13 September 2009

Interlingual poetry and music

Sergio Viaggio has an interesting analogy that has to do with interlinguality. Studying translation from a linguistic perspective, he says:

"The great men of letters who have self-translated have chosen (as far as I know, without exception) to speak in the second language not so much from the LPIo as from the LP1 tout court, renouncing the initial amalgam of the noetic plate and a formal plate in language o in order to try and amalgamate the abstract noetic plate with a formal plate in language i – a bit like the transcriptions for other instruments that great musicians have done of their own compositions. (And since I find it hard to let go of music, let me remind you yet again of a particularly telling case: Beethoven’s piano transcription of his violin concerto, which takes advantage, of course, of the vast harmonic possibilities of the new instrument, and neutralises its infinitely less warm sound.)" (A General Theory of Interlingual Mediation, 2006, p. 370)

We could say that, in an interlingual poem, the bulk of the words are notes from one instrument and the foreign words are notes from another instrument. The poet needs the other instrument/s to make the music beautiful. The notes or sounds from the other instrument/s are not there to jar the listener or reader, but to form part of the musical design.

Viaggio also writes, “What presents the often insurmountable problem of the structural differences between languages is the ‘transcription’ of the emotive harmonics that form makes vibrate – because it is simply impossible. In translation, those harmonics (which will always be a function of a language’s idiosyncrasy, the translator’s sensitivity and prowess, and, ultimately, the readers’ hermeneutic sensitivity and ability), can but be recreated.”

He writes about translation (which basically deals with languages used in sequence or one at a time), but what he says can apply mutatis mutandi to interlingual writing (or languages being used at the same time).

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