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Choices in Song Translation
Johan Franzon
a
a
University of Helsinki, Finland
Published online: 21 Feb 2014.
To cite this article: Johan Franzon (2008) Choices in Song Translation, The Translator,
14:2, 373-399, DOI: 10.1080/13556509.2008.10799263
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13556509.2008.10799263
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ISSN 1355-6509 St Jerome Publishing, Manchester
The Translator. Volume 14, Number 2 (2008), 373-99 ISBN 978-1-905763-10-8
Choices in Song Translation
1
Singability in Print, Subtitles and Sung Performance
JOHAN FRANZON
University of Helsinki, Finland
Abstract. 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 fve options in theory: not translating the
lyrics, translating the lyrics without taking the music into considera-
tion, 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 defned as a musico-verbal
ft of a text to music, and that this musico-verbal unity may consist
of several layers prosodic, poetic and semantic-refexive. These
layers may sometimes be modifed, 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 fctitious
song and songs from musical plays (mostly in English, Swedish and
Finnish) translated for sung performance, for subtitles or to be
printed in books.
Keywords. Song translation, Singability, Functionalism, Performability,
Subtitles, Hymnals.
What can translators do when they are commissioned to translate a song?
Generally speaking, among all the other text types with which professional
translators engage, such a commission is rare. Song translation may be part
of an occasional project for the theatre, of a subtitling/surtitling assignment
for a flm, or of a special publication where there are lyrics cited. Instead
of professional translators, other professionals tackle song translation on a
1
I would like to thank Mark Smith, English teacher at the University of Oulu, Finland, for
proof-reading an earlier draft of this paper.
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Choices in Song Translation 374
more regular basis: songwriters, singers, opera specialists and playwrights.
One should also not forget the amateur fans: keen on grasping and sharing
the meaning of foreign popular song lyrics, they use the internet to display or
exchange their own translations.
Until quite recently, the translation of songs did not attract much attention
within translation studies; one reason might be lack of clarity as to the profes-
sional identity of the people who do translate songs. Nevertheless, the fact that
songs are translated in various ways, for various purposes, and by a variety
of mediators should warrant some focused investigation within the discipline.
This article is intended as a contribution to such an investigation.
What, then, are the options open to a translator who is commissioned to
translate a song? The answer to this may be a counter question: is the translation
going to be singable or not? If the purpose is simply to understand a foreign
songs lyrics, a semantically close, prose translation will do. But if a song is to
be performed in another language, the assignment calls for a singable target
text. This article aims to shed some light on this concept of singability, which
I see not as an absolute ideal but, from a functional point of view, as consisting
of various layers, which sometimes may be modifed, or optional.
Earlier research in translation and music focused on opera translation.
Discussion of opera tends to put emphasis on inviolable adherence to the
music, on the requirements of the singers, and on absolute respect for the
composers. However, song translation may have other and often conficting
priorities. The most concise discussion on song translation in English may
be found in the works by Apter (1985), Gorle (1997, 2002, 2005) and Low
(2003 and 2005). In particular, Low (2003) has addressed the fact that lyrics
may also be translated for non-singing purposes and that in cases where they
are going to be sung, ways of matching music and lyrics may be prioritized
differently from opera. In Lows pentathlon principle of song translation,
there are four aspects related to music and performance: singability, rhyme,
rhythm and naturalness, which must be balanced with a ffth aspect: fdelity
to the sense of the source text (Low 2005).
As a term, singability can be understood in a restricted way, as referring
mainly to phonetic suitability of the translated lyrics: to words being easy to
sing to particular note values (as in Low 2005:192-94). Yet the term can also
be used in a broader sense. It can be used to assess original lyrics as well as
translations. Broadway lyricist Alan Jay Lerner explains how he ftted a lyric
to the music of his collaborator Fritz Loewe (Lerner 1977):
Id given Fritz the title [I Talk to the Trees] and hed written a lovely
melody for it. But every lyric I wrote seemed unsingable. And so I
wrote it over and over again, until one day I realized what was wrong.
For some reason, it was a song that couldnt stand any rhymes. So I took
them out, and without them, the song seemed to sing quite well.
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Johan Franzon 375
For Lerner, unsingable meant unperformable just as categorically as theatre
practitioners may prefer a performable translation of a play to a literary one.
In Lerners case, the melody seemed to have called for an unrhymed poetic
form. Here singability means not just easy to sing but something akin to the
way skopos theory describes a good translation: suitable in every relevant way
for the particular purpose. Such a broader understanding of the concept, as well
as the more restricted approach, can be merged in a defnition of singability as
the attainment of musico-verbal unity between the text and the composition.
This is what makes the lyrics sing, so to speak, what makes them carry their
meaning across and deliver their message in cooperation with the music.
2
Another counter question to our initial query might be: is the translator
going to have to choose between being faithful to the lyricist or the composer?
A basic tenet of skopos theory (see Nord 1997 for an overview) is that fdel-
ity follows function: the factor that determines a translators decisions and
choices would (or should) be the intended purpose of the target text. This
tenet applies most evidently to song translation, where there is a clear need for
functionality, not only in relation to the music, but also to the situation of use:
a singing performance. Such an understanding of variable fdelity is refected,
most succinctly in my opinion, in the defnition by Hartmann (1980:56) of
translation as textual approximation, by which is meant that the translator
approximat[es] as much as possible or as little as necessary for the particular
situation the formal and stylistic conventions of the text in question. As for
explaining the demands of a singing performance (the particular situation),
one can refer to the concept of the audio-medial text in translation studies,
put forth but not pursued by Katerina Reiss (1971:49-52). In more recent
formulations, namely by Mary Snell-Hornby (1997, 2006:84-90), this con-
cept highlights the fact that some target texts, by nature of their genre or their
multimodal medium of communication, must function under certain visual,
acoustic, temporal or spatial constraints.
Coming back to our second counter question, there are translators who
work with great respect for both the original lyricist and the composer; there
are also translated versions of songs which take considerable liberty with the
original lyrics, or, conversely, do not take the original music into account.
In this article, my aim is to survey this broad spectrum of possibilities by
recognizing fve theoretically-distinct choices a translator faces when com-
missioned to translate song lyrics. For the purposes of this survey, I have
picked up a number of diverse examples popular song, songs from musicals,
a fctitious song, a hymn, songs in print, subtitled songs, and songs created
for performance in an attempt to cover the broad feld of song translation.
2
This musico-verbal unity is of course what has been explored in earlier research on opera
and art song translation, but, as I mentioned above, with a particular emphasis on adherence
to an unchangeable music.
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Choices in Song Translation 376
I have consciously avoided art song and opera, as these are genres that have
been widely discussed before. I have instead preferred cases where choices
can be observed, where the musical constraints are less absolute, and where a
degree of singability may nevertheless be part of a translators goal.
This overview of choices then leads to an analysis of the techniques involved
in writing singable lyrics, where three partly distinct functions of musico-verbal
unity will be discussed: prosodic, poetic, and semantic-refexive. These func-
tions may appear on their own under special circumstances, but in all likelihood,
they must come together if the translation is to be perceived as fully functional,
i.e. singable.
In relation to existing research on translation and music, my approach in
this article accounts for a greater diversity of musical genres. It also allows me
to provide a systematic overview of the ways in which songs can be translated
for particular purposes, as well as a functional account of how a lyric can be
made to match existing music. As a basis for this, I posit three properties of
song music, lyrics and performance and three properties of music melody,
harmony and perceived sense. I will come back to these musical properties
in section 2.

1. Five choices in song translation
A song can be defned as a piece of music and lyrics in which one has been
adapted to the other, or both to one another designed for a singing perform-
ance. This third requisite is important for a functional view of song translation.
A song in a printed score would still indicate a singing performance as its full
or fnal realization (cf. Gorle 2002, who offers a similar, triadic defnition).
Theoretically, this three-part defnition would mean that (optimal) song transla-
tion is a second version of a source song that allows the songs essential values
of music, lyrics and sung performance to be reproduced in a target language.
In practice, this is an impossible ideal. To avoid a categorical split between the
optimal and the imperfect (or approximate), a song might be recognized as a
translation if it is a second version of a source song that allows some essential
values of the sources music and/or its lyrics and/or its sung performance to
be reproduced in a target language.
This defnition leaves the translator with a number of choices, including
an even more basic and initial one:
1. Leaving the song untranslated;
2. Translating the lyrics but not taking the music into account;
3. Writing new lyrics to the original music with no overt relation to the ori-
ginal lyrics;
4. Translating the lyrics and adapting the music accordingly sometimes to
the extent that a brand new composition is deemed necessary;
5. Adapting the translation to the original music.
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Johan Franzon 377
The frst option
3
is still a translational action in Holz-Mnttris terms
(1984:17-29), as the translator can decide whether a translation is actually
needed or not. If the translator/rewriter decides to go ahead with the task,
he or she may choose to give priority to either the words (option two) or the
music (option three), or to show a compromised fdelity to both, for the sake
of a prospective performance (options four and fve). Needless to say, these
options are only distinct in theory. In actual cases, the translation brief may
make it evident that only one of these options is possible or that some of them
may be combined. Examples can nevertheless be found where mainly one of
these translational actions is the rational and functional solution.
Before I move on to discuss the examples, however, I would like to further
comment on the issue of fdelity in relation to song translation and how it
shapes translators attitude towards their own stance. Even the most respectful
song translators may prefer not to call their work translation, as evident in
the following quote (Reynolds 1964:6):
Who translates the foreign songs? I do. You dont really translate, of
course. You make a singing song of it, near as you can to the meaning
and feeling of the original. This is especially diffcult, because the
genius of the language determines the music line in the French, Rus-
sian or Greek song, and if you can move it into our language without
wrenching the music line or the English idiom, youve done something
valuable, I think.
I fnd no reason not to call this practice translation and place it under option
fve. Malvina Reynolds pays attention to the music (without wrenching the
music line), the lyrics (the meaning and feeling of the original) and the
performance (make a singing song of it). Of course, in some songs it may be
that the genius of the language is too deeply embedded in the composition,
for example in the use of euphony or onomatopoeia; here, the translated lyrics
can never be perceived as doing justice to the original ones. Even with this
reservation, I would still call this practice translation, since a singable song
translation is inevitably a compromise between fdelity to the music, lyrics
and performance. To my mind, songs are an especially strong challenge to the
tendency to equate translation with semantic closeness: a song translation that
strives to be semantically accurate can hardly be sung to the music written
for the original lyrics, and a song translation that follows the original music
must sacrifce optimal verbal fdelity. But there are also cases in between, and
beyond, this dichotomized opposition, as we shall see below.
3
Here I am only referring to instances where the songs are embedded in a larger work which
necessitates translation, such as a book, a flm or a musical. Of course, popular songs on
their own often travel around the globe without being translated, especially if they are sung
in English, but a discussion of this phenomenon is outside the scope of this article.
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Choices in Song Translation 378
1.1 Leaving the song untranslated
This is, to begin with, a question of whether to commission a translator at all
a choice between presenting the song in its original version or in transla-
tion. In some cases, the choice may also be up to the translators, after they are
commissioned. It happens that subtitlers e.g. for theatre, television, DVD,
feature flms containing songs choose to subtitle the spoken dialogue, but
not the musical numbers. This can be a result of lack of time or commission,
or an agreed policy with the broadcasting companies. In other cases, however,
leaving a song untranslated can be a viable, even the preferable, option.
For instance, part of the song As Time Goes By was quoted in a discus-
sion of the flm Casablanca (1942) in a biography of Ingrid Bergman (Leamer
1986:121); in the Swedish and Finnish translations of the book the lyrics
of this well-known song were left in English (Larsson 1986:101, Pakkanen
1987:121). Similarly, in productions or reproductions of stage musicals or
musical flms portraying famous singers (such as Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich,
Marilyn Monroe), translators may choose to retain the songs in their original
languages.
When the English-language musical Mamma Mia! (1999), based on songs
by Swedish songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjrn Ulvaeus, was to be pro-
duced in Sweden in 2005, the initial plan was, once again, to leave the songs
in English; after all, most of them were originally written in that language and
were known worldwide in their original versions. Then the producers decided
that the integrity of the story demanded that the lyrics be in the same language
as the dialogue. Thus several famous ABBA songs were given their very frst
Swedish lyrics after more than twenty years.
4
Reasons for the non-translation in these cases may have to do with the
assumption that the lyrics are not that relevant to the rest of the narrative (for
example, songs sung on the soundtrack as part of the background music in
flms are regularly not subtitled), or that retaining the original lyrics enhances
authenticity. In both cases, a switch from the target reader/listeners language
to the original language should not result in dysfunctional disruption, as would
have been the case with Mamma Mia!, but not with As Time Goes By.
1.2 Translating the lyrics but not taking the music into account
A translator may translate the lyrics as if they were just another (piece of the)
source text, especially when the readers/listeners are assumed to be aware of
the original song and its musical form. Typical examples include the work
of enthusiasts translating lyrics for fun and information, as well as the cases
examined by Low (2003): semantically close prose renderings in concert pro-
grammes or album inserts in short, translations as a supplement to the original
4
See Vi verstter Mamma Mia! till svenska, http://www.mammamiathemusical.se/start.
aspx?pageID=356 (last accessed on 9 June 2008).
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Johan Franzon 379
lyrics or performance. This choice is also often adopted in subtitling; in this
case for a television broadcast of the flm musical The Sound of Music.
5
Example 1
English source text Swedish subtitles
High on a hill was a lonely goatherd Uppe p berget gick getaherden
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely
goatherd
Han joddlade hgt vr getaherde
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo
Folks in a town that was quite remote
heard
Folket i staden som lg lngt bort
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Lusty and clear from the goatherds
throat heard
Hrde tydligt hur herden joddla
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo
...
Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar
Hammerstein II (The Sound of Music 1959)
Williamson Music
Subtitles by Agneta Malmborg
(TV4)
The focus here is on the sense of the lyrics. The musico-poetic qualities the
repetition and onomatopoeia (yodelling) in this example are not and need
not be transferred, as they are readily available for the enjoyment of the audi-
ence in their original form.
The same strategy can apply to a song in print, even to lyrics written only
to suggest an existing song. The eponymous song in Song of Solomon, a novel
by Toni Morrison (1980:303), is a good example. In the Swedish translation
of the book, the lyrics beginning Jake the only son of Solomon / Come
booba yalle, come booba tambee / Whirled about and touched the sun are
printed in English, verbatim from the source text, and a close prose translation
is given in parentheses immediately below Jake var ende son till Solomon
. . . han snurrade runt och snuddade vid solen (Edlund 1978:314-15). The
translators strategy here is a combination of both options discussed so far (one
and two) once again with the deletion of vocal effects. In Morrisons novel,
the verbal content of the song is important, and so is its (fctitious) function as
a song living on in the oral tradition. In the Swedish version, the translation
5
All transcripts of material provided in examples are my own, based on television
broadcasts.
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Choices in Song Translation 380
provides the content, while the original lyrics are there to indicate both the
songness and the singing within the narrative, just like the sung performance
in the television broadcast. Like option one, option two may also need to rely
on the reader/listener being aware of the existence of the original song, since
the target text does little or nothing to refect its musical form.
1.3 Writing new lyrics to the original music
Conversely, a rewriter in a target language could also take the music into ac-
count much more than the lyrics. This would be the case when the music is
the most important part of the package. Not translation proper in the linguistic
sense, this is nevertheless a translational action: a result of importation and
marketing of musico-verbal material between languages and cultures. This
option is probably most widespread in certain genres within popular music,
where songs have been bought and sold like commodities to be ftted to and
marketed by domestic artists, a practice explored in more detail by Klaus
Kaindl (2005). This may be the freest kind of translation imaginable, as can
be seen below in Sadie, the Cleaning Lady and its Swedish version Mamma
r lik sin mamma.
The original version of this song was an international hit. This motivated
the importation and re-recording of a Swedish version, which also became a
hit in Sweden. Not a single word has been directly translated, but the source
lyrics still seem to have served as a model. They provided the overall rhyme
scheme and the idea to have a frst line with internal rhyme (with repeated
words in the Swedish case). Also, some of the notions and images in the origin-
al lyrics have evidently inspired Anderson. The lightly handled social realism
in the story of a cleaning lady is turned into a similarly jocular protest song,
put in the mouth of a housewife. The link between Sadie and her daughter is
turned into the connection between generations of women; the endless chore
of cleaning is signalled in the dusting. The Swedish singer used to perform
the song comically dressed as a cleaning lady, with a scrubbing brush in hand.
The lyrics thus allowed some of the source songs performance potential to
be carried over into Swedish.
A totally rewritten set of lyrics in a target language may contain only a
single word, phrase, image or dramatic element taken from the source lyrics.
Also, the original lyrics (and singing performance) may infuence the trans-
lators impression of the melody, and thus the production of the new lyrics.
If the new lyrics allow the song, as a cultural artefact, to cross linguistic
borders, the practice can be seen as translational action. For example, Rod
McKuens versions of Jacques Brels songs Seasons in the Sun (1963) and
If You Go Away (1966) preserved merely a few phrases from the original
French lyrics, but they still carved a place for Brel in the international music
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Johan Franzon 381
industry, familiarized audiences with his music, and paved the way for closer
renderings some years later.
6
English source text Swedish target text Back-translation
7
Sadie, the cleaning
lady
Mamma r lik sin
mamma
Mother is like her
mother
With trusty scrubbing
brush and pail of
water
Ja kvinnans lott i livet
r densamma
Yes the womans lot in
life is the same
Worked her fngers to
the bone
Det sa farmor mormors
mor
So said grandmas
grandmas mother
For the life she had at
home
Till sin farmors
morbrors bror
To her grandmas uncles
brother
Providing at the same
time for her daughter
Att livet r ett enda
damma-damma
That life is nothing but
dusting and dusting
... ... ...
Music & lyrics by
Raymond Gilmore,
John Madara, and David
White. Recorded by John
Farnham 1967
Champion Music
Corp./Double Diamond
Music. Lyrics reprinted
by permission of Univer-
sal Music Publishing AB
Lyrics by Stikkan
Anderson. Recorded by Siw
Malmkvist, 1968
Example 2
6
For research on Brel translations, see Low (1994) and Tinker (2005).
7
All back-translations into English are mine, with occasional help from my polyglot
colleagues.
1.4 Translating the lyrics and adapting the music accordingly
If, on the other hand, the lyrics are deemed to be more important than the
music, and the song is still to be sung, the music may be changed. In general,
a line-by-line translation of lyrics rarely resembles a song, but sometimes a
fairly close, if partial, approximation may be achieved by slightly modifying
the melody.
Relevant examples include canonical texts set to music, such as Biblical
texts or poems by respected authors. Below are four versions of Matthew 21:9,
frst in the Bible translations, then in the corresponding hymnals:
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Choices in Song Translation 382
Example 3
Swedish Bible
(1847)
Finnish Bible
(1885)
Norwegian Bible
(1930)
Sami Bible
(1998)
Hosianna,
Davids son,
wlsignad ware
han,
som kommer i
Herrans namn:
Hosianna i
hgdene!
Hosianna
Dawidin pojalle!
Kiitetty olkoon
se,
joka tulee Herran
nimeen!
Hosianna
korkeudesta!
Hosianna
Davids snn!
Velsignet vre
han
som kommer i
Herrens navn!
Hosianna i det
hieste!
Hosianna, Dvveda
Brdni!
Buressivdniduvvon
lehkos son
guhte boaht
Hearr nammii!
Hosianna allagasas!
Swedish lyrics Finnish lyrics Norwegian lyrics Sami lyrics
Hosianna,
Davids son,
vlsignad vare
han,
vlsignad Davids
son,
som kommer i
Herrens namn.
Hosianna i
hjden,
hosianna,
hosianna.
Vlsignad
Davids son,
som kommer i
Herrens namn.
Hoosianna,
Daavidin Poika,
kiitetty olkoon
hn!
Kiitetty Daavidin
Poika,
joka tulee Herran
nimeen.
Hoosianna,
hoosianna,
hoosianna,
hoosianna!
Kiitetty Daavidin
Poika,
joka tulee Herran
nimeen.
Hosianna,
Davids snn!
Velsignet vre
han,
velsignet Davids
snn
som kommer, i
Herrens navn!
Hosianna i det
hyeste,
hosianna,
hosianna!
Velsignet Davids
snn
som kommer, i
Herrens navn!
Hosianna, Dvveda
Brdni,
giitojun lehkos son!
Giitojun Dvveda
Brdni,
guhte boaht
Hearr nammii.
Hosianna,
hosianna,
hosianna,
hosianna!
Giitojun Dvveda
Brdni,
guhte boaht
Hearr nammii!
The words are Jerusalems greeting to Jesus: Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
(English Standard Version, Matthew 21:9). In the 18
th
century, the Swedish
text was adapted and set to music. It eventually became a hymn in the three
other languages one closely related (Norwegian) and two quite dissimilar
(Finnish and Sami). These versions took the musical format from the Swedish
source, but they also modifed it, as can be seen in a comparison between the
music in the Swedish and Finnish hymnals (Example 4, Figure 1):
8
8
Reprinted from Den svenska psalmboken (1986:131) and Virsikirja (1987:13), by permis-
sion of Verbum frlag, Stockholm, and Kirkon keskusrahasto, Helsinki.
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Example 4
Figure 1. Music to the Hosanna Hymn: the Swedish and Finnish Hymnal
Compared
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Choices in Song Translation 384
Hosianna in Swedish is Hoosianna in Finnish, but the Swedish son (son) and
namn (name) are the bisyllabic poika and nimeen in Finnish, respectively.
Fortunately, in this case, the composer Vogler put both these words on two-
note melismas;
9
therefore, all that needed to be done was to remove the slurs
that mark the melismas (third and last staffs in the music above). The same
solution applied to the pronoun som (who), which is joka in Finnish. In ad-
dition to this, a quarter note was split into two eighth notes to make room for
Daavidin, instead of Davids (both in the possessive case).
Splitting, merging or adding notes and splitting or creating melismas are
minimal ways in which music can be adjusted to ft the lyrics wrenched in
Reynolds words (1964:6). If such changes do not affect the rhythm or disturb
any parallel arrangement of musical phrases, they may hardly be noticed.
This strategy may work well between closely related languages. In the above
example, the exact same notation was used for the Norwegian version of the
hymn. Yet even small disparities will leave their mark: since the Norwegian
i det hyeste is longer than the Swedish i hjden (in the highest), the Nor-
wegian version makes a minimally different use of the forid melismas in the
refrain, following Hosiaaaanna.
10
In Finnish, the corresponding phrase
from the Bible verse, Hoosianna korkeudesta, would have ftted as well, but
the hymn inserts an extra hoosianna instead. One might surmise that the short
vowels and unvoiced, hard consonants of korkeudesta made the word seem
unsingable in the restricted sense of phonetic suitability.
But even this remarkable felicity of word-for-word correspondence may
necessitate some deviation from verbal fdelity. An example of this can be
found in the Sami hymn, which uses the same musical notation as the Finnish.
The words Dvveda, brdni and nammii ft perfectly where the correspond-
ing Finnish Daavidin, poika and nimeen appear, but where the Biblical word
buressivdniduvvon (blessed) proves to be too long, the word giitojun, like the
Finnish kiitetty (thanked), is used instead.
A prerequisite for the feasibility of this option seems to be that the agents
commissioning and using the translation have the power and will to change
the music. In the case of these hymns, such authority lies with an editorial
board, which has its own music printing facilities and can initiate, prepare and
complete the publication of a hymnal on its own. In other cases, when there
are more agents involved for example, conductors, musicians, singers the
translator may spare them some trouble by leaving the music untouched.
Yet these very agents may be more willing and able to adapt music to lyr-
ics, if need be. When singers/songwriters translate for their own repertoire,
even more signifcant changes can occur in the melody, rhythm or musical
9
Melisma refers to a single syllable of text sung on two or more notes of music. Melismatic
song is opposed to syllabic, where each syllable of text is matched to a single note.
10
In Swedish, the original setting no doubt had the similar Hosiaaaanna ii h
gdene, a now-antiquated dative form creating a half-rhyme.
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Johan Franzon 385
structure. It may then be a challenge for the musicologists and copyright hold-
ers to decide where the limits lie between such changes and the more radical
variant: composing completely new music for a lyric translation.
11
This strategy
also shows particular respect for the original lyricist. Malvina Reynolds, for
instance, deserved such a treatment for her famous Little Boxes:
Example 5
Source text Target lyrics to new
music
Target lyrics to the
original music
Little boxes on the
hillside
Sm ldor i rader I en frort str sm ldor
Little boxes made of
ticky-tacky
Sm ldor av
tingeltangel
som alla ser likadana ut
Little boxes, little boxes, Sm ldor sm ldor Just sm ldor i en frort
Little boxes all the same Likadana allihop alla liknande varann
Theres a green one and
a pink one
En grn och en rosa En r gul, en annan grn
och
And a blue one and a
yellow one
En bl och en som
r gul
en tredje den lyser rd
och glad
And theyre all made out
of ticky-tacky
Dom r alla
tingeltangel
Men dom r nd samma
ldor
And they all look just the
same
och ser likadana ut dr dom ligger i lngan
rad

Music & lyrics by Malvina
Reynolds.
Schroder Music Co.
(ASCAP) 1962, renewed
1990, used by permission,
all rights reserved.
Music by Kaj Chyden-
ius, lyrics by Lars
Lfgren. Recorded by
Kaisa Korhonen 1970
Lyrics by John Ulf
Anderson & Hkan Norln.
Recorded by Anderson
1976
As is often the case for such a widely known and performed song, the two
translators might or might not have been aware of each versions existence and
seem to have produced the versions independently of each other. In the frst
set of lyrics in Swedish (1970), even the colours of the boxes green, pink,
blue and yellow are in the same order as in the English version. The second
11
This is actually what happened to the Hosanna hymn in Norway. In 1977, Egil Hovland
set the words of Matthew 21:9 to a new tune (867 in the hymnal Norsk Salmebok). The
advantage of this version is that it can be sung in both variants of the Norwegian language,
simply by confating two eighth notes when singing som kjem i Herrens namn (nynorsk,
New Norse) instead of som kommer i Herrens navn (Bokml, Book language).
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Choices in Song Translation 386
lyrics in Swedish (1976) paraphrases freely: one box is yellow, another green,
and a third one shines red and happy. The 1970 version respects the poetry of
repetition: sm ldor (little boxes), tingeltangel (ticky-tacky) and likadana
(the same) are all repeated. The 1976 version again opts for paraphrasing: in
a suburb stand small boxes / which all look just the same but theyre still
the same boxes / where they lie in a long row. Yet the 1970 version could
not have been translated so closely if it were not going to be set to a new and
slightly jazzier music by the composer Chydenius, for his wife, singer Ko-
rhonen. The 1976 version sang by Anderson himself, who also played the
guitar sacrifces some of the poetic effect, but allows the box-like quality of
the music to interact with the lyrics.
1.5 Adapting the translation to the original music
In fact Andersons lyrics above (Example 5) fall under this ffth option, which
may be seen as a more common case of singable song translation. Here, as is
often the case with professional assignments, the music may not be changed,
i.e. either it is diffcult to change or the contract does not allow the translator
to do so. Nevertheless, the contract asks for a translation and sometimes even
a functionally equivalent one. If the music must be performed as originally
scored, as in stage musicals or operas, it must be the translator who modifes
the verbal rendering, by approximating more loosely, by paraphrasing or by
deleting from and adding to the content of the source lyrics.
One illustrative example is the song Show Me, from the musical My Fair
Lady, which has been translated, for similar purposes, into several European
languages:
Example 6
English source text
...
Dont talk of stars
Burning above
If youre in love
Show me
Tell me no dreams
Filled with desire
If youre on fre
Show me ...
Music by Frederick Loewe, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
(My Fair Lady 1956)
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe 1956, renewed 1984, all rights reserved.
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Johan Franzon 387
Swedish target text Norwegian target text Dutch target text
... ... ...
Du lovar att Ikke forklar Altijd maar weer
mnen ta ner stjernenes brann. bloemen in knop
sj inte mer Er du en mann? Ach hou toch op
gr det Fang meg! Doe iets
Stjrndiadem Ikke beskriv Altijd opnieuw
vill du mig ge drmmenes bro. n merel die fuit
Det vill jag se Brenner ditt blod? Ach schei toch uit
Gr det ... Fang meg ... Doe iets ...
Lyrics by Gsta Rybrant
1959
Lyrics by Andr Bjerke 1959 Lyrics by Seth Gaaikema
1960
German target text Finnish target text
... ...
Sprich nicht vom
Mond,
Kai thtiin tien
den du mir schenkst. nyt kaavailet,
Wenn du dran denkst, mut miksi et
Tus doch! tee niin!
Red nicht von Glck, Sun huulillas
das du mir gibst. vain haaveillaan,
Wenn du mich liebst, et kuitenkaan
Tus doch! ... tee niin! ...
Lyrics by Robert Gilbert
1961
Lyrics by Reino Helismaa
1962
This song consists of very short musical lines, which is a problem for the
translator. In general, the longer the musical lines, the easier it may be for
translators to accommodate the syntax of their particular language, perhaps
allowing a fairly close translation by moving a few words around. In this case,
a key phrase of the song show me is so prominently and repeatedly dis-
played that it can hardly be moved. As seen above, this title phrase emerges as
a rhetorical fnish after three short lines each four syllable phrase forming a
trochaic and an iambic foot (Dont talk of stars). There are two strophes built
on negative imperative phrases (Dont/ Tell me no), followed by participles
(burning/ flled) and conditional clauses, leading to the same request (show
me). The repeated syntax mirrors the repeated melodic strain and thus makes
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Choices in Song Translation 388
the musical structure tangible. All target texts above preserve the prosody,
created by the metric structure, and the rhyme scheme. Furthermore, all the
translators keep the position and repetition of a key phrase, although this
phrase may not always mean show me, as can be observed in the following
back-translations. I have also highlighted in bold here the very few instances
where there is a one-to-one correspondence between ST and TT imagery:
Swedish target text Norwegian target text Dutch target text
You promise to Dont explain Always again
take down the moon the fre of the stars. fowers in bud
Dont say anything
more
Are you a man? Oh stop it please
Do it! Capture me! Do something!
Tiaras of stars Dont describe Always anew
you want to give me the bridge of the
dreams.
a blackbird that warbles
That I want to see Is your blood burning? Oh quit it please
Do it! Capture me! Do something!
German target text Finnish target text
Dont talk of the moon So the road to the stars
that you will give me. you now chart
If you think of it, But why dont you
Just do it! do so!
Dont speak of the
happiness,
With your lips
that you will give me. You only fantasize
If you love me, Yet you dont
Just do it! do so!
The Dutch translation appears to be the freest of the fve, in the linguistic sense.
However, it does reproduce the syntactic parallelism described above (Altijd
maar weer parallel to Altijd opnieuw, and so on), as does the Norwegian and
the German target texts. The Swedish translation does not. It even overrides
the musical phrasing with a run-on sentence: You promise to / take down the
moon, placing somewhat unnatural stress on the verbal particle att (to).
It is clear that an assessment of the fdelity of a singable translation should
be based not so much on word-by-word comparison, but on contextual ap-
propriateness. A singable translation must ft the music and the situation in
which it will be performed, even while trying to approximate the source text as
much as necessary or possible. Contextual matters such as dramatic intention,
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Johan Franzon 389
suitable register or style of language, even potential staging, will be relevant in
these cases. In the target lyrics above, the me speaking to a you can easily
be perceived as Eliza Doolittle talking to her suitor Freddy Eynsford-Hill. The
gist of her song is caught by other poetic clichs: the moon, fowers in bud, a
blackbird, as well as by stars burning above. Some translators seem to have
given some thought to the staging instructions: for instance, the Norwegian
translator could have written vis det (show it), but instead suggests some
physical action with the new phrase fang meg (capture me). Still, there are
cases where the translated lyrics do not match the general characterization
in the story. The phrase thtiin tien in Finnish (the road to the stars) does
preserve Lerners stars, but its meaning (the road to success/ you now chart)
has nothing to do with Freddy the idler in the play.
The option of adapting a translation to music, while allowing for some
deviation in sense, may apply to many cases of song translation. When songs
appear in a flm that is to be dubbed, neither the music nor the (visual) per-
formance can possibly be changed; contextual appropriateness would also
include the lip movement with which the target text must be synchronized.
In less constrained circumstances, however, one might have freer reign. In a
well-known nursery rhyme, the Itsy Bitsy Spider climbs up the water spout
in English. In Swedish and Finnish, it climbs up a thread; in Danish, a wall; in
Norwegian, my hat; and in Icelandic, a tree. All that is required of the trans-
lation here is that the words rhyme, they ft the same or similar melody, and
can be accompanied by movements of the hand imitating a climbing spider.
The conclusion, once again, is that function and performance are of primary
importance for singable song translation and that respect for the original lyr-
ics must be shown, or assessed, contextually: in relation to both music and
intended function. Nevertheless, the examples demonstrate how translations
that are accepted as functional can go to different lengths in observing the
musico-verbal unity of the song.
2. Three layers of singability
The last three options discussed above i.e. writing new lyrics, adapting the
music to the translation of lyrics, and adapting the translation to ft the music
would thus produce singable target lyrics. The preceding discussion allowed
me to touch briefy upon songs translated for different kinds of media and
performances. Some further exploration of such examples will now allow me
to take the discussion a step further, towards a closer analysis of the concept,
and technique, of singability.
When the main purpose of the translational action is to deliver a singable
translation, there are certain aspects of the musico-textual ft which seem to
require particular attention and which lead to further choices. Here I take as my
point of departure the assumption that music, from the lyricists point of view,
has three main properties: a melody, a harmonic structure, and an impression
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Choices in Song Translation 390
of meaning, mood or action. The way the lyrics function for an audience will
inevitably be infuenced, if not decided, by the way the music functions simul-
taneously. Although not a universal norm, the European melopoetic norm has
long required that a song lyric displays a prosodic, poetic, and perhaps even
a semantic-refexive match to the music. The functional consequences of this
match are shown in Table 1.
A singable lyric
achieves
by observing the musics which may appear in the
text as
1. a prosodic match melody: music as notated,
producing lyrics that are
comprehensible and sound
natural when sung
syllable count; rhythm;
intonation, stress;
sounds for easy singing
2. a poetic match structure: music as
performed, producing
lyrics that attract the
audience attention and
achieve poetic effect
rhyme; segmentation of
phrases/lines/stanzas;
parallelism and contrast;
location of key words
3. a semantic-
refexive match
expression: music
perceived as meaningful,
producing lyrics that
refect or explain what the
music says
the story told, mood
conveyed, character(s)
expressed; description
(word-painting); metaphor
Table 1. Functional Consequences of Match between Lyrics and Music
Firstly, the prosodic match to the melody makes use of elements of prosody:
rhythm, stress, and intonation universal speech phenomena that appear in
singing in a stylized and controlled form. Phonetic suitability, which is a
problem especially relevant to opera translation, involves ensuring that both
vowels and consonants are easy enough to vocalize. Apter (1985) describes
this as placing not too heavy a burden on the notes. In more speech-like
musical genres, this concern can be understood as part of the prosodic ft, as
striving for likeness in articulation between text and melody.
Secondly, the poetic match seems to be most closely interwoven with the
harmonic structure of a piece of music. It is through the harmonic structure of
matched and juxtaposed melodic strains and intensifying or reassuring chord
progressions that the audiences attention is commanded and retained. Lyrics
can mirror such structures and properties by verbal means, such as stylistic
fgures, climax and contrast, euphonious or repeated sounds (e.g. rhyme).
12
12
For a discussion of structural correspondences between text and music and of poetry
being much more than rhymes I fnd the classic essay of Jakobson (1981) on the poetic
function in language most instructive.
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Johan Franzon 391
Thirdly, a semantic-refexive match is easy to pinpoint in its most obvious
appearance, in word-painting; as Warren puts it, [t]he musical depiction in
a vocal work of the meaning of a word or of an idea associated with a word,
for instance an ascending passage for exalted, or a dissonance on pain
(1980:528). The principle may equally apply to a general likeness, such as
the notion that happy lyrics should be accompanied by joyful music, or to
instances where words refect or feed on a musical movement and what it
appears to express.
13
Kaindl (1995) offers a similar discussion of the subject, but is not so much
interested in the technique of translating. Gorle (1997, 2005), too, suggests
a four-part categorization between phonetic, prosodic, poetic and semiotic
concerns, and Low (2005) fnds a comparable balance in his more hands-on
approach to naturalness, rhythm, rhyme and fdelity. Nevertheless, to my mind,
Table 1 offers a clearer functional categorization than the preceding works in
the feld. It illustrates the premise that music sets the prosody, infuences sty-
listic choices and adds (semantic) value to the content of the lyrics. Observed
by the original lyricist, the same criteria are also relevant for the translator.
Similar to Lows penathlon principle, I would like to present these aspects
as layers, relevant up to a different degree in each case. A prosodic match
would be the most basic requirement, since in its absence it may technically
be impossible to sing the lyrics. The need for a poetic or semantic-refexive
match would vary with the particular character of the song. Moreover, the
translator may pursue individual features within this categorization for ex-
ample perfect rhymes to differing lengths, and of course with varied success.
In some cases, a song translator may choose to pursue only one of the three
layers, most likely the frst two, since the semantic-refexive match seems
to presuppose their presence. Such a modifcation of full singability can be
found, for example, in subtitled songs, songs printed as poetry or quoted in
novels, as we shall see below.
2.1 Prosodic match with source music
As we have seen in example 1 above, most subtitlers may not feel obliged to
deliver more than a prose rendering of source lyrics; yet there are exceptions.
For the musical flm The King and I, broadcast on Swedish television on 24
13
My use of the concept refexive is mostly indebted to Banfeld (1993), who bases his
analysis of songs on the observation that well-wrought lyrics often seem to refect, or de-
scribe, the movement or structure of the music. He describes this melopoetic structural
reinforcement (1993:108) as a mutual function, similar whether the words have been
written to music, or the other way around, but claims it may be more easily observed in
the former case. For an overview of differing musicological and intersemiotic perspectives
on this subject in relation to vocal translation, see Gorle (1997). For other viewpoints on
the topic, see the collected volume edited by Gorle (2005).
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Choices in Song Translation 392
December 1996, the subtitler took pains to conform to certain prosodic features
of the lyrics of the song A Puzzlement.
Example 7
English source text Swedish subtitles
1 When I was a boy Nr jag var ett barn
2 World was better spot. Allting var s bra
3 What was so was so, Somligt var som s
4 What was not was not. Annat var det ej
5 Now I am a man Nu nr jag r man
6 World have changed a lot; Allt har ndrat sig
7 Some things nearly so, Somligt blivit bra
8 Others nearly not. Annat har det ej
9 There are times I almost think Det fnns dagar d jag inte riktigt
10 I am not sure of what I absolutely
know.
vet vad jag egentligen har lrt mig
11 Very often fnd confusion Jag blir ofta rtt frbryllad ver
12 In conclusion I concluded long ago. slutsatser jag drog fr lnge sedan
13 In my head are many facts Det fnns fakta som jag vet att jag
14 That, as a student, I have studied to
procure.
en gng var s mn om att studera
15 In my head are many facts Det fnns fakta som jag vet
16 Of which I wish I was more certain att jag nog nskar att jag visste
17 I was sure! mer bestmt
Is a puzzlement! S besynnerligt!
... ...
Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar
Hammerstein II (The King and I 1951)
Williamson Music
Subtitles by Ordkedjan (TV4)
Example 7 illustrates the minimum requirement of singability: the words ft
the notes syllabically. A Swedish speaker hearing the music would see that
the subtitles follow the music in terms of rhythm and stress When I was
a boy / World was better spot corresponds to Nr jag var ett barn / Allting
var s bra (When I was a child / Everything was so well). A prosodic match
is achieved and there is correspondence in syllable count very interestingly
except for the words at the end of lines 10, 12 and 14 above. In the music,
those words are set with two-note melismas, but the translation makes them
bisyllabic: knoow lrt mig, long agoo lnge sedan. Nevertheless, the
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Johan Franzon 393
effect is pleasing: while hearing the song, viewers can easily read and enjoy
the translated lyrics simultaneously with the original melody as sung.
2.2 Poetic match with (non-present) music
Retaining a poetic match without a prosodic ft to the music basically amounts
to a verse translation. It can also be a song translation, though, as when a poem
happens to be set to music, as in this translation from Swedish:
Example 8
Swedish source text Finnish target text English target lyrics
... ... ...
Strkta veck verallt. Trkit jykkin hohtaa. Stiffy starched is each
fold;
Allting skiner s kallt. Katse kylmyyden
kohtaa.
All is shining and cold;
Kandelabern, den
hyrda, br
Vuokrakynttelikss
et voi
And the hired candelabras
bear
sina ljus utan glans, Nhd lmmint tulta, Their pale cargo of wax,
och den svartaste frans, Mutta mustat kuin multa And the blackest of blacks
som fanns kpa, den
fnnes hr.
Sururimpsut he
kaupasta toi.
To be had in the shops, is
the wear.
... ... ...
Bleka ddens minut,
Music and lyrics by Birger
Sjberg 1923
Valju Kuoleman hetki,
Trans. Leena Krohn 1989
Deaths Hour, Lyrics by
Michael Roberts, recorded by
Martin Best 1980
The Finnish target text has poetic qualities, and the end-focus created by rhyme
is retained. The rhyme scheme is the same, the rhythm is even, but there are
additional syllables: kallt kohtaa, fnnes hr kaupasta toi. Therefore, it
cannot be sung to unchanged music, but given that it is printed in a collection
of poetry, it is not intended to be sung anyway. The English lyrics to the right
are translated to be singable, though, and therefore observe both the prosodic
and the poetic match the latter slightly more than the former, in fact, as a tiny
note has to be added to accommodate one the in the last-quoted line.
A poetic form would seem to be the only way to indicate singability (or
songness) in print, since the prosody of the melody and effects of musical
word-painting cannot be communicated visually. When the music is not present
in the presentation, as in Morrisons Song of Solomon, one might speak of a
poetic match with (fctitious) music without the need for a prosodic match.
In this case, the Finnish translator chose a more song-like solution than his
Swedish colleague (see section 1.2 above):
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Choices in Song Translation 394
Example 9
English source text Finnish target text Back-translation
Jake the only son of
Solomon
Solomonin ainoa poika
Jake
Solomons only son Jake
Come booba yalle, come
booba tambee
tule booba yalle, tule
booba tambee
Whirled about and
touched the sun
kieppui ja kosketti
aurinkoa hei
whirled and touched the
sun hey
Come konka yalle, come
konka tambee
tule konka yalle, tule
konka tambee
... ... ...
Solomon done fy,
Solomon done gone
Solomon lent
liihotti,
Solomon poies katosi
Solomon few
futteringly
Solomon far away
disappeared
Solomon cut across the
sky,
Solomon gone home.
Solomon taivaalle
viipotti,
Solomon kotiin palasi.
Solomon to the sky
swung
Solomon to home
returned
Morrison (1980:303)
Toni Morrison 1977,
Alfred A. Knopf, a division
of Random House, Inc.,
New York.
Morrison (1996:323-24)
As can be seen in my very close back translation, verbs are placed in fnal
position in some lines, creating syntactic parallelism (poies katosi kotiin
palasi). There is also one half-rhyme (Jake hei), but the main poetic effect
comes from added alliteration, kieppui ja kosketti, lent liihotti, reminis-
cent of Finnish folk poetry. Elements of onomatopoeia are partly translated
Come booba yalle as tule booba yalle. The example demonstrates how
rhyme is not the sole carrier of a poetic function. Syntactic parallelism is but
one expression of the poetry of grammar, described by Jakobson (1981:47).
These target lyrics do not quite copy the form and sense of the source text, but
they recreate the markings of oral poetry in this example (and written poetry
in example 8), making them at least pleasing and song-like to read.
2.3. Semantic refexivity
The fnal example belong to the last, and perhaps most subtle, aspect of
musico-verbal matching. In discussing example 7, I claimed that the subtitles
to the song A Puzzlement were singable to a minimal degree; nevertheless,
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Johan Franzon 395
they would probably not function in a sung performance of the musical play,
because they lack a semantic-refexive match. For illustration, compare the-
atrical translations of the same song in example 10.
Example 10
Swedish target text 1 Swedish target text 2
1 Nr jag vxte upp Frr var livet ltt,
2 lrde jag mig att bilden ren och hel.
3 det och det r vitt Somligt bara sant
4 det och det r svart. annat bara fel.
5 Nu r jag en man Jag r vuxen nu.
6 och jag har frsttt: Livet r ett spel.
7 Vitt r stundom svart. Somligt nstan sant,
8 Svart r stundom grtt. annat nstan fel.
9 Det fnns stunder d jag frgar mig Det fnns stunder d det knns
10 med tvivel: r det riktigt vad jag
lrt?
Som om jag inte visste vad jag
skert vet.
11 Det jag frr satt vrde p r det s Stor frvirring trots beslut
12 sjlvklart att det faktiskt r nt
vrt?
Som fordom fattades med
auktoritet.
13 Alltfr ofta tvivlar jag numer p
saker
Tankar trngs och tvivlet gror
14 som jag trodde mig frst. Och trasar ofta snder kunskapens
kokong.
15 Det fnns nstan ingenting tyvrr Tankar trngs och tvivlet gror
vad r
16 som jag numer r riktigt sker p. det vrt allt det jag lrde mig en
gng?
17 Det r ett bryderi.
...
S frbryllande!
...
Lyrics by Gsta Rybrant 1958 Lyrics by Gertrud Hemmel 1982
These two translators not only observed the prosodic and poetic match, but they
also made the sung performance expressive and persuasive by paying attention
to the musical movement and focus. This can be most clearly demonstrated
in lines 7-8. In the frst lines of the song, the King of Siam is characterized
by a series of quick, repeated notes, with every verse line a tone-step higher
a Broadway imitation of an Asian pentatonic scale. By lines 7-8 the music
becomes more varied, and two adverbial modifers are emphasized through
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Choices in Song Translation 396
music and orchestration: Some things nearly so, / Others nearly not. The King
voices his doubts, and the music and words dramatize them. The subtitlers
solution Some things become good / Others have not (example 7 above)
renders this musical emphasis meaningless. The theatrical translations, on the
other hand, recreate the emphasis. Hemmel is rather faithful: Some things
almost true / Others almost wrong. Rybrant paraphrases creatively: White is
at times black / Black is at times grey. Naturally, too, the expressive melismas
are kept (line 10): vad jag lrt (what I leaearned).
Rybrant also picks up a semantic-refexive trick: on lines 15-16, the com-
position features a small harmonic hesitation, repeating a two-note melodic
fgure on In my head are many facts / Of which, pausing for a moment be-
fore going for a harmonic closure on the following words I wish I was more
certain I was sure. In Swedish, the two-note fgure is used to put focus on
an interjection: There is hardly anything / alas / that I nowadays am really
sure of (lines 15-16) thereby adding an extra keyword to the musico-verbal
dramatization of the Kings ambivalence.
Hemmel does not make anything signifcant out of this particular musical
fgure: Thoughts crowd and doubt grows what is it worth, that which I
learned once? (lines 15-16). This seems to imply that this third layer, the mutu-
ally reinforced semantic-refexive match, may also be sacrifced occasionally.
For a semantic refexivity between music and lyrics to register at all, it would
need the prosodic and poetic match to communicate the words, and the latter
two might be enough to make the target lyrics appear singable.
3. Conclusion
The fve options outlined above summarize the choices that are theoretically
available to song translators. In real terms, however, different strategies may
be combined and individual translators may pursue a particular goal prosody,
poetry and musical sense, or naturalness, phonetic suitability, rhyme or verbal
fdelity more or less vigorously.
In terms of choosing among the various options available for translat-
ing a song as (part of) a source text, the main factor seems to be the mode
of presentation. Will the target performers and audience be interested in the
music, the original lyrics, or the combined musico-verbal effect of a sung
performance? Are the original lyrics to be kept, perhaps to give an impression
of authenticity? Is the translation intended for singing in the frst place? Is
the music to be presented as originally written or can it be modifed? Which
words or aspects of the lyrics are contextually (i.e., dramatically, musically,
visually) most vital? Can the musico-verbal properties of the original song be
recreated for the target presentation? If the aim is to create a sung performance,
how can we combine the three layers (prosodic, poetic and semantic refexive
match), and is a fully functional target singing song likely to have to consider
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Johan Franzon 397
all three layers of match? These and similar questions all guide the concrete
choices made by individual translators in specifc contexts out of the myriad
of theoretical options available to them.
Singability (like fdelity) remains an ambiguous concept in essence. It can
be defned in a restricted fashion, as paying attention to vocalization. It can
also be defned more broadly, as a prosodic and poetic match, or even liberally,
as a practical term to sum up everything that makes words and music function
together in song. I have favoured the latter interpretation and suggested how
three main functions (prosodic, poetic and semantic refexive match) can be
analyzed with a certain degree of precision. Translators of songs for different
media songs in print, subtitles, and sung performance, for popular record-
ings, theatre, or hymnals choose to preserve different aspects of a source
songs character. The variety of decisions they ultimately make can be seen
as evidence that relatively distinct options and layers for achieving singability
are available, in both the writing and the translating of songs.
JOHAN FRANZON
Department of Translation Studies, University of Helsinki, PL 94, 45 101
Kouvola, Finland. johan.franzon@helsinki.f
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