Module Catalogue 2022/23

MUS2055 : Translation for Singing

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Larry Zazzo
  • Lecturer: Dr Damien Hall, Dr Valerie Pellatt
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment

This module will also be available to non-Music, non SML students. For these students, admission onto the module is possible with relevant equivalent musical or linguistic experience upon approval of Module Leader.

Co Requisites
Code Title
CHN4061Level D (HE Further Advanced) Chinese
MUS2058Performance Studies 2
MUS3012Major Specialist Study: Composition
MUS2050Composition and Arrangement in Folk and Modal Musics
SML4004Intermediate Italian
CHN4010Level C (HE Advanced) Chinese
FRE4081Level D (HE Further Advanced) French: Advanced Writing Skills
MUS2048Free Music Practice: Experimental Pop & Interdisciplinary Performance
CHN4040Level D (HE Further Advanced) Chinese for 3-year programme
Co Requisite Comment

In the semester in which they are taking Translation for Singing, SML students must have taken or be currently taking at least one module from the following list which corresponds to a language which will be covered in Translation for Singing in that year. NB the languages covered in Translation for Singing will vary from year to year depending on staff availability. Music students must have taken, or be taking, at least one of the MUS modules listed.

These corequisites are intended to ensure that SML students taking this module are at the highest UG level in at least one language. The Translation for Singing module will require students to work with several languages. Basic prose translations into English will always be provided, as the focus in Translation for Singing will be on translation techniques and not on knowledge of foreign languages per se. Music students taking this module are not required to speak any foreign languages, but co-requisites ensure that they bring a similarly high level of awareness of musical vocal performance and/or composition to the collaborative translation work. Any disparities in the relative mix of Music and SML students within groups will be taken into account in assessment of portfolios, and staff will provide necessary oversight to ensure that any perceived disparity does not affect the working abilities of students in any one group.

SML Students must be in their final year of study and taking Level C Chinese, Level D Chinese, Level D French or Intermediate Italian in order to take this module.

This module will also be available to non-Music, non SML students. For these students, these co-requisites are not applicable and admission onto the module is possible from Stage 2 onwards, with relevant equivalent musical or linguistic experience upon approval of Module Leader.


This module aims to bring students of music and modern languages together, to give both sets of students a solid grounding in a specific type of translation. For students of modern languages, this should be of use in their development as translators. For students of singing and musical composition, this should be of use in their development as performing singers and composers of vocal music. For students of both music and modern languages, this module should contribute to a heightened awareness of how speech rhythms, linguistic construction, and 'literal' meanings of texts intersect, reinforce, or conflict with the demands of an accompanying musical 'text'. It will also develop skills in collaborative creative practice, engaging diverse skill sets to create group translations.

Outline Of Syllabus

•       Key issues in translation for musical and dramatic performance
•       Workshops on translation of sung texts in various languages.
o       The languages focussed on will depend on the staff available in any given year, but will typically include a maximum of three from the following: French, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and German.
o       The sung texts will be from various genres, typically including opera; musical theatre; art, pop and folk song; and choral music.

A typical syllabus might be as follows:
Week 1             Translation Theory for Performance
Week 2             Lecture on translation of sung music in language 1      
Week 3             Workshop on translation of sung music in language 1      
Week 4             Lecture on translation of sung music in language 2
Week 5             Workshop on translation of sung music in language 2      
Week 6             Lecture on translation of sung music in language 3
Week 7             Workshop on translation of sung music in language 3      
Week 8             Guest Lecture/ Student collaborative translation workshop, working towards assessment
Week 9             Student collaborative translation workshop, working towards assessment
Week 10             Student collaborative translation workshop, working towards assessment      
Week 11 Student presentations of submission-ready portfolios

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Students should have a good critical awareness of:
1. A heightened awareness of the cultural, musical, and linguistic contexts of non-English song and musical drama, and how these impact the strategies for their translation into English.

2. A better acquaintance with theories, principals, and strategies of translation in general, and of song translation in particular (ie musico- vs. logo-centrism), and the applicability of these to different vocal genres.

3. A deeper understanding of the genre and style features of music featuring sung text, in whatever genre, and how musical forms interact, enhance, and sometimes collide with speech rhythms and syntax.

4. An understanding of how cooperation, inspiration, and compromise work in collaborative creative practice, given the joint practical objective of producing a performable translation of a vocal work or works.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1. Via a series of collaborative workshops, the enhancement of translation skills in a number of texts set to music, which may include popular, folk, art and choral song, classical Western and Chinese opera, and any number of dramatic musical genres (eg Western-style musical theatre, zarzuela, operetta, Singspiel, ballad opera).

2. Enhancement of linguistic skills, even with no prior knowledge of the source languages being studied (students will have access to an English paraphrase). Students with any prior knowledge of the source languages will experience a deepening of their syntactical knowledge, while all will experience a heightened knowledge of pronunciation and syntactical principles of the source foreign languages.

3. The ability to rhythmically adapt—and awareness of the limits/trade-offs of such adaptation— of pre-existing musical vocal lines to accommodate a new English text. Students with singing and/or musical composition experience will deepen their understanding of how multiple languages are set to music, and how musical and linguistic meaning are mediated via various genres of song.

3. Students will learn the collaborative skills necessary to work in a group of individuals with diverse skill sets in order to creatively produce singable translations for performance. This will include the ability to reflect on and critically evaluate one's own translations, while being able to give constructive criticism of the creative product of others.

4. The introduction and enhancement of public speaking/performing skills, which may involve the ad hoc, formative performance of vocal lines and in-workshop presentation of results.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture42:008:00Introduction to translation techniques and vocal music translation in various languages (PIP)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion134:0034:00Preparation of self-reflective written work
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1100:00100:00Theoretical/practical research & readings engaging with challenges of translating texts
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical44:0016:00Staff supervised/ student led group translation meetings leading to assessed submission (PIP)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching13:003:00Seminar - Student presentations of workshop outcomes and peer feedback (PIP)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching32:006:00Collaborative workshops on translation based on lectures (PIP)
Guided Independent StudyProject work133:0033:00Preparation for small-group work
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
MUS8016Translation for Singing
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This course is a combination of 1) lectures, and staff-led workshops to introduce students to translation of song in various languages with short group exercises, student presentations and discussions of these exercises, and 2) staff-supervised collaborative work in groups with the aim of producing an assessed English translation of a foreign-language vocal work.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1A20Group portfolio. Size will depend on genre of music and language chosen. A group mark will be given
Reflective log1A80Individual written submission, reflecting on group translation process and final product (3000 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students on this module will work in groups. The groups will be assembled by the teaching staff. Each group will contain at least one Music Student and at least one Modern Languages student. In practice groups are expected to contain more than one of each type of student. Groups will also be arranged so that each group contains students studying as many different languages as possible, so as to discourage a predominance of a single language expertise in any one group.

The portfolios of singing translation will be done in common by each group, so that each group hands in one portfolio. The aim here is to reflect the collaborative nature of musical productions, and of translation in particular. Students will choose from a ‘menu’ of proposed selections of music, per language and per musical genre. For each language offered, portfolios will consist of:
•       a certain number of pop songs or
•       a certain number of minutes of choral music or
•       a certain number of minutes of opera or
•       a certain number of minutes of musical theatre.

The reflective commentary will be done by students individually, making observations and conclusions about the group’s work over the semester, and also their own contribution to it. As this accounts for most of the weight of assessment for the module, students who contribute more than others will not be penalised for the nature of the group they are in. Students’ own marks will also be able to be influenced by the amount of relevant theoretical material they include in their commentary.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.