Tag Archives: Linguistics

“They don’t die, they’re killed”

Sok Duch_22-02-13 copy

As ethnomusicology increasingly engages the topic of genre viability, the rhetoric used to characterize the issues must be carefully considered.

Parallel concerns in the field of linguistics have long involved the term language endangerment, and some linguists have argued for the use of more uncomfortable terms—language death, language murder, language genocide, and even language suicide—in an effort to convey strong messages about the agency and urgency of particular situations.

The current focus of some ethnomusicologists on ecological concepts such as sustainability is encouraging, but few scholars are bold enough to use more violent rhetoric when it is justified.

This according to “‘They don’t die, they’re killed’: The thorny rhetoric around music endangerment and music sustainability” by Catherine Grant (Sound matters 15 April 2015).

Above, Master-musician Sok Duck, 87 years old and one of the very few artists to survive the Khmer Rouge regime, continues to make efforts to pass on his skills to younger-generation Cambodians; below, the video for the SoundFutures research project draws on the ecosystem metaphor to argue for the need to support music sustainability.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology

Mozart and folk proverbs

Mozart’s epistolary style was based on spoken traditions, not written ones; his spontaneous use of language—including rich proverbial speech—gives his lively and telling letters their linguistic and emotional authenticity.

Examples include:

  • “Of what use is a great sensation and rapid fortune? It never lasts. Chi va piano, va sano. One must just cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth.”

  • “Now I sit like a rabbit in the pepper! The first act was finished more than three weeks ago…but I cannot compose any more, because the whole story is being altered.”

  • “Yes, my dear little cello, it’s the way of the world, I’m told. Tom has the purse and Dick has the gold; and whoever has neither has nothing, and nothing is equal to very little, and little is not much; therefore nothing is still less than little, and little is still more than not much, and much is still more than little and—so it is, was, and ever shall be.”

This from “‘Nun sitz ich wie der Haass im Pfeffer”: Sprichwörtliches in Mozarts Briefen” by Wolfgang Mieder (Augsburger Volkskundliche Nachrichten XII/16 [December 2002] pp. 7–50; an English translation is in Journal of folklore research XL/I [January–April 2003] pp. 33–70).

Mozart’s appreciation of folklore extended to music as well; below, Clara Haskil plays his variations on the folk song Ah, vous dirai-je maman.

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Filed under Classic era, Curiosities