A while back, our friend Mwanji thoughtfully took the time to make a comment. Regrettably, it is not until now that his contribution is given its due dialectic.
Translations generally suck, whether of books, movies or anything else.
Truth vs. fiction: Boris Vian wrote: "l'histoire est entièrement vraie, puisque je l'ai imaginée d'un bout à l'autre"
(the story is entirely true, since I imagined it from start to finish)
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Three cheers for this global, post modern virtual milleau! There is little doubt in my mind I could have continued till death not knowing about Boris Vian. Life is full of gifts!
Your take on translation has my interest. Because "I don't speak no languages" there is very little I can say to the art and science of translation. The mechanist in me doesn't understand why there isn't simply a "right" translation and an everything-else-is-wrong translation. How is it that there is so much "wiggle room" going from one language to another?
DO WORDS MEAN ANYTHING?
Translations, when compared to one another, are more than the sum of their parts. Oh the fun and laughs I've had comparing the two! And if two are fun, what about three? Are there three translations of The Function of the Orgasm? How about 842 translations?
Could there be 842 translations of The Function of the Orgasm?
Just how elastic are the German words of Wilhelm Reich? Would the words of Wilhelm Reich be more "elastic" if he wrote in Chinese?
When translated into English (for example) are some languages more elastic than others?
Are some writers more elastic than others? Does the writing of Wilhelm Reich have more or less elasticity than the writing of the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles?
How about elasticity and form? Are poems more difficult to translate than essays? I would think poems would be easier because they usually have less words--makes sense, right?
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How does this apply to our beloved music?
Will the time come when our 'translations' of "Jazz" become fatigued? At this juncture "we" are only translating "Jazz" as we are, in 2007, only guessing at social conditions extant during the Birth-to-Ossification life span--roughly 1910's to the mid 60's. Certainly there are "Jazz" songs that have been stretched and done and re done to the point where they are exhausted. Even translators as capable as the Bad Plus, Ken Vandermark or the Claudia Quintet would have a devil of a time translating Bill Bailey.
Or would they?
Do you want to hear another version of Bill Bailey, even if it was by the Bad Plus featuring Ken Vandermark and the Claudia Quintet with special guests Dave Douglas and John Zorn?
Do methodologies in music also lose their snap?
Will writing little black dots on paper to represent our current conception of tonal organization ever disappear, like past methods of notation and concepts of tonal organization?
What if the answer is no? What if our beloved 12 notes to the octave and our precious rules about their organization and presentation were to remain chaste, true and strong forever and ever, amen?
Would that be a good or would that be a bad?
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Not that you asked, but recently I've had the opportunity to listen to a lot of cows. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Big ones, small ones, men, mostly men and women. Cow's don't have a very huge tonal vocabulary, but they do have a sound. When they really dig in and let out a big moo, you know it. You feel it.
How do you translate that?