Saturday, July 7, 2012

La culture française atteint son comble

The following song was my young delight when, having just turned seventeen, I entered France, for a stay of several memorable months.  It was the hit of the season; and was self-covered in Italian, Spanish and German for the European market, and later abundantly covered in English (though without the commercial success) by other artists.  The existence of heteroglossic renditions side by side by the same singer, offers minimal-pair comparisons among the lyrics and languages.  And truly, the original French here works best of all:  a perfect merging  of sound and sense. .   (Such is an example of  the sort of synergy alluded to in the title of my book, The Semantics of Form in Arabic.)

It begins

C’est un-e pou-pée
qui fait Non non, no-o-o-n..

The crisp clean tight “é” sound that begins and ends the first verse, sets the table for a simple tale.  Immediately the mood is darkened by the deep, back-rounded nasal, which turns in upon itself, like the closing of hope.  Even the drawn-out verse-final “é-é-é” faintly echoes with the orthography, where the written “é” is followed an an e-muet, which mentally extends it.

It continues

Tou-te la jour-née
elle fait Non non, no-o-on

Here the simple open form of the first half-line, a bare variant of the earlier verse, connotes the simple, open-hearted persistence of the suitor; while the exact repetition in the second hemistich  reflects the stubborn resistance or even lifeless atomatism of the “doll”.
Then the tune changes slightly -- enough to put us inside the singer’s mind, rather than confronting the doll:

Je donnerais la vie (-ie, -ie, -ie!)
pour qu’el-le di-se Oui (-ie, -ie, -ie!)

Here the high thin “ie….”, prolonged and multiply overdubbed, seems eerie, unearthly, reminiscent of Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis.

By contrast, the vowels don’t work at all in German;  and the Italian is bland.
See for yourself.

N’y a qu’à se rendre à l’évidence:

Si cela vous parle,
savourez la série noire
en argot authentique d’Amérique :


Michel Polnareff  and his little friend.
(B.t.w., the chick is hot -- in a Chloe kind of way.)
(Note:  If you mute the sound during the prefatory ad, be sure to restore it promptly, or you will miss the juiciest bass-note in musical history.)

If, by any chance, you are so unfortunate as not to understand French, you can see it here with lyrics translated:

Non-satirical, just-the-facts-ma'am:
"Personne ne lui a jamais appris
que l'on pourrait di-re Oui."

Travaillant au noir,
le détective  se trouve aux prises
avec le Saint-Esprit

Die deutsche Kultur s’efforce de rattraper -- mais en vain!
Apart from lacking that opening fruity bass-note, this rendition limps.  Polnareff indeed despairs of sticking to German, singing

    sie kann doch gar kein Oui
    sagt sie auch niemals Oui

rather than essaying a Teutonic "Ja!", whose phonosymbolic colouring is ganz anders (quite otherwise).  Further, to match the vocalic Auslaut of "oui",  he should have sung "Nee, nee, nee" rather than "Nein, nein, nein";  the latter is far too formal.
Puppe, by contrast, works just fine for poupée;  one despairs of finding any English equivalent.  (Doll is obviously semiometrically impossible;  and dolly sounds twee.)
The voice, however, as beautifully ethereal and tender, as ever.
"Meine Puppe sa-a-agt .."    (...  !)

Falls Sie im Doktor-Justiz-Sammelsurium
weiterblättern möchten,
Bitte hier klicken:

Ed Italia, sadly declined from its days of Empire.  Ubi sunt?

In concert (androgynous):

No-one ever accused Italian of being unsuitable for singing, and the song sounds fine;  only if you have heard the French original, do you notice what has been sacrificed:  the stark irreducible enten/eller contrast of the Oui and the Non.
Bambolina / matina, on the other hand, works very well.

I could not find online  Polnareff's Spanish version, “Muñeca que hace no”.  There is a disgusting, worthless cover using this title, is all.

America, crawling on hands and knees to catch up:
(A gratifyingly minimalist version of an already stripped-to-its-essence song.
The official anthem of “Garfield Minus Garfield.”)
This is rather like Glenn Gould's satire on Mozart's K. 331.
Unforgivable, really;  yet so great is the original, that some of its loveliness
nonetheless comes through ...

Minimalism of a different sort, minus the signature guitar riff (which, as Hendrix proved immediately above, is really all you need):
Doesn’t suck nearly as bad as it ought to.

(Dayyum, this set would be great to take in stoned!   Where’s my stash?  Maybe there’s a little left in the bottom of the bong…)

Perv version, for doll fetishists:
Interestingly enough,
"Comments are disabled for this video".
What -- by the FBI?
The singers are not French; mysterious.
The only clue, therefore, is this:
*Very* strange and fetishistic;  the moreso, as you scroll down ...

Yipes!  More doll-fetishism; and this, on one of my favorite songs:

*     *     *
~ Commercial break ~
We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

*     *     *

Totally unnecessary, adds nothing, but by this point in the evening, I’ll take anything.  Salted-nuts phenomenon:

(While strumming a rhythm air-guitar in accompaniment,
he takes a long drag on an air-joint.)

Truly gratuitous -- adds nothing, subtracts something:
(The equivalent of those smashed chip-fragments at the bottom of the bag,
which you nevertheless, in the grip of it, fingle-winkle up
and use to scoop up more salt.)

[Foothote]  Some industrious individual put together an autoplay cavalcade of a great many covers (though not including all that I have listed here) -- each one worse than the last, for the most part.  But if you care, here:

*     *     *
~ Commercial break ~
Nook lovers are book lovers!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

*     *     *

As ...
taking off from this ... ...
we venture into darker territory:

[Up ... date ...]
"She's Not There"
Performed by ... wait for it ... "The Zombies" ... ...  ...........

No comments:

Post a Comment