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Language-in-song, language-as-song: new perspectives from Brazil on song translation theory and practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Number of pages22
JournalSanta Barbara Portuguese Studies
Accepted/In press18 Nov 2018
Published16 May 2019


King's Authors


Drawing on the field of Brazilian popular music and its internationalization, the work of some key Brazilian and French theorists of song and oral poetry, and on my own translation practice, this essay offers a radical new approach to song translation. I first sketch out an ethics of song translation within the broader political context of postcolonial debates about globalization, cosmopolitanism and intercultural translation. I then examine the language-music relationship and its implications for song translation, not as a matter of compromise between competing criteria of semantic information, form and “singability”, as is sometimes suggested, but rather as a unified, convergent project focused on enacting the composition’s melodic-discursive unfolding in time as movement, as language-in-song. Finally, I explore in some detailed examples how formal and performative challenges might be integrated together in the translator’s approach to questions of inflection, rhythm, time and persona.

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