Traduction et musiques

Séance en anglais et français


14 mars 2018
ULiège, Salle de l'Horloge,
Place du 20-août, 7-9,
4000 Liège
De 14h à 17h

La chanson est un ensemble de dispositifs verbaux et non-verbaux, sa traduction ne saurait donc être un simple texte. Elle doit au contraire composer à son tour avec des éléments visuels et sonores. Lucile Desblache et Klaus Kaindl s’intéressent à la musique populaire et discuteront des différentes façons de traduire Elvis Presley, Charles Trenet, Carte de séjour, Carla Bruni et Pussy Riot.

Répondant: Christophe Pirenne ( ULiège, UR Traverses, Président de la Société liégeoise de musicologie)

Klaus Kaindl

“Torna a Surriento”: A Theoretical Framework for the Travels of Popular Music

Popular music has a direct bearing on wide patterns of social and semiotic relations, since they are one of the most accessible artefacts through which culture is articulated, and hence, by which culture is communicated to people with a different language, history and culture.

In this presentation, I will offer in a first step a theoretical framework for the study of popular music drawing on the concepts of, “mediality”, “multimodality”, and “bricolage”. Popular songs can be seen as multimodal texts consisting of verbal and nonverbal modes and embedded in contexts of dissemination, institutions and social settings, the collective behaviour of musicians and fans, with associated visual styles and accompanying media discourse. Popular music as multimodal event cannot exist without mediation, and exactly the same applies to its translation. Here it seems appropriate to apply Lévi-Strauss’ term “bricolage” to the process of translation in which a range of elements are appropriated from the source culture, such as the music, the language, the vocal style, the instrumentation, and so forth, and are mixed with elements from the target culture.

This framework is the basis for the analysis of the translation of Elvis Presley songs in Germany in the 1950ties and 1960ties. The corpus consists of 88 translations between 1956, when the first translations were done, and 1969, the year of the last translations. The aim is to show that the translation of popular songs is set in a dialogic relationship with various sorts of verbal, musical and visual modes, as well as social and cultural mediation processes of widely diverse origins.


Klaus Kaindl is an Associate Professor at Centre for Translation Studies in Vienna/Austria. His research interests are the translation of multimodal/multimedial texts (opera, comics, popular music), translation theory, translation sociology and fictional representations of translators and interpreters.  He has published numerous books and articles on these topics.

Transfiction. Research into the realities of translation fiction (ed. together with Karlheinz Spitzl) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2014.

Berufsziel Übersetzen und Dolmetschen: Grundlagen, Ausbildung, Arbeitsfelder (ed. together with Mira Kadric) Tübingen: Francke (UTB 4454), 2016.

Dolmetscherinnen und Dolmetscher im Netz der Macht. Autobiographisch konstruierte Lebenswege in autoritären Regimen (ed. together with Dörte Andres and Ingrid Kurz) Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2017.

Queering Translation – Translating the Queer: Theory, Practice, Activism, (ed. together with Brian Baer) London/ New York: Routledge, 2018.

Lucile Desblache

Translating Music Beyond Words: Styles and Genres

Many consider that musical styles and genres are only meaningful within the realm of classical music. In popular music, by contrast, styles appear to be porous and mingle with each other; its creative spirit seems born of exchanges between genres rather than across them.  Similarly, in classical music genre shapeshifting is often discreet and happens primarily at compositional level, while in popular music, genres are open drivers of mediation and transformation. No one can deny that rap, for instance, has changed the musical landscape of the 21st century.

Three songs will be chosen to exemplify the key role that changing styles and genres can play in giving music different layers of meaning while providing continuity in that meaning: first, two contrasting covers of Charles Trénet’s iconic French song ‘Douce France’ (1942), by the group Carte de séjour (1987) and Franco-Italian singer Carla Bruni (2013); second, the Russian punk group Pussy Riot’s ‘Make America Great Again’ (2016). These songs will be used to illustrate the crucial role played by popular music in ensuring both perennial past references as well as allowing the translation and transgression of these references.

Traduire au-delà des mots: styles et genres

Beaucoup considèrent que les styles et genres musicaux n’ont de sens qu’en musique classique. La musique populaire, en revanche, semble caractérisée par la porosité de ses styles qui se fusionnent les uns aux autres ; l’esprit créatif de cette musique est également issu  d’échanges entre différents genres plutôt qu’à travers eux. De même, en musique classique, les métamorphoses de genre sont souvent discrètes et se manifestent au niveau de la composition, alors qu’en musique populaire, les genres donnent ouvertement lieu à des médiations et des transformations. Personne ne niera par exemple que le rap a changé le paysage musical du XXIème siècle. Trois exemples ont été choisis pour illustrer le rôle essentiel que joue la mouvance des styles et genres en ce qui concerne la création de plusieurs sens à partir d’une signification commune. Tout d’abord, deux reprises de la chanson iconique de Charles Trénet ‘Douce France’ (1942) : celle du groupe group Carte de séjour (1987) et de la chanteuse franco-italienne Carla Bruni (2013). Ensuite, ‘Make America Great Again’ (2016) par le groupe punk russe Pussy Riot. Ces chansons exemplifieront le rôle crucial de la musique populaire en regard de la perpétuation de références existantes tout comme la traduction et transgression de ces références.


Lucile Desblache is Professor of Translation and Transcultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Research in Translation and Transcultural Studies at the University of Roehampton. Her areas of research are twofold: Animal and Environmental Studies, and the relationships between translation and music. She is the general editor of JoSTrans, The Journal of Specialised Translation and the main investigator of the AHRC funded Translating Music project.

Music and Translation. New Mediations in the Digital Age. London: Palgrave MacMillan (2019)

“Music and translation” in Kelly Washbourne and Ben Van Wyke (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Literary Translation, London: Routledge (in press)

“From Minor to Major: Accessing marginal voices through music. New ways for translation?” in Barbara Lewandowska Tomaszczyk (ed.) Contrasts and Contacts: cultures and literature.  New York: Springer (2019)

"Animaux musicaux: apologie pour une histoire naturelle sonore" in Alain Romestaing and Alain Schaffner (eds) Histoire(s) naturelle(s) des animaux des XXe et XXIe siècles, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris (2016), pp. 177-190

“Tales of the unexpected: opera as the new art of glocalisation” in Helen Julia Minors (ed.), Music, Text and Translation, Bloomsbury, London (2013), pp. 9-19.

Photo by Ryan Holloway on Unsplash

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