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)

The fundamental goal in writing La Voz del Fuelle was to emulate the expression and theatricality I witnessed in performances of Tango music whilst undertaking a composer residency with the Destellos Foundation in Argentina. In particular I sought to translate into sound the physicality of the bandoneón, an instrument at the forefront of many modern interpretations of Tango music. Recordings of this instrument are woven among other typical instruments of the style and extended and electronically manipulated sounds from bandoneón, piano, violin, and cello, combining to form a dynamic sonic landscape structured through dualities of tension and release, cultural reference and abstract sound, meter and free-time.

Diana Salazar is a Scottish-born and London- based composer and sound artist. Her compositional output ranges from acousmatic work to music for instruments with live electronics, laptop improvisation and cross-disciplinary collaborations. Her works have been performed throughout the UK and internationally, across Europe and North, Central and South America, with broadcasts on Swedish National Radio, Radio France, and BBC Radio 3. Selected works have been released on the Studio PANaroma, Discparc, SCRIME, Drift Station and Elektramusic labels. From 2009 to 2013 she was a Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in Music and Music Technology at Kingston University, London. She is currently a Lecturer in Music at City University London.

3) Translating in composition

Kingston Soundpainting Ensemble, led by Helen Julia Minors

An acoustic sound painting
The multimodal creative sign language known as Soundpainting, is a creative language which enables a director to composes a piece in real time, using a coded gestural language which is read across all the art forms.
The Kingston Soundpainting Ensemble was established in 2011 by Dr. Helen Julia Minors. They have performed in the Improvisation and Digital Arts Festival in 2012 and 2013, as well as offering educational workshops. In July 2013 Dr. Minors hosted the international Soundpainting think tank at Kingston University in which artists created and filmed a new movie, What About the Bush?

4) Music across musical genres

Meredith White

In tonight’s programme Meredith White presented some of her own arrangements and compositions. White’s practice and research explores the ways in which jazz music, as a style, genre and cultural construct, can be educated, performed and also used as a model for transforming and arranging popular music previously in other genres. White has appeared on TV and radio, has received commissions to compose new jazz works for piano, and is the founding member of the Meredith White Jazz Trio She has performed in the Improvisation and Digital Arts Festival 2012 and 2013. Her education work is based at Kingston University where she teaches jazz performance, history and analysis.

Meredith White, born in New Zealand, is a Senior Lecture in Music at Kingston University. She was trained at the University of Auckland and at the Royal Academy of Music.

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

This selection opens with a traditional round which reminds us of the importance of textual welcomes. Communication and the transfer of sense is at the heart of this evenings performance and Twist have taken a popular solo song and today present a transfer of style in arranging this for choir. The transfer of style and ensemble retain the essence of the song but present it, in essence, with a new accent. The closing number reiterates the importance of nature, presented by Lucile and Ruth earlier. Here Rutter’s setting appropriates nature into his musical setting, via the rhythms, harmonies and overlapping vocal lines.

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

Anglophone singers and pianists with an interest in the German lied are no strangers to the perils of translation – both understanding the intricacies of a foreign-language text for performers, and conveying that text to their audience as song and printed poem. The three lieder presented here all pose different problems of translation, and all are concerned with the very act of delivering messages:

The most straightforward case here is that of Clara Schumann’s
Die gute Nacht, composed in 1842, a simple tale of an angel delivering goodnight messages between lovers. This sets a text by the prolific orientalist and poet Friedrich Rückert (1788- 1866) which, although not particularly conceptually or poetically complex, is extremely difficult to render in a satisfactory English translation which adequately parallels the line distribution of the German original. This might seem a minor inconvenience – but audience members rely upon such textual alignment to trace the shape of a song, and to identify the most important words of the original poem. The translator must therefore strike a balance between an elegant English solution (not to mention the matter of whether or not to modernise language) and providing a workable poetic map for a listener.

Brahms’s Botschaft Op. 47 no. 1, written in 1868, sets a text by one of the composer’s favourite poets, Georg Friedrich Daumer (1800-1875). Yet Daumer’s poem purported to be a translation itself, of a work by the fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafis (Daumer’s 1852 collection from which Brahms drew this text was entitled Hafis. Neue Sammlung persischer Gedichte) – and it is included under the name of Hafis, rather than Daumer, in the printed collection of Brahms’s song texts, compiled by the composer’s friend Gustav Ophüls in 1898. The added complication, however, is that Daumer spoke no Persian! However, at a time when major orientalists such as Rückert and Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856) really were rendering the works of Hafis and others into German, Daumer was one of a number of poets to adopt the notion of ‘translation’ as a rather looser concept, drawing on ideas and imagery from Hafis’s texts to forge his own creations. Thus Botschaft could perhaps more accurately be described as a Daumer poem à la Hafis. This song speaks of a message delivered by the breeze – to a lover, of course.

The opening number of our set is a case of not double, but triple, translation: a Spanish poem translated into German by Emanuel Geibel (1815-1884), and set as part of Robert Schumann’s Spanische Liebeslieder Op. 138. But that work was conceived for four singers and piano duet, and this song, Flutenreicher Ebro, was originally intended for performance by a baritone and two pianists. The third step in this translation, then, has been undertaken by the composer Theodor Kirchner, a close friend of the Schumanns and Brahms, who has arranged the song (which was the real hit of the opus, and often performed as a single item) for a solo pianist and no singer at all. More than this: in the process of arrangement, Kirchner has chosen
to excise the second verse (a direct repeat of the first, which would be far less interesting without a singer to provide contrasting text), and set the third verse of the text an octave higher than the others. In this way, he has transformed a piece for one singer and two pianists into a piece for one pianist and apparently two representative ‘singers’, a baritone and a mezzo soprano. This time a river is the messenger, once again sent to convey words of love. The words of the song are printed in the score, aligned with the piano’s melody, to remind the pianist of what he or she is ‘saying’.

Katy Hamilton, 2013