This page displays some of the intersemiotic translations produced by participants on the Soundscapes course as their final assignment.

GUILHERME BRAGA (CETAPS), literary translator and translation scholar

“The Tyrtle”, translation of Saint Saëns’s Les tortues into a (very short) poem

“Since ‘Les tortues’ is a musical pastiche which consists first and foremost in slowing down Offenbach’s ‘Can-Can’ in order to represent the turtle’s slowness with a playful and somewhat comical result, the first thing I did was to think about texts with a fast and bounding rhythm which could be slowed down to similar effect. It was not long before I came upon Blake’s ‘The Tyger’, which had the extra advantage of already having an animal as a theme. I assumed that ‘Can-Can’’s fast rhythm, with clearly alternating strong notes on the beat and weak notes on eight-note subdivisions between the beats, was naturally similar to ‘The Tyger’’s fast trochaic rhythm, so that just keeping the rhythm identical in an intersemiotic translation would be enough to convey the notion of ‘fast’. The idea of how to slow the verses down was suggested by a feature unique to ‘Les Tortues’ – namely, the accompanying triplet rhythm played by the piano. I thought that using three-syllable instead of two-syllable feet might do the trick: in this case the lines would contain a larger number of unstressed syllables between the stressed syllables, which in turn would make the text move along more slowly. I also chose words that feature consonant-rich syllables (in order to slow the rhythm down even more) as well as dark-sounding vowels (in order to make the spoken text feel heavier). The interplay between the simultaneous rhythmic patterns in ‘Les Tortues’ was eventually expressed by alternating between disyllable-based and (mostly) trisyllable-based lines: the former would function as a rhythmic and intertextual reference to Blake’s ‘Tyger’, whereas the latter would act as a rendering of Saint-Saëns lumbering ‘Tortues’ into textual form.

The ‘burly-esque’ pun offered itself spontaneously and seemed fitting and playful enough to warrant its use, whereas the use of ‘plough’ as a deceptive eye-rhyme was incorporated in order to reference the problem of how to pronounce ‘symmetry’ in Blake’s original poem. Once the translation was complete I also figured that the spelling of ‘Turtle’ could be changed to ‘Tyrtle’ so as to further parody Blake’s ‘Tyger’.”

             The Tyrtle
Tyrtle, tyrtle, lumbering low,
While you laggingly and ponderously plough;
What a burly-esque tableau,
Seeing that you run late to the can-can show!

RICARDA VIDAL (King’s College, London), cultural studies scholar, translator, curator, text-maker

“The Bumblebee”, translation into visual art of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Flight of the Bumblebee

“I tried to visualise the timbre and pitch in mainly light or bright pastel colours, with just some darker colour bands to reflect the lower notes. The music is also represented spatially with the lighter colours dominating the upper bit of the drawing. I then animated my original drawing in a frantic and chaotic but also rhythmic, cyclical and repetitive manner to visualise the frantic rhythm of the music and the repetition of movements. The drawing is meant to buzz and vibrate like the strings of the violines or the wings of the bumblebee.”

FILIPA CRUZ (CESEM/Nova University of Lisbon), musicologist

“Fugitive visions”, translation into poetry of Sergei Prokofiev’s Fugitive Visions, nº1 op. 22

“I tried to replicate the ABA’B’ structure of the piece, as well as its short duration, with a four-line poem. To establish the connection between the first sections and the altered repetitions, I repeated verses 1 and 2 in verses 3 and 4 with small additions or changes that reflected the addition of a second melodic line made of quavers in section A’ and the uncertainty of section B’. More specifically, in section B, I hear a question and an answer, and in section B’ the melodic contour (moving up) and harmony point to an idea of an unanswered question, so, in verse 4, I answer the first question with another question. The tempo is slow (Lentamente) and reminded me of a walking stride (maybe this isn’t the right expression?), which, in combination with the unstable harmony, influenced the content of the poem – “I walk with no purpose”. I also tried to use small words and small sentences, because the melodic line comes across as a series of isolated notes that float above the chords. In short, I tried to consider the structure, the harmony, the melodic contour and the tempo/rhythm and tried to conjugate them and consider how they could be manifested through the poem’s content and form. I hope this description isn’t too confusing!”

I walk down this path
with no purpose
Could it be? It couldn’t
be. I walk (down this path)
with no (without a single)
Could that be it? That
couldn’t be it, right?

ÁFRICA VIDAL (U. Salamanca), translation scholar, and SOFIA LACASTA MILLERA (U. Salamanca), PhD student in Translation Studies

“The Typewriter”, translation into visual art of Leroy Anderson’s Typewriter

Our intersemiotic translation of Leroy Anderson’s musical work The Typewriter (1950) attempts to demonstrate that reading is no longer just a passive act. Through the play with words beyond the page we translate form: just as Anderson breaks the traditional elements of a concert hall by including an object which is not “appropriate”, we break down normative modes of syntax by also including signs and forms which are not part of a traditional poem. Pitch is translated into our poem through our use of the typewriter’s traditional font in the title. Timbre is deconstructed by Anderson through the use of a ‘new’ musical instrument that uses noise and silence. This is translated into our poem through the use of void spaces. The particular timbre of the typewriter is also translated through the repetition of sounds such as the ‘t’. Anderson’s rhythmic patterns are rewritten through the visual distribution of words throughout the page. Strikethroughs are also a way of translating the timbre of the musical instrument included by Anderson. We also translate the musical score into visual elements that include words in the traditional way, but also others such as varied typography, punctuation marks, symbols and spaces. All of them rewrite the original work with noises represented through the text resulting from the typed text that can now be read in many different ways.”

FÁTIMA FERNANDES DA SILVA (CEComp/U. Lisbon), Postdoctoral Researcher in Comparative Studies

“Restaurante”, (bilingual) translation into prose of Mário Laginha’s Between Two Worlds

“I have focused on tempo, rhythm, pitch and volume, which are present, respectively, in the organisation of the text (tempo), in the succession of different actions (rhythm), in the shouting, running over, bell ringing and whistling (pitch), and also in the sounds that are evoked by words and onomatopoeias (volume).

Even before I noticed the title of the music, it was clear that there were two melodic lines, which suggested a dialogue so my first thought was to translate this using a theatre scene. Then I came up with the idea of the restaurant and of the contrast between the rhythm and volume of the kitchen and the serenity of the dining room”.


Dão-se os últimos retoques nas mesas, alinham-se as colheres de servir. É hora.

Abrem-se as portas de par em par, a sala enche-se rapidamente e começam a suceder-se os pedidos: bebidas, entradas, pratos… Na cozinha a azáfama começa de repente, gritam-se os pedidos e cada cozinheiro faz acrobacias para concluir a sua parte o mais depressa possível, mas ao mesmo tempo em sintonia com os colegas. Cada prato tem de estar pronto rapidamente e ser finalizado em harmonia. Agitam-se os cocktails: tchac, tchac, tchac. Saem os pratinhos com rissóis e croquetes. Bate-se a maionese: bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Voltam-se as tortillas na frigideira: iap, iap, iap. Nos tachos que se levantam, as amêijoas chocalham entre si. Raspa-se o queijo e a noz moscada sobre o puré: ras, ras, ras. Abrem-se e fecham-se as portas dos frigoríficos e dos fornos. Às vezes há atropelos que se evitam no último segundo. Trincham-se as carnes. Escorrem-se os legumes: tchu, tchu, tchu. Corta-se mais pão: a faca serrada vence a resistência crocante: ruc, ruc, ruc. De vez em quando ouve-se um sino a avisar que a comida está pronta. Chegam os pedidos de sobremesa. O vermelho dos morangos floresce. Batem-se as claras em castelo. Queima-se o leite creme. Apita a cafeteira. Não se ouve o abrir e fechar da porta que separa a cozinha da sala, onde o ambiente é calmo. Em cada mesa, o tilintar dos talheres sobre os pratos, as rolhas que saltam, ploc, ploc, ploc, as conversas, alguns risos. Sons que se adivinham, que são quase só silêncio, sob o clamor da cozinha, mesmo ao lado.

Aos poucos os clientes vão pagando a conta, saindo. Há cada vez menos pedidos, o ritmo vai abrandando. No final, resta o ruído dos últimos talheres arrumados, e da tigela que cai ao chão.

Dois mundos, que quase não se encontram.

The finishing touches are put in the tables, serving spoons are aligned. It’s time.

Doors wide open, the room quickly gets full and requests multiply: drinks, hors d’oeuvre, main dishes … In the kitchen the bustle suddenly starts, orders are shouted and each cook does acrobatics in order to finish his part as fast as possible, but at the same time in tune with his colleagues. Each dish must be ready quickly and harmonically finalized. Cocktails get agitated: tchac, tchac, tchac. Little plates go out full of rissóis and croquetes. Mayonnaise is beaten: bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Tortillas get turned up in the frying pan: iap, iap, iap. In the pots that are lifted, clams rattle between them. Cheese and nutmeg are scraped on top of the mashed potatoes: ras, ras, ras. Fridges and ovens doors are opened and closed. Sometimes there are run overs, some avoided in the last second. Meats are carved. Legumes are dripped: tchu, tchu, tchu. More bread is cut: the serrated knife wins the crispy resistance: ruc, ruc, ruc. Once in a while a bell is heard, warning the food is ready. Dessert orders arrive. The red of the strawberries flourishes. Egg whites are beaten. Crema catalana is burnt. The kettle whistles. You can’t hear the opening and closing of the door that separates the kitchen from the restaurant room, where the atmosphere is calm. On each table, the clinking of cutlery on the plates, corks that pop, ploc, ploc, ploc, conversations, some laughter. Sounds you can guess, that are almost only silence, under the clamor of the kitchen, right beside.

Gradually clients pay the bill, leave. There are less and less orders, the rhythm gets slower. In the end, nothing but the noise of the last tableware being arranged, and of the bowl that falls to the floor.

Two worlds, that hardly meet.

DELFINA SPRATT (U. Salamanca), PhD student and videoartist, and MARGARITA SAVCHENKOVA (U. Salamanca), PhD student in Translation Studies and translator.

“Tonada Triste”, translation into video art of Tonada triste, by Inti Illimani, a band from Chile (album Lejanía, 1998).

“As regards form, this music has a recognisable structure, as the sections are separated by two abrupt cuts (00 min. 16 sec. and 01 min 20 sec.). We have attempted to transpose the melody, voicing, harmony, rhythm and pitch, as well as the general sensations provoked by the musical composition and the Andean instruments (in this case, the charango) into a stop-motion video (one photograph per second that sets the rhythm) by using wool as a material on a fabric background.

To represent the melody, we have used red wool, forming a line that remains constant and becomes the protagonist in the frame throughout the video. To represent the variations in the melody, we have relied on the movement of the red yarn and its different interactions with other yarns: yellow, green, violet, red, light blue and orange. Some of these interactions are formed in a simple way, as is the case with the violet and light blue yarns that form an increasingly complex braid. While others, like yellow and green, resemble scattered drops that imitate the movement of the main red yarn, sometimes joining the braid and sometimes reflecting its movements without being fully connected. This resource is intended to visually represent voicing and harmony.

As for the changes in the melody (pitch), we have also taken advantage of the movement, but this time considering the position of the braid in space. When the melody advances without abrupt changes, the yarns move fluidly through the centre and the right side of the frame (the one that is usually prioritised by the eye when looking at an image or a moving image). The movements of the braid in these frames are fluid: it can be waves, spirals, it can sway from one side to the other or curl back on itself. When there are abrupt changes in the melody (e.g., 00 min. 49 sec. – 00 min. 50 sec.), the yarns are stretched, representing the tension of change.

The two cuts we have mentioned when referring to the form (00 min. 16 sec. and 01 min 20 sec.) literally divide the piece into several parts and break the harmony. For this reason, we have thought it appropriate to represent it with a multi-coloured thread whose appearance is not expected (neither in the musical composition nor in its visual translation) and cuts the braid in half. After the first cut, the red yarn grows again. And, after the second cut, all the coloured yarns disappear from the scene”.

TRICIA ANDERSON, professional choreographer, and GAIA DEL NEGRO, independent researcher and amateur choreographer.

Dance translation of Akal Ki, by Aukai (2020).

“This music starts with a simple motif played on the tres (three-stringed Cuban guitar) that keeps repeating throughout. The texture is then gradually built up by adding different layers of sound (liquid strings, percussion), increasing in volume and density, before dying back down to the simple motif at the end. ~

There are a number of features which also gave ideas for translation: 

timbre – quality of the sound, different instruments, strings, etc

pitch – the music moves between low and high pitch and there is a variety in the method of pitch change- sliding sometimes from low to high,  sometimes moving directly, Some notes fall in between a high pitch and a sustained medium pitch. this gave us many opportunities to interpret the music to dance moves. E.g. with changing level high to low and back and also to contrast between small moves and large expansive ones.

tempo – speed of delivery, pulse, fundamental rhythm in time… Gaia thought of the physical attributes of the body: the heartbeat and breathing – Insistent, energetic, circular. She took the idea of a body walking in natural landscape the walk is the beat, and it then encounters natural elements which are the other instruments.

Tricia tried to interpret first the string/ guitar track in its tempo, rhythm and pitch picking up at times the faster tempo then the harmony line of long slow notes which she interpreted with slow sweeping moves. And in the last section she was combining both, using hands to represent the expanding and contracting slow harmonic notes and chords and finally picking up the initial rhythm again

We used the idea of a contrast between open outdoor space with the body not seen and the indoor enclosed space with the dancer visible. These give a chance to experience the dancer from wishing and out.  Gaia danced in a wide-open park (Parco Martiri della Libertà Iracheni Vittime del Terrorismo / Liberty Iraqi Martyrs Victims of Terrorism in Milan, Italy) looking outwards with the camera. Tricia danced within a confined space (in her living room in Newburgh, Fife, UK) with the camera looking at herself, with the view to the outdoors and trees just behind her. She also varied her distance from the camera, large movements happening further away and small movements up close.”

CLAUDIA FISCHER (U. Lisbon/CECOMP), Inter-arts scholar

Poetry translation of Debussy’s Images: nº2.  Iberia. Les parfums de la nuit

“This experiment is based on a direct response to the first part (until ca 1:40) of Debussy’s orchestral piece Iberia. Les parfums de la nuit. More than a (written) translation I would call it a simultaneous translation, because I tried to write along with the listening.

I responded to the line(s) of melody and to the rhythm, finding an imitative prosodic equivalence in a poetical speech act.

The mood is also very present and finds itself in words. A humid, crepuscular, gloomy soundscape. In the music I felt very strongly a sense of interrogations and doubts, but I felt that they were inside the mind of the poetic persona during its slow groping pace (= slow tempo). But these interrogations are also put in question. This music sounds to me as a questioning mind facing or being driven by something unstoppable and somehow telluric or transcendental”.