Faust 72 … Word stress … „das Buch“ 7th of March, 2006 ANTE·MERIDIEM 12:11
« Ce soir j’ai donné rendez-vous au diable pour faire un marché,
« et je l’attend assis près du comptoir, angoissé.
« Alors il entre et vient m’offrir à boire, il veut m’écouter.
« Je donnerais ma vie pour te revoir. Il le sait. »
Dynastie Crisis have a song, Faust 72, on the Ocean’s Twelve soundtrack—I’ve never seen the film, but I’m a huge David Holmes fan, and I’m listening to the soundtrack obsessively—and it’s in French, it’s a rock song, and it works. This is an audio incarnation of a hen’s tooth.
So. In analysing why it works, we need to ask why rock songs normally don’t work in French. It’s not just a matter of the language not being the original of the form; rock songs in German work fine, and not just from Rammstein, „Wir Sind Helden“ produce perfectly respectable German-language indie. I love Manu Chao’s stuff, but it’s not good as rock music.
Rather, the same reason rock music doesn’t work in French is why French poetry doesn’t sound like poetry to lots of English speakers; the reason is that word stress normally doesn’t matter to the French speaker, they give syllables emphasis based on their position in the sentence rather than their position in the word. Try speaking an English sentence and giving equal emphasis to every syllable; you’ll sound French.
And that approach doesn’t work for something like, say, The Beatles’ Get Back :
“JOjo was a MAN who THOUGHT he was a LONer
BUT he knew it WOULDn’t LAST
JOjo left his HOME in TUCson, AriZONa
FOR some CaliFORnia GRASS [...]”
There, it matters that the stress pattern of the first two lines is repeated in the second two; it sounds better, and it’s probably more important than the rhyme.
So, why does Faust 72 work? I think that, as opposed to lots of Manu Chao, the song doesn’t try to fit the lyrical structures of the canon of English-language rock music; despite it being a pop song, the singer sounds like he’s been told to do a recitatif, and the beat is fast and frenetic enough that the listener doesn’t notice.
References: http://del.icio.us/aidan/stress-timing gives links to various information on stress and syllable timing in sundry languages.
Word of the day: el libro means “book” in Spanish; note that as in French, the English pound is a feminine version of the same word, here la libra. Китоб, which I’m pretty sure is from Arabic, means the same thing in Tajik.
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