Scroll down for Past events (in reverse order)
Most events were recorded: the videos are included with the event details.

July 15th 2015: London
Europe House, Smith Square London SW1
How is music translated today? Intersemiotic, interlingual, intralingual and intersensorial transfers across musical genres

2.15 – 2.30: Lucile Desblache (University of Roehampton): event introduction

2.30 - 3.00: Dinda Gorlée (University of The Hague)

‘Intersemioticity and intertextuality: Picaresque and romance in opera’

3.00 - 3.30: Marta Mateo (University of Oviedo)

‘Translating musicals: from stage to film across the continents’

3.30 - 4.00: tea/coffee

4.00 - 4.30: Pierre Schmitt (EHESS, Paris)

‘Singing/Signing to the Music. Sign Language translations for a shared experience of music’

4.30 - 5.00: Louise Fryer (Presenter for BBC Radio 3, audiodescriber)

‘Audiodescribing music: what’s not to hear’

5.00 - 5.30: Sylvain Caschelin (University of Strasbourg/freelance translator)

‘Translation Trials: Anarchy in the UK revisited’

5.30 - 6.00: ┼×ebnem Susam-Saraeva (University of Edinburgh)

‘Translation and cover songs in popular music’

January 20th 2014: London

Concert: Making Music in Translation
followed by reception

City University, London.

The Performance Space,
College Building,
City University,
St John Street,



1) Translating Nature

Lucile Desblache (soprano) and Ruth Hansford (mezzo-soprano), accompanied by Brian Parsons
R. Quilter: Song of the blackbird, op. 14 n°4 (1906) (poem by William Ernest Henley )

F. Mendelssohn:
Abschiedslied der Zugvögel Op. 63 n °2 (1836-1845) (poem by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben)

F. Schubert:
Die Forelle (1817) (Poem by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart)

G. Rossini:
Duetto buffo di due gatti (1825)

2) Technology in translation

Diana Salazar (City University) presented a sonic art composition, exploring the interaction of technology and acoustic instruments.

La Voz del Fuelle (electronic fixed media)

3) Translating in composition

Kingston Soundpainting Ensemble, led by Helen Julia Minors

An acoustic sound painting

4) Music across musical genres

Meredith White presented a series of jazz styles, transforming some pieces from other genres, the concert included newly composed jazz music by Meredith White.

Twist Choir, directed by Adam Hope:

Traditional round, Welcome, Welcome, Every

Elton John (1947-), Your Song

John Rutter (1945-), For the Beauty of the Earth

5) Translating Poetry

Zoe Bonner (Soprano) and Katy Hamilton (piano):

Robert Schumann (1810-1856), arr. Theodor Kirchner (1823-1903), Flutenreicher Ebro Op. 138 no. 5

Clara Schumann (1819-1896), Die gute Nacht

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897),Botschaft Op. 47 no. 1


29 November 2013: 2 - 4pm, Kingston University

Training Workshop 3: Translating Musical Forms - Rhythm and Rhyme

Helen Julia Minors, Kingston University

Music translating text, images and culture: a workshop in cross-medial transfer

This workshop explores particular methodological approaches to the notion of musical translation utilising specific case studies as a base for analysis to illustrate a. music-image transfer, b. text-music transfer and c. text-music dance transfer. The collage album 'Sports et divertissements', composed by Erik Satie, designed by Charles Martin, with prose poetry by Erik Satie and published by the fashion publisher Lucien Vogel created in 1914 and adapted in 1922 acts out a mediation of this multimodal transference. Another collage album, composed by Claude Debussy, 'La Boite à Joujoux' will also be explored to chart the adaptation of a play for musical and then dance setting in this children's ballet.

Room 526 Coombehurst House.


5 November 2013: University College London
Room n° 105, 24 Gordon Square, London WC1

Training Workshop 2: Translating Music: Knowing the Basics

Lucile Desblache,
University of Roehampton

Music is everywhere and often involves lyrics: in classical, pop, rock, rap music, in advertising, in films, in video games. Translators often come across song translation without previous experience or knowledge of the specific demands that music makes on words. This workshop was intended for those who wish to be introduced to the challenges of music interlingual translation and how to solve them.

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Saturday 26 October 2013: 10 - 12 pm, University of Roehampton, Queens Building, Brunyate Room and Language Lab 040, Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5SL.

Training Workshop 1: Accessibility Training in Music

Elena Di Giovanni, University of Macerata

Music is a universal language, but when it is part of semiotically complex performances (operas, musicals, ballet, etc.) it acquires meaning in conjunction with images, movements, sung and/or spoken words. The multiplicity of codes and channels involved in the fruition of these performances makes them only partially accessible for people with hearing and visual impairments. Focusing on opera as a case in point, this workshop offers an introduction to the most common techniques used to make it accessible (surtitling and audio description). It also provides basic hands-on practice in audio description for the visually impaired.

25 October 2013: 10 - 5pm Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London SW1

Symposium: Opera, Multilingualism and Translation

The symposium involved both academics researching this area and professionals working in the field.
Participants included:

Lucile Desblache (Roehampton University)

David Harsent (Roehampton University)

Sarah Holford (Les Azuriales Opera)

Damien Kennedy (English National Opera)

Jane Manning (linguist and international singer)

Helen Julia Minors (Kingston University)

Judy Palmer (Royal Opera House)

Adriana Tortoriello (University College, London and freelance translator)

 Tea/coffee on arrival from 10 am
Lucile Desblache: Opera’s languages

In this opening session ofthe Translating Music project, Lucile Desblache suggests that music is often the poor relative of the arts in terms of funding and discusses how, surprisingly perhaps, opera, relying on an array of musical, esthetic and semantic languages, is one of the most successful artistic forms today.

Adriana Tortoriello: Subtitling Opera for DVD

Adriana Tortoriello discusses the specificities of DVD opera subtitling and the challenges of conveying the humour of Gilbert and Sullivan's patter songs to an Italian 21st century audience.

Helen Julia Minors: Fusing words and music: charting the new production of “Midsummer Night's Dreams”

Using her recent experience of the 2013 Macerata Opera Festival, Helen Julia Minors, of Kingston University outlines the stimulating intersemiotic transfers taking place in a production of Midsummer Night's Dream, which blend Mendelssohn's work with Britten's 'translation' of Shakespeare.

12-12.30: questions
12.30-1.30 Lunch
Jane Manning: The Vocal Instrument in Song and Speech

Drawing on her experience as an international singer, particularly acclaimed for her interpretations of in contemporary music, Jane Manning (OBE) discusses the challenges and the joys of singing Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire in different languages.


Sarah Holford: Surtitling Opera for a small company

Sarah Holford retraces how she and her husband built a small opera company in the south of France, Les Azuriales, stressing the various technical and linguistic issues that producing opera on a small scale brought to the fore.

Damien Kennedy: Surtitling for the English National Opera

Damien Kennedy, Musical Library Surtitles manager at the English National Opera gives a history of accessibility in this institution and discusses why and how the decision was made to provide interlingual surtitles in spite of the fact that all productions are sung in English.


3.15 – 4:
Round table


4: Drinks and snacks.


18 October 2013: 2.30 - 4.30 pm, Institute for Musical Research (London, Senate House, Room G22/26)

Seminar 3: Opera, Digital Media and Translation

This seminar explored how digital media is taking translation further in opera and classical music. Ken Chalmers, Head of Surtitling at the Royal Opera House, Lydia Machell, Prima Vista Braille Music Services, a company developing Braille sheet music and Sarah Weaver, from Durham University answered Lucile Desblache’s questions on how recent digital developments are impacting upon the dissemination but also the conception of a genre that has been in the past considered elitist but that is now wide-reaching.


17 September 2013: 3.00 - 5.00 pm, Imperial College, London, Blackett Building, Lecture Theatre 3.

Seminar 2: Making Music Accessible.

What’s Not To Hear?: Louise Fryer, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Presenter for BBC Radio 3 and Audio Describer

Making music accessible to blind and partially sighted people may sound like an unnecessary thing to do. Surely blind people can hear music? Leaving aside the issue that most blind people are elderly and may have additional disabilities including hearing loss, just think for a moment about elements of musical performance that sighted people take for granted. A poster for a classical concert or an advert in the newspaper catches your eye. You head to the concert hall. You arrive and take in the grand façade of, say, the Royal Albert Hall. You spot a musician heading into the artists’ entrance. You mingle with other people in the foyer, collect a programme, skim through the notes about the pieces, the list of performers, photographs. You look towards the stage where a few players wander on. You are impressed by all the percussion – the tam-tam, the tubular bells. You note two harps, a celeste, a piano. More players drift on. It is a big orchestra. There is an interesting gender balance. Most of the players are young. They are dressed in black suits not formal white tie and tails. They seem to have tracksuit tops over the backs of their chairs. The violins are split, the firsts on one side of the conductor, the seconds on the other. You notice the audience crushed at the front of the arena tense a little. The lights dim in the auditorium and brighten on stage. The conductor bounds on, his hair a mop of dark curls that will in a few moments flop forwards, accentuating the downbeat of his baton. And that is just the start. Why should music need audio description? What’s not to hear?

Music to My Deaf Ears: Accessible Filmmaking and Music: Pablo Romero Fresco, University of Roehampton

For the past 30 years, subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing have been providing hearing-impaired viewers all over the world with access to the sound of film and TV programmes, including what is said (the dialogue), how it is said (the tone and the mood), who says it (characters identification), the sounds effects and the music. Of all these elements, music is undoubtedly the one that has been most neglected, perhaps because of the commonly held belief that music must be heard and felt, rather than read and understood, as seems to be the case in subtitled films. In some countries, subtitles for people with hearing loss don’t even include information about music.
> What do hearing-impaired viewers think about the description of music in subtitles? How is this description provided in different countries? Does it make a difference to their enjoyment of film? Drawing on data obtained in the EU-funded DTV4ALL project and on a new initiative known as Accessible Filmmaking, which promotes the integration of translation and accessibility as part of the filmmaking process, this presentation looked at how music is subtitled across Europe, how viewers with hearing loss receive these descriptions and especially at what can be gained by fostering collaboration between translators and filmmakers to ensure that music is not just understood but also felt by viewers with hearing loss.

Captioning Musicals for deaf people: Alex Romeo
, Freelance Surtitler (STAGETEXT)

How do we give deaf people the same experience as hearing people in the theatre using captioning? How can they make sense of music? This talk gave an overview of theatre captioning in the UK and discussed how captioners use conventions established with the help of deaf people who set up STAGETEXT to make every performance as accessible as possible. It discussed different musicals that have been captioned over the last 10 years and used examples to illustrate the different methods captioners use to create their accessible script, focusing on issues relevant to making music meaningful to the deaf and the hard of hearing.

Listen Up! Raising Awareness of Opera Accessibility through Audience Reception Research:
Sarah Weaver, Durham University

Opera is becoming an increasingly accessible art form for all including the blind and partially-sighted. Translation modalities for this audience including audio description, touch tours and Braille libretti continue to evolve according to constantly changing audience needs and expectations. This paper discussed audience reception research into these methods and the crucial role these studies play in their development and in raising awareness of translation facilities to make opera universally accessible.


August 2013

Translating Music went to the Macerata Opera Festival, Macerata, Italy

1. Programme:

August 1: 5pm
Interview with theatre director Luciano Messi and two singers working at the Macerata Opera Festival

August 2: 6.45 pm (Sferisterio colonnade arena)
Touch Tour of Nabucco for the blind in English and Italian.

August 2: 9 pm (Sferisterio colonnade arena) Verdi’s Nabucco - Live Audio Description in Italian and English with the collaboration of the Unione dei Ciechi e idegli Ipovedenti.

A recorded audio-introduction was available.

August 3: 5 pm (venue TBC): A talk on the reception of Audio Description: meeting and discussion with blind members of the audience. Interviews with blind members of the audiences.

August 3: 9 pm (Sferisterio colonnade arena) Verdi’s Il Trovatore - Live Audio Description in Italian and English with the collaboration of the Unione dei Ciechi e idegli Ipovedenti.

A recorded audio-introduction was also available in Italian and English.

2. Interviews recorded in Macerata:

Luciano Messi: the festival director

Francesco Micheli: the festival artistic director

Virginia Tola: principal soprano

Marco Cempini: Double Bass player

Daniele Gabrielli: translator

Natalia Giro: assistant maestro

A discussion between blind and partially sighted members of an audience

To follow: a Sferisterio touch tour


Opening Seminar: Mapping Music
26 June 2013: 6.15 - 9.30 pm, Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London SW1

Music has always been the most abstract of art forms. We can’t possess it the way we do with books, films or visual art. Yet as the children’s song says, “I hear music everywhere”: it accompanies us while we are on the move (with 92% of people under 34 listening to music on a mobile phone or player, according to a 2013 survey by Action on Hearing Loss) but it is also with us when we are relaxing at home, cooking, watching television, playing video games, in the cinema, in the shops we go to and often, at work…

If instrumental music tends to be preferred to vocal music in easy listening and film music, songs are favourite with individual listening habits. And as has been noted, music can make banal words sound truly poetic and has the ability to make sense of them, even if we don’t understand them sometimes

But do we always listen to the words? Can we always hear them? Do we pay attention to them even when they are sung in our native tongue? And how often do we listen to songs in foreign languages?

Recent research points to the fact that paying attention to the meaning of words is important primarily when listening to a language we are familiar with. In a 2007 survey made at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2007, intelligibility of sung text in familiar languages was very important to 61% of respondents, but very important to only 17% when text is in an unfamiliar language.

Film and television music uses predominantly instrumental music, apart from title song or for songs that play a structural role in the piece, such as Almadovar’s
Volver; Children’s cartoons with their descriptive or narrative songs essential to the story are another exception. For most films though, when songs are used, they are used primarily for their texture such as in The Lord of the Rings where the majority of the lyrics are in invented languages.

How important is it then to translate lyrics? In the case of
The Lord of the Rings, translation of fictional language songs does not appear on screen. And yet, in other contexts, audiences make it very clear that they want a translation of the lyrics, be it interlingually or intralingually. A European survey conducted with deaf and hearing impaired viewers in 2011 states that for these viewers, information about the music comes in third place in the hierarchy of which information is the most vital (after dialogue and character identification). Opera audiences only complain when surtitles are not provided. In general, more information, more translation is always welcome.

In some cases, as Mark Harrison discusses when presenting the case of songs transcribed for television, verbatim transcriptions are required for copyright reasons. And yet, Judi Palmer argues very convincingly in her presentation that it is desirable to summarise semantic information, thus making space for other semiotic languages that make sense of the drama. After all, as Voltaire famously wrote “le secret d’ennuyer est… de tout dire”.

6.15-6.30: Musical Prelude and Introduction to the network
(Karine Chevalier and network researchers)

6.30-7.45: Surtitling Today (Judi Palmer, Royal Opera house)

Making Music Accessible (Mark Harrison, Viacom International)

Song Localisation in advertising (Raffaella Vota, Tag Worldwide)

7.45-8: Convenience break

Film Music and Translation (Nahima Ait- Bouzalim, Nefeli Antonopoulou and Rusica Cajic (Deluxe Media)

Surtitling Today: Judi Palmer, Royal Opera House, London.

This presentation discussed the evolution of surtitling, gave an overview of present systems and asked if the provision of surtitles in the lyric theatre has resulted in a greater freedom for directors to present conceptual productions. The question of whether surtitles have become over-informative, creating a barrier between the audience and their involvement with the action taking place on stage was also discussed.

Making Music Television Accessible: Mark Harrison, Access Services, Viacom International

For people with hearing loss, music television is one of the few ways music can be enjoyed at home. Making music channels accessible via hard of hearing subtitling allows the audience to continue to enjoy music and music programming with the aim of replicating the experience of the hearing viewer as much as possible. This presentation discusses the practice of music programming accessibility as it stands on the UK Viacom music channels and gives an overview of how it is received and perceived by viewers.

Song Localisation For Advertising Purposes: The Case Of 'My Favourite Things'
: Raffaella Vota, Language Director, Tag Worldwide, London

TV commercials and songs need to be relevant to a culture to ensure that the message reaches the target. As such, when localising songs from an English source, it is essential that the approach is not literal, rather is an adaptation which is semantically aligned with the original message whilst sounding natural in a given language.

Film Music and Translation:
Ivan Weiss, Nahima Ait-Bouzalim, Nefeli Antonopoulou and Rusica Cajic, Deluxe Media, London

Production staff from Deluxe Media presented their experiences of the challenges faced when representing musical content in a subtitle format. In three separate case studies they looked at various solutions for meeting client demand and viewer expectation.

Nahima Ait-Bouzalim

Nefeli Antonopoulou

Rusica Cajic