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Music translations

It's a different story

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Music translations are a particular type of specialized translations, therefore, they require a specialist knowledge. As explained in the page on translations, translating is not at all about replacing the words in a language with the same words in another language.

There can be various types of music translations. In addition to books of a musical subject, there are texts which must follow the music, such as songs or librettos, that is the texts of operas. These must be translated reproducing the rhyme or the rhythm of music or both. There are also musical films that would require a specific knowledge when they get dubbed.

Then you need to know the names of instruments, chords, musical forms, situations, otherwise it is easy to translate badly and alter the meaning or make the text incomprehensible.

Mistakes in music translations

I'll give you here a few examples of words with a specific meaning in Italian, which can be easily translated incorrectly. On another page I gave an example of a mistake in a music translation, about a Concerto by Paganini.

In the French film Tous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World) which I saw translated into Italian, they talk about the musician who practices the ranges. This was a sentence that did not make sense in that context. Then I understood its meaning by knowing that "gamme" in French means "scale". Speaking of scales, in English "scale"" means both "musical scale" in a musical context, and "balance", "flake", "fish scale" and other things, in a different context.

In French, "répétition" does means "repetition", but in a musical or theatrical context it means "rehearsal".

My music translations

So far I have done various translations on music, from English into Italian and vice versa: four violin and viola books, one on the opera La Nave by Italo Montemezzi, two music tales, Tubby the Tuba by George Kleisinger and Journey into Jazz by Gunther Schuller, a music computer game based on The Magic Flute by Mozart, concert  programmes and more.

Read one of my musical translations: a concert program for the London Symphony Orchestra, Concerto for cello and orchestra by Shostakovich (my name is at the end of the article).

Click on the pictures or on the titles to read more about each text.

Una mia traduzione musicale: Un nuovo approccio al violino
A new approach to violin
by Kató Havas

Una mia traduzione musicale: Il corso di dodici lezioni, secondo il Nuovo Approccio al violino The twelve lesson course
by Kató Havas
La paura del pubblico, di Kato Havas - Frontespizio con dedica Stage fright
by Kató Havas

The frontispiece of the Italian  version translated by me, with a dedication by Kató Havas

Cammina Walk on the North Side
William Primrose

The autobiography of the  great viola player
La Nave
Essays on the Montemezzi - D'Annunzio Nave

A collection of essays on the opera La Nave by Italo Montemezzi, edited by Prof. David Chandler
Mia traduzione musicale: Flauto magico, gioco per computer
Computer music game on The Magic Flute by Mozart

... in preparation, Italo Montemezzi's biography

There are other texts on music that I have translated, started to translate or that I would like to translate.

One of these is the book Performing music in the age of recording. I found it very interesting because it looks at how the advent of the recordings, the pursuit of "perfection" in the recordings has changed performers' and listeners' attitude to classical music in particular. It analyzes how the recordings have influenced, positively and negatively, the way performers and the audience, act when they attend a live performance. This text is very detailed but at the same time enjoyable to read.

If there is a publisher who wishes to publish it in Italian, I would be happy to cooperate!

Testimonial about my music translations

"There are many different ideas about what makes a good translation, and different kinds of translation job doubtless call for different kinds of expertise. Often it is said that a translator should always translate into his or her native language. I disagree. As a scholar, what I want to be sure of is that the translator has understood every nuance of the original text as accurately as possible. That means I prefer to employ a native user of the language the text is written in, and preferably someone with an expert understanding of the subject being discussed. I have been very happy with Monica Cuneo's translations of various Italian texts concerned with opera. She has translated them with great fidelity, explained the 'untranslatable' where appropriate, and her expert knowledge of music has allowed her to confidently understand a lot of specialised terminology. Furthermore, she does not consider translation to be a one-step process, and has happily answered questions and responded to suggestions concerning her translations, the first versions of which we have treated as 'work in progress'. For anyone who wants this sort of active relationship with a translator, I recommend her very highly indeed."

Prof. David Chandler
Associate Professor in English Literature, Doshisha University, Kyoto

for whom I translated La Nave

Go from Music translations to Translations

If you need music translations, send me a message