On Sun, 12 Jan 2003 11:17:44 -0500, Sally Caves <[log in to unmask]>{:
Msgr jsK}

>From: "Roger Mills" <[log in to unmask]>
>> Jan van Steenbergen wrote:
>> >> That's something I've always been interested in: how do opera singer
>> >> learn to sing in languages they don't know.

Hi Sally,
I'm inserting a late reply to Jan here:
When I was in music school, the opera students had to take a course in
Italian diction, and maybe also French and/or German. That kind of thing is
a lot easier with a live teacher. Understanding the language isn't
necessary for basic pronunciation. The first couple of weeks of Japanese
class, we were drilled on pronunciation. The only Japanese we had to learn
was classroom instructions. Of course, the teacher's main profession was
teaching advanced piano.</insert>

>Tell me about your own singing, Jan.  And whether you create songs in your
>language that you sing.  And record.
>As for singing in a language you don't know, I can tell you this; I used
>to be in Church Choir, and for a semester I took a choir class in college.
>Most of the songs were in Latin, so the phonetics were pretty easy, as
>they mostly matched those of Spanish.  It was French that floored me.  (my
>pre-French days).  For the French material, I just wrote under each word
>some transcription of what I heard the choir master singing, and then
>memorized it.  I remember listening over and over again to a French album
>of songs, and just aping the words.  I was a good mimic.  I would have to
>hear it first, though.  I memorized "Dominique-nique-nique" long before I
>knew what the words meant;

That seems to be what most choir singers do, in my observation.

>also "Allouette, gentil Allouette.  Allouette, je te plumerai."  I had no
>idea how cruel the words were!  (Forgive me, Christophe, if I don't spell
>that correctly!)  Also:  "Sur le pont, D'Avignon, l'on y danse, l'on y
>danse."  It was only until I took French that I knew what these favorite
>songs meant.

>Where does the "Dominique" song come from?  I seem to associate it with
>something called "The Singing Nun."

My sister had that album, for some reason; mid sixties, I think.

>Also, "Allouette"?  From some musical? From a folktune? Who is this
>unhappy bird?  I always assumed it was getting plucked alive.
>Same for German.  Now if I'd had some Czech song to sing, I would have
>done the same thing.  I can sing the first verse of Iva Bittova's first
>song, but only because I transcribed it.  I have no idea how the syntax
>works or how it MEANS.
>Roger wrote:
>> Singing in general seems to deform language in curious ways.  Though
>> fluent in Spanish, I've never been able to puzzle out songs, aside from
>> the inevitable rhymes "corazón...amor".  A slightly crazed friend heard
>> "with innocent pleasures" (from Purcells's "Come ye sons of art") as
>> "with hymnals and prayerbooks", and the Magnificat's "quia fecit mihi
>> magna" as "we are facing Mimi Gaga"-- childhood names for his
>> grandmothers.
>LOL!  When I was little, I didn't understand songs in English.  I just
>sang them.  I think the Christmas Carols are the best examples.  What does
>"round yon virgin" mean to a child of four?  In a movie with Jack
>Nicholson (now I can't remember the title) I remember with delight how
>they talked about this;  "round John Virgin."
>As for distortion, it always seemed to me that singers of songs in Spanish
>were far more willing to put the emphasis on the "wrong" syllable than
>singers of English songs, or to end measures in the middle of a word.
>(I'm going on memory here of a CD I can't remember the name of or the name
>of the singer!  La Llorna?).

I've noticed the misplaced accents in Spanish songs also, mostly in fast

>Singing in English (at least most contemporary English songs) seems to
>require that the words fall into place within measures, and that their
>emphasis match that of the tune. Like you, I had a hard time following
>songs in Spanish.  And for all I can tell, Bittova is willing to start
>new measures in the middle of her words.

Doesn't Czech always stress the first syllable or the preposition?
Maintaining both the normal stress and normal word boundaries would
seriously interfere with musical phrasing (assuming western style music!).
I haven't heard Bittova.

>When I try to put Teonaht into verse, especially rhyming verse, I still
>labor under the anglophonic assumption that the words cannot be distorted,
>emphasis cannot be changed, verbal phrases have to match measures; and
>therefore it's incredibly hard to versify Teonaht.  I'm trying to shake
>free of that.
>Sally Caves
>[log in to unmask]
>Eskkoat ol ai sendran, rohsan nuehra celyil takrem bomai nakuo.
>"My shadow follows me, putting strange, new roses into the world."

Jeff J.