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  • 2:52 pm on February 10, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    [Comment] Blues people: negro music in white america 

    Yongho Kim
    Telling Labor’s Story through Music
    February 10, 2004

    Baraka points out in chapter 2 that West African music provided a baseline for the music sung by African-Americans who came to the United States through slavery. Two main tenets of these West African roots are the multilingualism of its lyrics and the narrow albeit continuous range in the melody (24). While traces of an unique West African melodic range is visible in the songs assigned, the heritage of multilingualism becomes slightly problematic.

    Baraka explains that West African harmonic system, from which the African-American one develops, unlike European harmonic system, does not follow a scale of tones and half-tones. For ears trained solely around classical/medieval European music, the melodic variations of a West African music may appear either chaotic or static. (The same should be true for the contrary. 25) This is because the West African melody moves subtly between the spaces that a European scale considers discrete. This feature seems prominent in songs that belong to the African-American musical tradition. (Consider, for instance, “O, Lord, I’m waitin’ on You” (CD9, 2) at the instance when te singer sings “Oh Lord” for the third time.)

    However, when Baraka’s assertion that Spanish, French, the different languages from West Africa, and Creole, mixed during the experience of slavery to create a multifaceted lyric for the African-American music, seems far stretched. It is true that in early slave work songs, such as “Ouendé, ouendé, macaya!” (21), mixed French and African portions. This split, Baraka goes on, served the purpose of hiding subversive ideologies from the masters. But in listening to early 19th century’s folk, blues, and spirituals, I find no such mixing. On the one hand, there is obviously no further need to hide messages. On the other hand, most of these words have been incorporated into (almost) everyday English. When I hear foreign-derived words in the songs assigned, I can feel no distinct foreign ethos such as those found in Latino speech which may mix Spanish words (which are distinguishably identifiable as “non-english” words) or any other language.

    I am not sure if this happens because of the long history of African-Americans in the US, or because of some preferential pattern in which the media portrays certain words as foreign/exotic whereas others become merely slangs. But in either case, I can argue that should many words in contemporary African-American/African-American derived lyrics originally come from other languages, it has reached a distinctive familiarity that sets it apart from other foreign-induced words.

  • 3:03 pm on February 4, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Evaluation of translation 8b (Fairest Friend, by Robert French) 

    Yongho Kim
    Russian 265: Literary Translation
    February 4, 2004

    Evaluation of translation 8b (Fairest Friend, by Robert French)

    Having had the bias of looking at the uncle-tone styled Chapter I translations of the poem, French’s tone, which sets up a relationship of clandestine lovers between the poet and the interpelate (3-10), which given its detour from the rest, sounds heretic. He does not stop there. French has turned the mere “formal/informal” relationship between the first and second halves of the poem into that of an ambiguous switch from a dangerous call (9-12) into a paternal uncle. (24-26, the kind glimpsed in 5b) In his comment to French in 8a, Hofstadter laments that he was not able to guess this transition himself.
    I believe French was justified on defending his excess of lines in terms that a three-syllabic rhyme was an artistic artifact that can be easily recognized by the reader, whereas the 28 lines did not pursue on any aesthetic value. (Except for the fact that, as French pointed out, that the poem was approximately 30 lines long)

    French’s translation is a target-oriented one, but differs from prior translations of Hofstadter in that he settled for a specific approach to the source. In a sense, French’s translation is also a source-oriented one. His method resembles that described by Schleiermacher, which emphasizes the (inevitable) differences among national ethoses. (And at this point the difference so clearly laid out by Sunset and Eco between the two approaches seems to crumble down: what is a translation, as long as it deserves to be called a translation, if not a source-oriented one? Are not the differences between translations, so far explained in terms of the opposition between the two orientations of the translator, merely stemming from different readings of the source text?)

    French intended and was successful at delivering an ethos assumedly inherent in a five-centuries old poem (I have no background as to what French literature from renaissance read like, but I will instead take Hofstadter’s comments), but at the same time his fault may lie in that he overdid such stylization. A virtue of any succinct poem also consists of allowing multiple readings, like the joyous one read by Hofstadter in 7b as well as French’s. An even better translation might have been one that had left the tone and mood of the text ambiguous enough as to allow both interpretations to happen.

  • 12:59 pm on February 2, 2004 Permalink  

    Sample interview on Bon Appetit 

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