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MUS8016 : Translation for Singing

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


1. A heightened awareness of the cultural, musical, and linguistic contexts and specificities of a selection of songs and musical dramas composed in three or more foreign languages (which may include Chinese, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese) and how they impact on their translation into other cultures/languages.
2. A better acquaintance with theories, principals, and strategies of translation in general, and of song translation in particular (ie musico vs. logo-centrisim), and the applicability of these to different vocal genres.
3. 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 (Western musical theatre, zarzuela, operetta, Singspiel, ballad opera).
4. Enhancement of language skills, even with no prior knowledge of the languages being studied. SML students will experience a deepening of their knowledge of their primary and secondary languages but also exposure to the translation of unknown languages via paraphrases.
5. A deeper knowledge 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.
5. The introduction and enhancement of public speaking skills, which may or may not involve ad hoc and formative performance of vocal lines.
6. An understanding of how cooperation, inspiration, and compromise work in collaborative creative practice, given a joint practical objective of producing a performable translation of a vocal work or works.

Outline Of Syllabus

•       Key issues in translation for musical and dramatic performance
•       Workshops on translation of sung texts in various languages.
•       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.
•       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 portfolios

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion134:0034:00Preparation of self-reflective written work
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture42:008:00Introduction to translation techniques and vocal music translation in various languages (PIP)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1100:00100:00Theoretical/practical research and readings
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical44:0016:00Staff supervised/student led group translation meetings leading to assessed submission (PIP)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching32:006:00Collaborative workshops on translation based on lectures (PIP)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching13:003:00Seminar - Student presentations of workshop outcomes and peer feedback (PIP)
Guided Independent StudyProject work133:0033:00Preparation for small-group work
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
MUS2055Translation for Singing
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This course is a combination of 1) lectures, and 2) staff-led workshops to introduce students to translation of song in various languages with short group exercises and student presentations and discussions of these exercises, and 3) staff-supervised collaborative work in groups with the aim of producing an assessed English translation of a foreign-language vocal work.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1A20Group or individual portfolio
Reflective log1A80Individual written submission reflecting on group translation process and final product
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 (with the possible exception of PG students, see Assessment above). 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, typically in one language and in one genre. Submitted portfolios will therefore consist of:
•       a certain number of translations of pop songs or
•       a certain number of minutes of translated choral music from a single choral work or
•       a certain number of minutes of translated music from an opera or
•       a certain number of minutes of musical theatre.
Submission of annotated musical scores are optional, but perhaps necessary for some genres, given that the relationship of text underlay to musical notation (altered or original) may be important for examiners to understand (for pop music, this may take the form of an informal audio file)/
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.

Reading Lists