Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kings, Dukes, Cowboys

local chateau

I'm cheating a little with this photo - I took it back in December, when snow was still a novelty. It's one of the local chateaux, which aside from having a moat and drawbridge and sitting very strikingly on a hill is also the place you go to get your car registered.

Finally gave in and got a winter cold and sore throat, and yesterday I could barely move. Today is better. I have to get better fast, we've got a gig in Le Dorat Saturday night. A new place for us, owned by a Scottish couple. We'll play in the 11th century cave that they've renovated.

We managed to translate the joint biography Eric and I have for gigs, with the help of our friend Emmanuel, into French. Much more challenging than you'd think but it seems a must for trying to get more work in France. When you consider that the term for "freelance musician" is "intermittent du spectacle", you kind of get the idea how wordy things can become. We were reduced, at one point, to going on Johnny Hallyday's website to find some language for summing up almost sixty combined years playing music. Forget it - the guy is too much of a monolith to need any basic biographic info. But his site is awesome!

The more French I learn, the more I wonder about basic style and subtlety - and all those French films I've seen translated into English, and whether I've really seen them at all. Looking at the reverse - take for example, Roger Miller's "King Of The Road" (on the soundtrack "Into The Wild which we watched the other night). On the screen, the lyrics rolled by for "Le roi de la route" and if you took the meaning literally from the translation, instead of a lowdown hobo vagrant type Roger sounded like some fussy fop doing a little slumming in a boxcar.

Or the title of another movie I got out of the library: "Macadam Cowboy". Which we decided was preferable to "Cowboy du Minuit". Or, my current favorite - "Shérif, fais-moi peur!" - "Dukes Of Hazard". Learning a language is just the beginning - there's a whole mentality that goes along with it all. I guess being bilingual is when you can pick and choose, one from Column A, one from Column B, depending on which suits the situation best. Maybe fluency is also reading cues that aren't conveyed by language at all - getting the intention from picking up on the style.

Now I'm listening to Eric finish up the mixes for the Gil Rose et les Hydropathes album he recorded here. I got to sing a little on it. They are my new favorite group, sing mostly in French and some English - a perfect blend of style and content. I think Johnny and Roger would both approve.


Wreckless Eric said...

Are you becoming a fan of old Djauney A l'Idee? This is a worrying trend... "Allumez le feu, allumez le feu, allumez allumez.. merde, ou sont mes paroles?"

the fly in the web said...

I know what you mean about wondering whether the translations you took for granted when your French wasn't so hot actually did translate the mood and the style of what you were reading or watching.

On the reverse side, I was reading an Ian Rankin in French...and it creaked....but I noticed one reference to Arthur Daley - U.K. T.V. character - which the po faced translator took for a reference to some American journalist who won the Pullizer Prize.
A translator really has to be under the skin of the culture whose language they are translating, and, I suppose, for immigrants moving to France,it takes time to understand what is going on in the French mentality.
After twenty years I can still be astonished at how far apart our starting points can be when considering a problem.

amy said...

Maybe it was just the website, Eric - he's singing live, a song called "Tennessee" (?) - very stirring!

tfitw, I still have a tough time watching films in French without subtitles, but CSI and Inspecteur Barnaby are about my speed now.
I got a kick out of what you wrote on your blog, about clothing and dressing up in France. All these differences do make the simplest things in life interesting - it feels like one could live here several decades and still feel alien. And there's something very reassuring about that. And exhausting, at the same time.

the fly in the web said...

Yes, it's like being an anthropologist without the training!

Rosie said...

nice to see a picture of your house at last!
It is well worth your while to be intermittent de spectacle if you can manage it. You must declare yourself to ANPE as a demandeur d'emploi. Then insist that every date you play in France is declared under this regime. You have to do a certain number of dates per year I think it is between 40 and 50 these days. What you may not know is that you can declare dates that you work outside of france if they are organised by an association or agent based in France. there are, of course, course companies willing to do this for a fee. send me a mail if you want to know more. I was intermittent de spect here for 18 years. It is a highly regulated system because it is so generous...

amy said...

thank you Rosie, for helping unlock the mystery a little! I feel much closer to figuring it out.