Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Singing in Another Language

This was inspired by a comment maurinsky left on "Sometimes They Say Go Ahead..." below. She expressed a desire (nay, a duty) to learn to sing in Gaelic. I replied that Gaelic is a wonderfully musical language. That I have seen audiences that didn't understand a word of what was being sung moved to tears by the songs. There are many ways to learn. These are my thoughts on how to go about learning. First off, find somebody that speaks or understands the language you're trying to sing. That's cruicial because you don't want to do a JFK gonna tell everybody I'm a Jelly Doughnut incident. Small changes in sounds can have big consequences and you need to be able to vet your performance. Luckily for maurinsky you can't throw a rock at a baby carraige in a New England public park without coming close to someone familiar with the sounds of the Irish. Boston and New York both contain vast stores of Irish speakers. Did you know that the Boston Police force has a band called "The Gaelic Column?" Unless these speakers are friends you don't have to impose them on your learning curve. Find yourself several recorded versions of the song you want to learn, start listening over, and over. This part of the process will get more streamlined as you add songs to your war chest. Then, using a tape recorder (or your computer if you have the sound card) record yourself singing the song. The first time you attempt to record it you might want to be headphoning the song you're trying to cover, just to keep your ears engaged with what you're trying to produce rather than what's actually getting produced. Keep narrowing the gap between what's being sung by the recording and what's coming out of you. If you can learn a few songs in any language, you'd be amazed how much that facilitates your learning the new language. Of course, musicians are famous for being multilingual adepts. It's those ears baby. A song you already know, that was originally translated from Gaelic would be a good shot. I'm not sure if that's the case with "Be Thou My Vision, Lord" was originally Gaelic, but if you love it enough, it shouldn't matter.
Best of luck on your endeavors maurinsky. I stand, as ever, ready to assist with encouragement, advice and general support. Here's another valuable link for Irish music
  • Ireland First!

    Blogger PeterofLoneTree said...

    "That's cruicial because you don't want to do a JFK gonna tell everybody I'm a Jelly Doughnut incident."

    Oh No!
    All this time I thought what he said was, "I am an ice-cream cone!"

    Now I gotta go back and start my history studies all over again. Sheesh!

    8:17 AM  
    Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

    as i recall my cello teacher wolfgang von schutte (he was real fucking german, hitler youth, the whole thing, great teacher though) saying at the time "he yust say, i'm jelly doughnut. he sid "Ich bich ein Berliner. this is doughnut. Ich bich Berliner is correct. Zo, vee do scales more, ja?"

    9:41 AM  
    Blogger maurinsky said...

    Thanks for the advice, Stephen - my father learned Gaelic in school, but he doesn't really remember very much of it. I do know a few Gaelic speakers from his Irish club, though, and I'm going to see if they are still offering Gaelic lessons (they do from time to time.)

    9:54 AM  
    Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

    i heard gaelic from da, he was from rural kerry where english has never progressed beyond second language status. when his ma came to live with us, gaelic songs were all over the house, plus when gram got angry, english was the first casualty. i was able to get the sounds and cadences, but never aquired the language itself. off topic sorta but it goes to the 'ear' thing; have you ever noticed in europe that a lot of the folks that speak english, naturally have the British influence at play but when they sing, it's American. I'm sure that's because of chuck berry, little richard, and such. hell, even U2 singing comes off Americanized. Give me the Pogues any day.

    10:26 AM  
    Anonymous Father Tyme said...

    How about the story of ABBA? Supposedly they couldn't speak a word of English at the time they first recorded their albums. But they sounded well enough. It was difficult to tell if they were good ol' muricans!

    4:27 PM  
    Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

    there have been more than a couple of bands like that. i've also heard some hellaciously good cover bands in the far east. nailing everything from billie holiday to pat boone, all without speaking a word of english. as a lark in san francisco playing the wharf at ghirardelli square i had this bit where i would announce myself as "the world's greatest folksinger, name a country, any country and i'll sing you a song from there." people would name all sorts of obscure countries and i'd sing la bamba. when it was done i'd say "well, mi amigo pedro told me it was a ....ish song." it was a shamelessly fun routine.

    8:13 PM  
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