Wednesday, January 19, 2011
"La Belle Vie" and "The Good Life"
And both are great :) For no apparent reasons, today I listened to Sacha Distel's "La Belle Vie" and "The Good Life", English version sang by Sinatra, comparing over and over again for about 10+ times :) My French husband said Distel is like "grandma's song" but as a violinist, it interests me immensely how singers carry their words and phrases, in any genre.
I'm particularly interested in the pronunciation of words and the rhyme; it is very much like articulation in string playing, at least to me. Articulation on strings, I mean the way the sound starts, is the consonances in songs. I think that string composition and string articulation are very closely related to each other--you can have beautiful sustaining tones but if you don't start and end the sound in the way which you are meant to project, the phrases don't truly speak.
I did this Distel (French) and Sinatra (English) "listening match", and as expected the original French version has more rhyming with clear consonances, articulating the music the way it was intended. The English version "The Good Life", the translation or re-write of the original lyrics written by Distel and Jean Broussole, are completely different, and the lyrics don't even mean the same thing. Musically I hear almost a completely different composition. I don't mean to say it's bad; I like Sinatra's juicy volumptuous voice very much, so it's a different song.
I also listen to "The Girl from Ipanema" a lot, comparing Sinatra/Jobim. In this amazing footage, Sinatra singing in English, starts out with the band clearly marking the downbeats for him, for otherwise quite rhythmically intricate piece. Then they switch to Jobim with his guitar singing in Portuguese. His lyrics are very different, syllables quite pronounced and rhymed, and of course completely off-beat. Sinatra himself hears the difference and murmurs at 0'34" mark, "That's the only way!".
When songs are imported from one language to another, it often seems to become almost a different song, except the notes and harmony are the same. Does this apply to instrumental music? Maybe if Chopin, Liszt, Vivaldi or Paganini were alive, those of us who play their works in the way "we" play, might actually sound completely different from how these composer/performer intended. Even with scholarly performance practice studies, there are no surviving recordings. Maybe what we are "interpreting", the works from the past, without the "correct" articulation and phrasing, we maybe merely tracing something that once was a completely different composition....
I attach below the lyrics of "La Belle Vie" and "The Good Life" I found on the internet.
"La Belle Vie"
Ô la belle vie
Hum la belle vie
On est seul
On est libre
Et l'on s'aime.
On s'amuse à passer avec tous ses copains
Des nuits blanches
Qui se penchent
Sur les petits matins.
Mais la belle vie
Oui la belle vie
On est triste
Et l'on traîne.
Alors pense que moi je t'aime
Et quand tu auras compris
Je serai là
"The Good Life"
It's the good life, full of fun, seems to be the ideal,
Yes, the good life, lets you hide all the sadness you feel,
You won't really fall in love 'cause you can't take the chance,
So be honest with yourself, don't try to fake romance.
Yes, the good life, to be free and explore the unknown,
Like the heartache when you learn you must face them alone,
Please remember I still want you and in case you wonder why,
Well, just wake up, kiss that good life goodbye.