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  1. #1
    Senior Member David Halitsky's Avatar
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    Default A general comment: Greek songs paint pictures - they don't tell stories.

    From working with Amethystos and Duffy on translations for various Greek songs, I have come to realize something very important:

    Greek songs paint pictures - they don't tell stories.

    This is important to keep in mind if you come from a culture like US or English culture, where songs almost ALWAYS tell a story in which the "plot" line is clear.

    It's important to keep this in mind because you can't really translate a series of pictures into a coherent story, and you shouldn't even try.

    Because as Amethystos points out, a series of pictures can suggest any number of different stories, and one story is no more "correct" or "better" than any other story.

    I don't think US or English audiences would be satisfied with this kind of uncertainty in their songs, but apparently Greeks are - the uncertainty in songs is apparently an accepted fact of Greek culture.

    To see this difference between Greek and American culture, consider this example of an UNusual (atypical) case - a famous US song where "uncertainty" about the "plot" drove Americans crazy.

    Bobbie Gentry - Ode To Billie Joe
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZt5Q-u4crc

    Here are the lyrics - they drove Americans crazy because they didn't say EXACTLY WHY Billie Joe jumped off that bridge. So, to Americans, the story was incomplete.

    It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty, delta day
    I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was balin' hay
    And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
    And Mama hollered out the back door, "Y'all remember to wipe your feet"
    Then she said, "I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge
    Today Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

    Papa said to Mama as he passed around the black-eyed peas
    "Well, Billie Joe never had a lick o' sense, pass the biscuits, please
    There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow"
    And Mama said it was a shame about Billie Joe anyhow
    Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
    And now Billie Joe McAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

    Brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billie Joe
    Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
    And wasn't I talkin' to him after church last Sunday night
    I'll have another piece of apple pie, you know, it don't seem right
    I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
    And now you tell me Billie Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

    Mama said to me, "Child what's happened to your appetite?
    I been cookin' all mornin' and you haven't touched single bite
    That nice young preacher Brother Taylor dropped by today
    Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh by the way
    He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
    And she and Billie Joe was throwin' somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

    A year has come and gone since I heard the news 'bout Billie Joe
    Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo
    There was a virus goin' round, papa caught it and he died last spring
    And now Mama doesn't seem to want to do much of anything
    And me I spend a lot of time picking flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
    And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge
    Last edited by David Halitsky; 01-15-2015 at 06:04 AM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Halitsky View Post
    From working with Amethystos and Duffy on translations for various Greek songs, I have come to realize something very important:

    Greek songs paint pictures - they don't tell stories.

    This is important to keep in mind if you come from a culture like US or English culture, where songs almost ALWAYS tell a story in which the "plot" line is clear.

    It's important to keep this in mind because you can't really translate a series of pictures into a coherent story, and you shouldn't even try.

    Because as Amethystos points out, a series of pictures can suggest any number of different stories, and one story is no more "correct" or "better" than any other story.
    That's right and began since Theodorakis put great poetry in his songs in 1960 with "Epitafios / funeral".
    Αν υπάρχει κάτι που δεν χρειάζεται την πλειοψηφία για να είναι σωστό, αυτό είναι η ανθρώπινη συνείδηση.

  3. #3
    Ange ou Demon Amethystos's Avatar
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    What's more difficult then: To tell a story or to "describe" a painting?

    What's the answer of an American poet?
    "Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to?
    You will never find that life for which you are looking.
    When the gods created man they allotted to him death,
    but life they retained in their own keeping"

  4. #4
    Senior Member David Halitsky's Avatar
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    If Amethystos is referring to me as an "American poet", I'm honored. Thank you, Amethystos.

    But if he's not referring to me, I'll answer his question anyway (heh heh heh).

    I'm a little confused by your phrase "describe a painting", Amethystos.

    But I think we're talking about the same thing, so permit me to answer your question this way.

    A Greek song (generally) paints a picture, and therefore, in order to translate the song out of Greek, one must REpaint its picture.

    An American song (generally) tells a story, and therefore, to translate the song out of English, one must REtell its story.

    Of these two tasks, it's my opinion that repainting a picture is much harder than retelling a story.

    Why? Because a story involves "narrative", and the very nature of "narrative" limits the way you can choose words and sentences when you try to REtell a story. You MUST always have verbs and subjects of verbs in narrative, and sometimes you'll also need objects of verbs and indirect objects of verbs.****

    But a picture has no predetermined structure (such as "narrative" structure). And therefore, there are no limitations on the way you can choose to repaint it.

    And whenever there are MORE choices, it is more difficult to make the RIGHT (or BEST) choices, i.e. choices that preserve both the NATURE and the QUALITY of the esthetic experience triggered by the original.

    So, repainting a picture (translating out of Greek) is more difficult than retelling a story (translating out of English.)

    That doesn't mean it can't be done - it just means that the translator must retrain himself so that he doesn't try to retell a story when he should be trying to repaint a picture.


    **** Narrative also requires both logical connectives like "because" or "in order to", and temporal connectives like "then" or "after". But there are no such things as connectives in a picture - the viewer is free to associate elements of the picture with one another any way at all.
    Last edited by David Halitsky; 01-15-2015 at 04:21 PM.

  5. #5
    Ange ou Demon Amethystos's Avatar
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    Of course I was referring to you, and it's a privilege to have you as an "explorer" of Greek lyrics on ATL.
    "Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to?
    You will never find that life for which you are looking.
    When the gods created man they allotted to him death,
    but life they retained in their own keeping"

  6. #6
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    Αμέθυστε γίνε ζωγράφος για λίγο. Ένα ωραίο παράδειγμα για τον φίλο μας.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u9GH0a4sP0

    Όλα τα κυπαρίσσια δείχνουνε μεσάνυχτα
    Όλα τα δάχτυλα
    Σιωπή

    Έξω από τ' ανοιχτό παράθυρο του ονείρου
    Σιγά σιγά ξετυλίγεται
    Η εξομολόγηση
    Και σαν θωριά λοξοδρομάει προς τ' άστρα!

    Οδυσσέας Ελύτης / Ηλίας Ανδριόπουλος



    Απόσπασμα από τα "Επτά νυχτερινά Επτάστιχα"
    Αν υπάρχει κάτι που δεν χρειάζεται την πλειοψηφία για να είναι σωστό, αυτό είναι η ανθρώπινη συνείδηση.

  7. #7
    Senior Member David Halitsky's Avatar
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    Thanks for that example Duffy. A beautiful poem and a beautiful song.

    Were you suggesting that Amethystos should become a painter for a while?

  8. #8
    Ange ou Demon Amethystos's Avatar
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    I believe Duffy wants me to translate Alepoudelis' lyrics.
    (I've already written in this forum that we're not poets to translate poems .... so I decided that I will never become a butcher)

    But truth is that there's already a translation in the following link (page9, number III) -> https://books.google.gr/books?id=nzP...chs%22&f=false

    All the cypresses point to midnight
    All the fingers
    Silence.
    Outside the dream's open window
    Τhe confession slowly unwinds
    And like a glance it swerves toward the stars!
    "Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to?
    You will never find that life for which you are looking.
    When the gods created man they allotted to him death,
    but life they retained in their own keeping"

  9. #9
    Senior Member David Halitsky's Avatar
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    I have been doing a little reading on Ελύτης, and I am of the opinion that no one should attempt to translate him before becoming reasonably familiar with his philosophy.

    This is because certain images in his work cannot be understood except with reference to his philosophy.

    Now - one can of course appreciate his poems for the beauty of his words and images - but one cannot pretend to appreciate their meaning except through the prism of his philosophy.

    Some poems (not all) of the English-language poet Yeats are like this - one of Yeats' most famous poems appears below, and in this poem there is a passage which one cannot understand without understanding the philosophical system which Yeats constructed for himself.

    This passage is:

    O sages standing in God’s holy fire
    As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
    Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, //regarding "gyre", see http://www.yeatsvision.com/geometry.html
    And be the singing-masters of my soul.

    in the poem:

    Sailing to Byzantium
    W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

    That is no country for old men. The young
    In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
    —Those dying generations—at their song,
    The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
    Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
    Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
    Caught in that sensual music all neglect
    Monuments of unageing intellect.

    An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
    Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
    For every tatter in its mortal dress,
    Nor is there singing school but studying
    Monuments of its own magnificence;
    And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
    To the holy city of Byzantium.

    O sages standing in God’s holy fire
    As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
    Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
    And be the singing-masters of my soul.
    Consume my heart away; sick with desire
    And fastened to a dying animal
    It knows not what it is; and gather me
    Into the artifice of eternity.

    Once out of nature I shall never take
    My bodily form from any natural thing,
    But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
    Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
    To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
    Or set upon a golden bough to sing
    To lords and ladies of Byzantium
    Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

  10. #10
    Ange ou Demon Amethystos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Halitsky View Post
    This is because certain images in his work cannot be understood except with reference to his philosophy.
    Yeap, it can take some more time to become familiar with his thoughts rather than with someone else.

    Thank you for sharing the info about Yates and your research about it.
    I suspect that during the later years of their life, great artists tend to create personal theories/philosophies.
    "Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to?
    You will never find that life for which you are looking.
    When the gods created man they allotted to him death,
    but life they retained in their own keeping"

  11. #11
    Senior Member feuersteve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duffy Dack View Post
    Αμέθυστε γίνε ζωγράφος για λίγο. Ένα ωραίο παράδειγμα για τον φίλο μας.
    χα χα χα χα χα χα

    Quote Originally Posted by Duffy Dack View Post
    Το τραγούδι είναι πολύ όμορφο.
    Gott zur Ehr, dem nächsten zur Wehr

    What if they gave a fire and nobody came.

  12. #12
    Senior Member David Halitsky's Avatar
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    Amethystos/Duffy - see last two posts in this thread

    http://www.musicheaven.gr/html/modul...037&gotolast=1

    for further discussion of the fact that Greek songs don't tell stories.

  13. #13
    Senior Member David Halitsky's Avatar
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    Here is one of those rare Greek songs that tells a story instead of painting a picture. Note that there is NO "imagery" whatsoever - just the words of the woman talking to her ex-lover. A very powerful song. English lyrics are below Greek.

    Συγγνώμη κύριε, ποιος είστε; - 1992
    Νίκος Καρβέλας
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtId3-dCZWc
    http://www.stixoi.info/stixoi.php?in...s&song_id=2028

    Δεν άκουσα. Πώς είπατε; Ορίστε;
    Συγγνώμη, κύριε, ποιος είστε;

    Μην απορείς που σου μιλάω στον πληθυντικό
    έτσι έχω μάθει εγώ σε ξένους να μιλάω.
    Μη μου μιλάς για μια αγάπη απ’ το παρελθόν
    γιατί ζηλεύεις που τώρα άλλον αγαπάω.

    Δεν άκουσα. Πώς είπατε; Ορίστε;
    Συγγνώμη, κύριε, ποιος είστε;
    Τι θέλεις από μένανε
    εγώ είμαι πια μια ξένη,
    τράβα στη γυναίκα σου
    που σε περιμένει.

    Δεν άκουσα. Πώς είπατε; Ορίστε;
    Συγγνώμη, κύριε, ποιος είστε;

    Μην απορείς που σου μιλάω τόσο τυπικά
    μη μου το παίζεις τάχα τόσο πληγωμένος.
    Εσύ για χρόνια που δεν ρώτησες
    αν πέθανα ή αν ζω
    τώρα μου έρχεσαι ξανά μετανιωμένος.

    English:

    I did not hear. What did you say? Excuse me?
    I am sorry Mister, who are you?

    Do not wonder that I speak to you in plural
    that is how I learned to talk to strangers.
    Do not speak of a love of the past to me
    because you are jealous that now I love somebody else

    I did not hear. What did you say? Excuse me?
    I am sorry Mister, who are you?

    What do you want from me
    I am a stranger now,
    go back to your wife
    that awaits you.

    I did not hear. What did you say? Excuse me?
    I am sorry Mister, who are you?

    Do not wonder that I speak to you formally
    do not pretend to be hurt.
    You, who for years did not ask
    whether I died or am still alive
    now you come to me again, remorseful.

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