Chinese poetry of Li Po set by four twentieth century British composer: Bantock, Warlock, Bliss, and Lambert

by Hsieh, Ching-Hsuan Lily

Abstract (Summary)
This study on Li Po’s poetry finds that Chinese poetry (like the poetry of any language) loses its inherent qualities in translation. This is especially true of English translations of Chinese poetry because the two languages are so markedly different. This study explores the effects of translation on the character of musical settings of the eighth century poet Li Po by four British composers (Bantock, Warlock, Bliss, and Lambert). None of these composers had a working knowledge of Chinese language, poetic conventions, or traditional Chinese music. They all relied on the skills of translators of the Chinese poems they chose to set; the translators therefore played a key role in determining the aesthetic qualities of the musical settings in many ways. Because of a lack of musical common ground between traditional Chinese music and Western music, it was determined that this study would focus on two main aspects of this problem: (1) the examination of the relationship between the original poems and their English translations, and (2) the comparison of the aesthetic values found in Li Po’s poetry and those of the composer’s particular musical settings. Bantock set “Adrift” and “Under the Moon” from Songs from the Chinese Poets (translated by L. Cranmer-Byng). Warlock set “Along the Stream” from Saudades (translated by L. Cranmer-Byng). Bliss set The Ballads of the Four Seasons (translated by Shigeyoshi Obata). Lambert set Four Poems by Li-Po and Three Poems by Li-Po (translated by Shigeyoshi Obata). The study found that the Cranmer-Byng’s Victorian style translations were not faithful to the aesthetics of Li Po, while Obata’s imagist-influenced translations successfully reflected the aesthetics of Li Po. As a result, the Bliss and Lambert settings more closely approximate Li Po’s poetic intentions, while the Bantock and Warlock settings are far less closely aligned with Li Po’s poetic intentions. The study showed that misguided translations of poetry can lead to aesthetic misrepresentations in musical settings.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:chinese poetry of li po twentieth century british composers


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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