Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nights in White Satin Across Europe

One way to experience America's cultural impact on the world is to hear English language songs rendered into other languages. Back in the 1970's, a German singer named Juliane Werding recorded a song in German "Wildes Wasser", which translated as "Wild Water"

Though the music remains similar, Werding writes new lyrics to the original melody. This often occurs as music crosses the ocean. Werding's lyrics are as follows, along with my translation under each line

Wildes Wasser

Kind einer Party
Child of a Party

Alibi einer Nacht
Alibi for a night

erst zum Reden erzogen -
trained to speak

dann zum Schweigen gebracht.
and brought to silence

Aufgewachsen im Schatten
Grew up in the shadows

ewig hungrig nach Macht
always longing for strength

mit sich selbst nie zufrieden
never satisfied with herself

und fast berstend vor Kraft.
and almost bursting with energy

Hastige Liebe
impulsive love

weil du neugierig bist
because you are curious

erste Enttäuschung - sie prägt dein Gesicht
first disappointment it shows on your face

schlaflose Nächte - Briefe
sleepless nights and letters

die keiner liest
that no one reads

Flucht in die Träume - am Ende doch nichts.
Flight in dreams But in the end nothing

Angst vor der Zukunft
fear of the future


die keiner will
that no one wants (to hear)

das ewige Gestern
the eternal past

das dein Morgen zerstört
that ruins your tomorrow

so lebst du heute - verschwendest die Zeit
so you live today - and waste your time

ein Tiger in Ketten
a tiger in chains

zu allem bereit:
resigned to everything

Wildes Wasser
wild water

schwelendes Feuer
smoldering fire

schau in den Spiegel - das bist du.
look in the mirror- that is you

It is interesting to follow the path of a melody through the refractory qualities of different languages. Sometimes the words set to the same melody are a complete break in meaning and tone. The German lyrics above convey sadness and disillusionment. The Italian lyrics translated in the video below for English speaking listeners convey a blissful longing with a mysterious allusion to "a letter that will never be sent". The longing in the song seems to resonate in the heart without ever finding a voice or making eye contact. It is the sort of song that could however give voice to nascent love, lending with its force an eloquence to a faint hearted listener.

The Italian and the German version are both very different from the Moody Blues original. The German differs in literal meaning. It deals with the disillusionment and loneliness of looking at past mistakes. The Italian is close in literal meaning to the original, although it diverges in the stylistic sense. I am including videos in all three languages in this posting. I thank the makers of the Italian video for providing a translation that is very useful for writing this article. I apologise to Italian readers who may note my omission of I Nomadi and their song "Ho Difeso Il Mio Amore, set to the same melody.

Moody Blues nights in White Satin
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