ridiculously melodramatic work it is.

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    Senior Member mud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moira View Post
    Paradise Road, a 1997 movie starring Glenn Close and Cate Blanchett, directed by Bruce Beresford provided an example of exactly this.

    Set in a Japanese concentration camp in World War II. The women form "vocal orchestra" -- a chorus that astounds audiences of fellow prisoners by performing hummed renditions of the work of Mozart, Dvorak, and Holst.

    It is an exceptional movie and I understand that it was based on a true story. It is a story of hope and courage rather than a mindless tearjerker. I recommend it if you haven't seen it.
    That sounds good...
    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbZBfspquK4[/yt]

    Reminds me of nuns...
    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smIM826gMDE[/yt]
    Last edited by mud; May-17-2012 at 21:51.

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    Senior Member (Ret) moody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mud View Post
    I have found German to be repulsive more often than not. But there are some good songs of course. I think the language actually shapes the music.
    If you hear the great lieder singer Karl Erb singing german with his Swabian accent you should find it very beautiful.
    I sometimes find remarks made on TC almost worth getting banned for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    I like German the best, followed by Italian. French is a hideous language.
    You actually like something other than German now? Surprising.

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