Music is said to transcend cultures and to carry a universal message across. Yet we all know that we have special affinities with the musical pieces that we have been steeped in since childhood and that we need to be introduced to others in order to appreciate them.
Why do some musical genres travel more easily than others beyond culture and language? For instance, why is Western opera currently so popular in China? Does it mediate an ancient artistic form known to all Chinese into a more modern, prestigious one, associated with a successful and prestigious era?
Why has a song like the Cuban patriotic Guantanamera been translated into so many languages and been popular all over the world since its creation in 1929? Do the spicy rhythm and easy lyrics turn on a desire for relaxed exoticism? Does its universal message of love and freedom appeal to victims of political oppression world-wide? Does it do both, invoking an idealised country and giving us hope of a freer existence as we hum its tune?
Why is Schiller’s Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s ninth symphony translated into so many languages in international performances while a piece such as Haydn’s Creation is usually performed in German or English?
Why are so many songs and musical pieces not translated and how can we improve communication in this area, thus opening up culturally? What can music mediate in films and other artistic forms? How can we carry improving the access of music to those who have impairments and miss it, because they have lost their hearing for example?
If some of these questions interest you, or if you have more, relating to those, this network is for you. We are a small group of translators and musicians, keen to make contact with you and explore these ideas further.
Through a series of events in London and in Macerata (Italy) and through workshops introducing translators, accessibility providers, media professionals, music lovers and musicians to good practice in the mediation of musical texts, we intend to stimulate the provision of music across cultures and beyond disabilities.
There is a lot to do yet, but the journey is exciting and enriching, so do leave your contact details with us and join the Translating Music network.