Musical Translations II

Is it at all possible for music to be "translated"? If you are curious, then I hope you will look into this special issue of the Journal of Mediterranean Studies devoted to the theme: Musical Translations Across the Mediterranean - Issue Editors: Philip Ciantar and Franco Fabbri (Vol. 21, No. 2: 2012). Here below you can read the preface.


        “Let the meaning choose the word.”
           George Orwell


This Special Issue of the Journal of Mediterranean Studies is the result of several fortunate circumstances, as well as of the collaboration of a group of congenial and creative people. For the record, and to satisfy the legitimate curiosity of the reader, I would like to concisely explain how it happened.

The Study Group “Mediterranean Music Studies” (formerly “Anthropology of Music in Mediterranean Cultures”) has been active within the International Council for Traditional Music for many years, in fact since 1992, when Tullia Magrini, Professor at the University of Bologna initiated it. A couple of years ago the opportunity presented itself to organize its 8th Meeting at the Mediterranean Institute of the University of Malta. Indeed it was thanks to the enthusiasm and help by Dr. Simon Mercieca, Director of the Mediterranean Institute, that our Meeting materialized and took place in Malta from July, 1st to 4th, 2010.

Professor Martin Stokes, of St. John's College at Oxford, now at King's College in London, had suggested a wonderful theme for discussion: “Musical Translations across the Mediterranean”. That was a suggestion so rich in overtones ringing  throughout linguistics, literary criticism, anthropology and, of course, ethnomusicology, that could only be enthusiastically accepted. Even a physicist, computer scientist and student of cognitive processes. Douglas Hofstadter, expressed years ago his fascination for the concept of “translation” by applying it to “frames of reference” in general (Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language, Basic Books 1997). But most of all, and primarily, Martin Stokes' idea reminded me of how literary critic Harold Bloom, employed the word “misprision” to describe the process by which writers misread or misinterpret their literary predecessors so as to clear imaginative space for themselves (A Map of Misreading, Oxford University Press, 1975). One could very well argue that Bloom's “misprision”, applied on a larger scale, easily becomes the “cultural translation” that R.C.J. Young so aptly  described: “Translation is a way of thinking about how languages, people, and cultures are transformed as they move between different places. It can also be used more metaphorically, as a way of describing how the individual or the group can be transformed by changing their sense of their own place in society (Postcolonialism - A very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2003).

So fascinating is the theme that, unsurprisingly, it elicited wide and immediate interest, and with no difficulty at all I could obtain collaboration and set up a program committee made up of: Philip Ciantar (University of Malta), Ruth F. Davis (University of Cambridge, and Vice Chair of the Study Group), Simon Mercieca (University of Malta), Martin Stokes (Oxford University), and myself.

Once the Meeting came to its conclusion, Professor Paul Clough (Anthropology Department, University of Malta and General Editor of JMS) immediately suggested that some of the presentations could easily become essays, and give substance to a Special Issue of the Journal. That was also an opportunity that could not be missed. Thanks to Paul Clough, here we are now, with a fine selection of thought-provoking essays derived from those papers presented in Malta back then.

Only one thing needs to be added before I bring to conclusion this preface, and that is my heartfelt gratitude to the Program Committee, to all  participants to the Meeting, to Professor Philip V. Bohlman (University of Chicago) who opened it with his Keynote address, and, in a very special way indeed, to the editors of this Issue: Dr. Philip Ciantar (University of Malta), and Professor Franco Fabbri (University of Torino).

Marcello Sorce Keller
Chair, ICTM Study Group “Mediterranean Music Studies” 

Journal of Mediterranean Studies

Musical Translations Across the Mediterranean - Issue Editors: Philip Ciantar and Franco Fabri

Vol. 21, No. 2: 2012


Marcello Sorce-Keller

Philip Ciantar & Franco Fabbri

Early Music and the Mediterranean World: The Exploration of Hypothetical Worlds       
Britta Sweers   

Found in Translation: Epic, Song, and the Discovery of the Mediterranean   
Philip V. Bohlman   

Translating, ‘Music of Foreign Nations’: Perspectives of a Comparative Musicologist in Mandatory Palestine   
Ruth F. Davis   

Translating from Nothing and Everything: Israel’s Habrera Hativeet (‘Natural Gathering’) in Retrospective    
Edwin Seroussi   

Jewish Music from Jerusalem to Jerusalem: The Mediterranean Timeless Music   
Gila Flam   

Translating American-Jewish Feminism through Mediterranean Music: Reflections on Consuelo Luz’s Compositions within the Context of Crypto-Jewish Tradition   
Sarah Ross   

Rebetiko as a Testing Device for Genre Theories and Musical Categorizing Processes   
Franco Fabbri   

Songs, Sounds ad Sentiments in Translation: The Transnational Travels of Corsican and Georgian Polyphony   
Caroline Bithell   

Su Raap: Sardinian Hip Hop between Mass Culture and Local Specificities   
Marco Lutzu   

Translating and Rebuilding Mediterranean Musical Place: Italian-American Musical Culture from Sheet Music to The Sopranos   
Michael Saffle

Singing/Hearing the Outerness: An Analysis of Hermeneutical Perspectives on the Relationships between Bellinian and Sicilian Song   
Francesco Del Bravo   

Translated Repertoires in Malta, from Secular to Religious: The Case of Vincenzo Mifsud and other Maltese Composers of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century   
Simon Mercieca