Learning the Italian Language in order to Learn Music Theory

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Hello,

When I attend art course in high school, on (Western) Music Theory subject, there are a lot of terms in Italian, especially on tempo (largo, adagio, moderato, allegro), dynamics (piano, pianissimo, forte, fortissimo, crescendo, decrescendo), and curves (legato, portato, staccato).

Is it make sense to learn Italian language to understand terms in Music Theory, just like opera singers learn Italian because many operas have Italian libretto (songs)?

Cheers, Bagas
 
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  • #2
PeroK
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Hello,

When I attend art course in high school, on (Western) Music Theory subject, there are a lot of terms in Italian, especially on tempo (largo, adagio, moderato, allegro), dynamics (piano, pianissimo, forte, fortissimo, crescendo, decrescendo), and curves (legato, portato, staccato).

Is it make sense to learn Italian language to understand terms in Music Theory, just like opera singers learn Italian because many operas have Italian libretto (songs)?

Cheers, Bagas
Unless you want to learn Italian for its own sake, it might be quicker just to learn the relevant few dozen Italian words.

Some of them, like crescendo and staccato, have made it into the English language in any case.
 
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  • #3
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Unless you want to learn Italian for its own sake, it might be quicker just to learn the relevant few dozen Italian words.

Some of them, like crescendo and staccato, have made it into the English language in any case.
So, in order to truly understand concepts of music theory, is it necessary to learn Italian language? I don't want to take those Italian music terms for granted.
 
  • #4
PeroK
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So, in order to truly understand concepts of music theory, is it necessary to learn Italian language? I don't want to take those Italian music terms for granted.
Words are only words. To understand music you need to understand music.
 
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  • #5
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Words are only words. To understand music you need to understand music.
I know that understanding music theory is important. But since there are many Italian terms in music, I think it is also necessary to learn Italian, to understand what those terms (really) means in the theory.

Here is the proposition for my argument:
In music theory, tempo is a term to describe how fast a music be played. Besides main tempos from largo to presto, often composers need to variate them to describe "taste" of the play. For examples, other terms can be added to main tempos (e.g. adagio (con) maetoso); or adding suffix to tempos (e.g. allegretto, allegrissimo). You might asked, "what does -etto and -issimo mean?" or "What does con maetoso additional term mean?" Your teacher might answer "rather and very" or "with greatness", respectively. Where these answers come from?
You need to learn Italian to know why.
 
  • #6
pinball1970
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I know that understanding music theory is important. But since there are many Italian terms in music, I think it is also necessary to learn Italian, to understand what those terms (really) means in the theory.

Here is the proposition for my argument:
In music theory, tempo is a term to describe how fast a music be played. Besides main tempos from largo to presto, often composers need to variate them to describe "taste" of the play. For examples, other terms can be added to main tempos (e.g. adagio (con) maetoso); or adding suffix to tempos (e.g. allegretto, allegrissimo). You might asked, "what does -etto and -issimo mean?" or "What does con maetoso additional term mean?" Your teacher might answer "rather and very" or "with greatness", respectively. Where these answers come from?
You need to learn Italian to know why.
These words are a little subjective any way. 'with expression,' or 'lively' mean different things to you and I.
Listen to the same piece by different players and you will hear different interpretations, some significant.
 
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  • #7
symbolipoint
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Studying Italian is great, but to do it for so few words to be used in music is too much language study for too little of application. Study Italian for culture, history, art(not necessarily nor mainly music), language, and human communication.
 
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  • #8
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Are you going to keep asking this question until you get the answer you want?
 
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  • #9
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If you want to become an opera singer you will need to learn a couple of languages (French, Italian, German), but to understand Andante or Allegro you only have to learn these couple of words.

So if "vocal" is part of your study, then yes, learn Italian, otherwise only if you like for other reasons.
 
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  • #10
pinball1970
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If you want to become an opera singer you will need to learn a couple of languages (French, Italian, German), but to understand Andante or Allegro you only have to learn these couple of words.

So if "vocal" is part of your study, then yes, learn Italian, otherwise only if you like for other reasons.
We do not know what instrument bagasme currently plays or if he/she is a vocalist. I think this would give some context.
Do you know any songs that you have no idea what the words mean but feel to you know it anyway? There are a few that spring to mind for me but it would be interesting to get your view as ESL edit or sang even better
 
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Do you know any songs that you have no idea what the words mean but feel to you know it anyway?
A bit too off-topic, although I'd like to answer it.
 
  • #12
pinball1970
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A bit too off-topic, although I'd like to answer it.
Well my big ones were in Latin and although I have read the meaning since I still cannot tell you line by line what they are. I suppose that is what I was trying to convey to the op. Directions in a foreign language are a guide nothing else, they can only never be that due to the personal/interpretation factor. Even singing something in another language should not be a hindrance once the pronunciation is nailed down. Edit yes I should have specified foreign language
 
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I remember to have read a controversy about what Beethoven has meant by his remarks considering the tempi. It basically said, that they were all too fast if taken literally.

I once learnt (and forgot again) the two (or was it three?) verses of "La donna e mobile", but I cannot imagine to sing the entire Rigoletto without knowing Italian.
 
  • #14
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I once learnt (and forgot again) the two (or was it three?) verses of "La donna e mobile", but I cannot imagine to sing the entire Rigoletto without knowing Italian.
I can't imagine that either!
 
  • #15
pinball1970
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I once learnt (and forgot again) the two (or was it three?) verses of "La donna e mobile", but I cannot imagine to sing the entire Rigoletto without knowing Italian.
I posted a long post and it disappeared so short one now.
How about this?
Fell in love with it at 8 and still love it. Notes tune chords and Maddy Prior's voice are what matters not what it means
 
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Reminds a bit on Gregorian choirs, or Gaelic tunes. At least it is easy once you've learnt Italian! 😉
 
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pinball1970
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I can't imagine that either!
Translate from Italian to German to see what's going on perhaps? Then dive into the music
 
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Translations are never one-to-one. "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" is an insurgent bird. In the German version it has colourful wings. And it always sounds better with the original lyrics.
 
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  • #19
pinball1970
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Reminds a bit on Gregorian choirs, or Gaelic tunes. At least it is easy once you've learnt Italian! 😉
Ok I see what you did there!
The OP is talking descriptors and I think this endeavour will be a waste of his valuable time. If he wants to sing opera and strive towards being a professional singer then I would still argue that it's possible to appreciate and deliver a beautiful piece because of what it sounds like not what it means exactly.
I think 'lover's Ghost' is my favourite vocal piece that I have sang but I would like to think the arrangement got to me rather than the words although they are also beautiful and heartbreaking.
 
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  • #20
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Hello,

When I attend art course in high school, on (Western) Music Theory subject, there are a lot of terms in Italian, especially on tempo (largo, adagio, moderato, allegro), dynamics (piano, pianissimo, forte, fortissimo, crescendo, decrescendo), and curves (legato, portato, staccato).

Is it make sense to learn Italian language to understand terms in Music Theory,
Short answer : No.

Long answer : If somebody comes up with a new phrase to be added to the (18th-19th century Western) music lexicon, it will probably be in their own native language.

just like opera singers learn Italian because many operas have Italian libretto (songs)?
I'm unsure of the value of learing a dialect hundreds of years old, unless one regularly performs or studies in the country of origin. But, yes : most of the better performers will be aware of proper pronunciation and lyric meanings in context.

Notation is the part that transcends linguistic boundaries. Most classical music performers (that I've met) just google the words they don't know.

see also

Cheers, Bagas
I hope I've been of some help... PS: How did this question end up in a Physics forum ?

It was inevitable that in doing this I should arrive at new results, and it is perhaps understandable that in the end I have felt impelled to present these results not only in the dry form of a catalogue, but also in a more connected and personal one.
- Alfred Einstein
 
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  • #21
symbolipoint
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Short answer : No.

...

Notation is the part that transcends linguistic boundaries. Most classical music performers (that I've met) just google the words they don't know.

see also



.................................... PS: How did this question end up in a Physics forum ?

...
This topic should be placed into Impulse Subjects: Art, Music, History, and Linguistics
 
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  • #22
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I put this thread in Academic Guidance because some music major students need to know whether taking Italian language course is worth for their music study or not.

BTW, thanks to symbolipoint for pointing correct forum for this thread.
 
  • #23
pinball1970
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Translations are never one-to-one. "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" is an insurgent bird. In the German version it has colourful wings. And it always sounds better with the original lyrics.
This is it, now as ESL or Italian as second language in the case of the OP (or third) what would understanding the words mean?
First time I sang it I did not know what it meant, I was not sure who was dead and the woman, the 'true love' never speaks.
Reading it now and I am still not 100%, has she died and they are reunited?

There is some old English in there like 'tis,' 'thee,' 'forsook' and 'fain.'

Would an ESL student gain much from learning old English to sing this?

Two others I just thought of are Mozart's requiem and Carl orffs Carmina burama.
Pronunciation is important BUT learning Latin to appreciate and sing it, is not.
Imo.
 
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  • #24
pinball1970
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I put this thread in Academic Guidance because some music major students need to know whether taking Italian language course is worth for their music study or not.

BTW, thanks to symbolipoint for pointing correct forum for this thread.
Can you let us know what you play? Or are you a singer?
 
  • #25
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Can you let us know what you play? Or are you a singer?
pinball1970, what I discussed here is happened on high school, especially at grade 11.

Nevertheless, this thread is also for music major student.
 

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