Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Respighi and the Doppler Effect

This morning on Radio 3 I caught a snatch of Respighi's Pines of Rome, specifically the fourth movement, Pini della Via Appia, which according to the presenter depicts Roman legionaries marching to (or from?) Rome. From the sound of it, my feeling is that they were probably marching back to Rome after one of their less successful campaigns; the 'marching' ostinato sounds to me rather disgruntled. (And, if the word's new to you, think of the English cognate obstinate  – it's a stubbornly repetitive bass line [well, usually bass; there may be exceptions – in matters musical I'm a dilettante {delighting in it}, rather than a cognoscente {knowing about it}]).

Which leads me, more or  less seamlessly, on to Italian words in music – not a boring list (that's what Wikipedia's for), just a few that have piqued my interest.
<digression theme="pique">
I wonder if pique has anything to do with pizzicato...? That'll have to remain FFS as they say in the OSI world: 'For Further Study', though it would,  if true,  exemplify the tendency of Italian loans and derivations dealing with the arts, while Spanish loans and derivations tend to deal with the more immediate and physical;  picante is the Spanish word I'm thinking of, obviously connected with pique.

On the other hand, Ital... no, no time for even-handedness now.
Italian words and music go together, though 'Italian' is a concept that post-dates a lot of music we listen to.
<autobiographical_note date_range="1999-2002" theme="Italian">
A good few years ago, I sang (not with my present choir) Howard Blake's Song of St Francis. The setting was mid-late 20th century, but the text was by St Francis of Assisi, written in whatever Italic dialect he spoke –Umbrian of the 13th century, probably.  But saying it was written in that dialect is an oversimplification. Vulgar Latin had various different substrates – whatever medium of spoken communication underlay it – throughout Romania (in the historical sense of 'that part of the world that was directly influenced by the Romans'). St Francis may have thought (if he thought about it at all)  he was writing Latin. Strongly influenced as his life was by Latin texts, it is probably a rather Latinate form of his dialect.

Anyway, speculation like that is something I left behind 40-odd years ago. The point is that during rehearsals people asked now and then about the text – sometimes 'in the original', sometimes 'in the Italian' sometimes 'in the Latin'. And after a while, knowing that I knew a bit about languages, they asked me  'What is it, Bob?' But my answer left a lot to be desired. It wasn't 'Latin'; it wasn't (just) Umbrian; it certainly wasn't Italian – a language that wouldn't be codified for several centuries.

Shortly afterwards, the same choir sang from Verdi's Nabucco. OK, by now it can be called 'Italian'. But that doesn't mean it's the sort of Italian you'll find in Parliamo Italiano
The word for 'where' has a chequered history in the Romance Languages. Simply put (which is all I'm up to) it is derived from UBI [='where'] or UNDE [='where from']with or without an initial DE. So French  comes from UBI, Italian dove comes from DE + UBI and Spanish is 'etymologically pleonastic' when it asks  'Where are you from?'; '¿De dónde eres?' starts with  DE DE UNDE, meaning 'from[from[from where]]]'. To flesh out the Iberian picture, confirming the preference for derivation from UNDE, Portuguese has onde and Catalan has on.

In his text for Va pensiero, Verdi (or his librettist if he had one ...?) does not use dove, in
Ove olezzano tepide e molli 
L'aure dolci del suolo natal
(something like that – it's a while since I sang it... Yes, here it is:

) the ove shows that at one stage some Italic dialects followed the French path, without an initial d. And what in modern Italian would be aire is aure (reminiscent, to me, of the two possible forms in Portuguese of the word derived from CAUSA(M): Fr. chose, Italian and Spanish cosa, but Portuguese [modern Continental Portuguese, that is] either coisa or cousa  – to be filed under Interesting but irrelevant I suspect). And as for olezzare, my Italian dictionary (admittedly not the most scholarly of tomes) does not recognize it at all.
It's fine. Lousy dictionary.
Oops. Tempus has fugitted, in the immortal words of my old maths master. I'll get on to those musical terms in an update.



But I can't leave you guessing about Doppler. I thought, when I first heard that Respighi piece – in a realization a bit like Bob Peck's in Jurassic Park, when he thinks he's hunting a velociraptor but there are actually two, hunting him, and his last words are 'Clever girl' – that the ostinato bass mimicked the Doppler Effect by falling in pitch at the high point of the crescendo, to mark the arrival in the foreground of the marching soldiers. But I checked on YouTube, and I was wrong. Pity.

Update 2014.09.11.09:20  – Added red bits.

Update 2014.09.14.21:45  – Added this update, [a few more thoughts about musical terminology.]

It was my mentor Joe Cremona (mentioned in several of my other posts – see the word  cloud on the right)  who pointed out that Italian native speakers pronounce mezzo with the voiced affricate /ʣ/ and prezzo with the unvoiced affricate /ʦ/ without – for the most part – knowing the reason: that the one with voicing is derived from MEDIU(M) and the one without voicing from PRETIU(M). Yet I've never heard a mezzo-soprano called (in English) a /meʣəʊ/.  Of course I'm not saying the English pronunciation 'should' have the /ʣ/;  it's just interesting that it doesn't.

Another double letter in musical terminology forms one of a pair of similar-looking little notes, distinguished only by a "/" through one of them: the appoggiatura and the acciacatura. In the second of these, the "i" softens the "c", so that the word has five syllables: [a'ʧakatura]. Again, the only pronunciation I have heard (admittedly rarely) is [aki.aka'tura]; and again I'm not suggesting that anyone 'should' do anything.

The appoggiatura 'leans on' or 'presses on' the note it precedes; (Mozart was a great fan). Meanwhile, the acciacatura is a sort of sneeze squashed in before the note it precedes. And music theoreticians about to raise an eyebrow at that sneeze metaphor will be interested – though possibly not convinced – by my mnemonic for remembering which is which: acciacatura/atchoo.
 And, incidentally, no less an authority than Gyles Brandreth claimed on the radio a few weeks ago that 'atishoo' is derived from à tes souhaits, which takes the biscuit, I suspect, in the too-good-to-be-true department. I must look into it, but it smacks to me of folk etymology.

I imagine the Italian appoggiare is cognate with the French appuyer. But the Spanish ignores the double p and has just apoyar. Another musical double letter, attacca(r), has lost the second double letter in the French attaquer. But Spanish dispenses with both: atacar.
<digression theme ="Spanish and double consonants">
In fact, Spanish and  double stops don't mix. Which leads some people to say Spanish has no double consonants. Au contraire. 'But the dog...' leads to the most obvious counter-example: pero el perro...  

I am on shakier ground when I point to ll and even shakier with ñ. What Spanish seems to have done is this: take double consonants and give them independence as new autonomous letters. Children's alphabet blocks in Spain have both l and ll. And students using Spanish dictionaries are often confounded by the  fact that llama doesn't fall after liar and before lobo; ll is a whole 'nother letter.

The ñ really is a new letter (in that it's a different shape from nn). But that is where it came from – the manuscript convention that saves ink, space, and effort by writing nn as ñ. A lady in Portuguese is donna; in Spanish it's doña.
But where was I? (Late for my 8 o'clock, that's where.)

Update 2014.09.25.12:15 – Updated footer

Update 2015.05.12.14:15 – Added musical illustration

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