Category: Entertainment

Cécile Corbel & songs in foreign languages

Good music makes me so, so happy.

I’ve been listening to a lot of “experimental” electronic, indie rock, and singer/songwriter type music these days.  When I listen to music in a language I can understand (English, Korean, and some Japanese), lyrics are often the most noticeable element of song for me and vocals tend to stand out against the backdrop of instrumentals.  But in other languages, vocals become mere morphemes without meaning, indistinguishable from the other layers of sound in a song.  A friend and I were discussing how sometimes we prefer to listen to songs in languages we don’t understand – for me, at least, it’s because it lets me interpret and feel the song in my own way without being hindered by semantics.

Recently, this friend introduced me to a singer who, as she described it, has “the voice of a siren.”

Cécile Corbel is a Breton singer and harpist who, in addition to having the most enchanting voice I’ve ever heard, also composed the score for the Studio Ghibli film 借りぐらしのアリエッティ (The Borrower Arrietty).  That’s her singing a song from the film in the video above and, yes, she is singing in Japanese!  Corbel’s native language is Breton – a Celtic language that originated in the British Isles and is spoken predominantly in Bretagne, France – but she also sings in French, English, Italian, German, and Irish.  And true to her roots, many of her songs have a gorgeous Celtic feel to them.

Here’s one of my favorites by her – “La Fille Damnée” in French.

It’s been ages and ages since I heard anything in French and, as per my usual weakness with French, I understood very little about what this song was about until I looked at the lyrics in French (so I guess my four years of French in high school wasn’t all for naught?  Heh.)  But that wasn’t necessarily the point because I wasn’t really trying to understand this song.  Corbel has a voice that I just want to listen to and feel without thinking.

But then I noticed something interesting.  I remember when SNSD’s “I Got a Boy” came out and English-speakers “misheard” the chorus (“I got a boy 멋진, I got a boy 착한”) as “I got a boy munchin’, I got a boy chicken.”  It’s as though your brain takes the sounds of a language you don’t know (e.g. Korean) and forcefully tries to apply meaning to it using a language that you do know (e.g. English).  Now, I’ve listened to Korean music for years so I never “misheard” those lyrics in English.  Even when I come across Korean speech or lyrics that I don’t understand, my brain still recognizes it as Korean.

Now the weird thing with me is when I listened to one of Corbel’s songs in Spanish among others, I kept hearing what sounded weirdly like Korean or Japanese or even Hindi words.  Never once did my brain try to “Englishify” what I was listening to, despite the fact that 99% of the time I open my mouth to speak, I use English.  I wonder if this is a result of the fact that the vast majority of songs that I listen to are not in English, even though I use English in my daily communication.  But something similar happens when I watch movies in foreign languages to which I have little to no exposure – let’s say German or Thai.  I’ve found this to be really disorienting because my brain keeps trying to hear Korean or Japanese in the dialogue, not English, even though the vast majority of movies I watch are in English.  It’s almost as if my brain understands I’m hearing something in a foreign language, makes a switch from English, and tries to interpret it in my next-most-proficient foreign language.  Does this happen to anyone else?  And I’m not sure but is there a technical linguistics/cognitive science terminology for this phenomenon?

It’s crazy.  I’ve been thinking more and more about neurobiology these days and how fascinating it must be to study the brain in the context of language acquisition.  I wonder if there’s a way to visualize a phenomenon like the one I described happening using fMRI – do different parts of the brain light up?  Is the neural connectivity changing?  Does synaptic plasticity affect whether or not you experience something like this?  Gah, so many delicious questions.  I should dig into the literature sometime.

김예림 – “All Right”

Thanks to Jeannie, I’ve known about 투개월 since their Superstar K3 days.  Lead vocalist of the duo, Kim Yerim, has a sultry type of voice that’s sort of a mix between Mad Soul Child’s Jinsil and Casker’s LeeYoong-jin.  I’m not sure what happened to the other half of the duo Do Dae-yoon (I heard that he left to concentrate on his studies?); in any case, it looks like 투개월 might be morphing into a solo act.  Recently Kim Yerim – or Lim Kim, as she’s being marketed now – released her first solo mini-album ‘A Voice’ which is every bit as delightful as I thought it would be.

I don’t think the title track does justice to her voice but I do relate to the lyrics – the song’s basically about a person pretending she’s all right when she really isn’t.  And man, is the music video… weird.  Heh.  Based off the comments under the video, a lot of people were complaining about how repetitive the song is but truth of the matter is, and I don’t know if this is intentional or not, it is often the people who aren’t all right that insist over and over and over again that they’re totally fine.  So in a way the repetitive chorus reflects that.

정엽 – 웃기고 있어

I’m not all that familiar with Brown Eyed Soul, but the couple songs I have heard by them are really really nice.  Naul released an album recently too and I’ve heard a couple songs on it which I thought were nice but it’s just not my usual style of music.  Yekyung’s convinced that I don’t appreciate ballads because I’m still “young.” XD

That all being said!  I’ve been listening to 정엽’s newest album for the past hour or so; his voice is so soothing, I could cry.  Enjoy.

Click for the full playlist.

I promise this blog isn’t turning into a music blog!  Music helps me get through a lot of life’s craziness and there’s tons of great stuff out there that I can’t help but share.

Reading 桜蘭高校ホスト部

Look at what I have not been reading these days.

2012-12-13 22.51.43*squeals*  桜蘭高校ホスト部 (Ouran High School Host Club) is one of my ALL-TIME favorite animes and mangas ever.  It’s cute, funny, endearing, and not to mention the art is gorgeous.  (It’s also the only anime I’ve ever watched both English-subbed and English-dubbed – and the dubbing is very impressive!)  Now shoujo manga can be pretty ridiculous but one of the charms of OHSHC is that it makes fun of its own genre and tropes and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  You have the typical shoujo setup:  a cross-dressing(or is she?) female from a working-class family enters a private academy for the Incredibly Wealthy & Snooty and gets entangled in rich-kid shenanigans – but our heroine Haruhi is far from the typical Mary Sues of shoujo-verse (lookin’ at you, Honda Tohru).  She’s sharp, resourceful, delightfully glib and her deadpan humor keeps readers laughing and rooting for her.

2012-12-13 22.53.02I’m not going to lie – reading this was (is) a very long and painful process.  I’m amazed at how much Kanji I don’t know (heh), but in turn, I’m surprised at how much I do know.  The grammar is very basic and easy to follow; I hardly need to look up anything, even with the mere year of beginning Japanese that I went through.  And the Kanji really isn’t as awful as I make it out to be.  I use the microscopic furigana over each character to get the pronunciation, and I have my Japanese dictionary app open to help with learning the meaning and stroke order.  It works!  I have a notebook that’s solely full of Kanji from this manga and I find myself getting better and better at remembering them without needing to make flashcards.  Yay.

I’m taking just over a week off for winter break (so short *sob*), but hopefully I’ll get around to studying Japanese a little more very soon.  For now, though, my days are consumed by experiments and labwork; I need to get tons of stuff done before Christmas.  Wish me luck.  Sigh.

G.O.D – 길

I really love listening to 유인나의 볼륨을 높여요, not only for the 사연s, but also for the music (go figure).  The nice thing about the podcast version of the show is that you only hear a 10-20 second clip of the song being played – in my opinion, plenty of time to decide whether I like it or not.  That’s how I found out about this song.

Okay, so I don’t know much about first-gen K-pop.  I’ve heard of H.O.T, Seo Taiji and Boys, and (recently) 젝스키스 because of 응답하라 1997 (Hakchan is my favorite character, but that’s a whoooole other post).  I knew of G.O.D, but only because of 최고의 사랑 and Yoon Kyesang.  This is my first time actually listening to them and I’ve been looping this song nonstop for the past couple days.

Man, the lyrics are so, so relevant to anyone in or around their college years.  I actually read a lot of recent fan comments talking about how they were in elementary school when the song first came out and they thought it was nice at the time, but now that they’re in college, it means so much more to them.  So I felt I had to share.

(This reminds me of the time Dia was fangirling over G.O.D.!  Hehe.)

Lyrics below the cut.

Continue reading “G.O.D – 길”

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Interview with Jo Jung-seok (Singles)

Any fans of The King 2 Hearts’ heart-melting, swooniest of swoony, squeal-worthy Eun Shi-kyung out there?  I’ve been keeping an eye on actor Jo Jung-seok since I first saw him What’s Up, where he plays a nerdy kid with a great voice but terrible stage fright; all I can say at this point is GIMME MOAR.

Jo’s actually a well-known name in musical theater, but this year he found his way into the the realm of TV and film and I can only hope he has plans to stay.  I came across his interview in Singles magazine last month and wanted to have another go at translating longer articles, so here goes.  (Disclaimer:  All copyright belongs to the original writer.  I’m not profiting by this translation and I can’t guarantee its accuracy.)

Look! At! That! Face!

Continue reading “Interview with Jo Jung-seok (Singles)”

Random Thought

I watched Hello Baby for a whole fifteen minutes before realizing that I was watching without subtitles.  It was awesome.  I still like subs even though I can usually understand the gist of what I’m watching without them.  I rarely have time to watch dramas and reality shows and when I do, I want to enjoy them 100000%, meaning understanding all the dialogue and no guessing.  My brain’s tired as it is.

Honestly, though, I’m not sure how much subtitles are actually benefiting me because, more often than not, I hear key things being left out of the subtitles, especially if they’re subbed hastily.

Case in point:  Episode 8 of The King 2 Hearts.  Hangah was being all cutesy in front of Jaeha, calling him oppa

… causing him to protest, “동갑끼리 왜 그래, 징그럽게?!”

I remember the English subtitles left off the 동갑 part entirely, perhaps because I suppose it’s too complicated to explain that “oppa” is used by younger females to older males and not between people of the same age.  Fine.  There has to be some give and take in subbing things, I understand that.  The point is, I was able to catch that line even without subs and it gave me a greater appreciation for Jaeha’s character and the way he perceives his relationship with Hangah.

Anyway, I’ve come to realize that I don’t even remember what it’s like to think of Korean as a foreign language.  There was a time for all of us that Korean was just a series of sounds with no meaning or structure associated with it.  I’m always conscious of that when I post Korean music or interviews in places where it can be seen/heard by my non-Korean-learning friends.  How do their ears hear the language?  What do they think of its sounds, its cadence?  Will they enjoy Korean music regardless of not being to understand the lyrics?  I certainly liked Korean music before I was able to understand Korean, but now that I can understand a lot of it, I’ve come to appreciate it so so so much more.

I dunno.  Sometimes I just like stepping back and reflecting on stuff like this.  Amazing how far we’ve all come.

해를 품은 달 and reading in Korean

Jung Eun-gwol, the author of 해를 품은 달 and 성균관 유생들의 나날, sure knows how to craft a story that pierces one’s heart.  I don’t think I ever fully recovered from Sungkyunkwan Scandal, which is why I think I was so fervently anticipating The Moon That Embraces the Sun ages before they even started casting.  I was dying to get my hands on the book, too, which Jeannie so kindly sent for me from Korea!

The drama deviates quite a bit from the novel, but both of them have their own charm so I will forgive this otherwise heinous crime this one time.  Heh.  The drama also had an incredible cast of child actors for the first six episodes; and currently, Kim Soohyun is stealing the screen, blazing as the young, bitter king whose heart longs for the girl he loved as a boy.

The drama is garnering shockingly high ratings week after week; whether that’s to be attributed to the pure genius that was Tree With Deep Roots or the Joseon crack that was The Princess’s Man or perhaps the popularity of the novel itself, it’s hard to tell.  For me, however, the magic is more in the novel than the drama.

The novel takes place during the Joseon dynasty, so there is quite a bit of figurative language and historical words that I’m not familiar with (and also a lot of words that I just don’t know in general; unsurprising, considering the fact that I’m attempting to read a historical novel barely two years into learning the language).  The incredible thing is I can understand most of the plot despite my extremely limited vocabulary and, while I’m at it, I’m gaining such an appreciation for the beauty of “old” Korean.

Personally, I find contemporary Korean more poetic than English and speech during the Joseon era, especially royal speech, even more so.  Unsurprisingly, this novel is filled with absolutely gorgeous language.  Metaphors and motifs galore and, my personal favorite, parallel structure, which is just as pleasing to read in Korean as English.  I plowed my way through book 1 and I’m halfway through book 2, but at this point, I’m reading more for the language than the plot.  In terms of the plot itself, well, I will suppress my inner literature bitch.  It’s little more than Joseon flavored cotton candy fluff but it’s addicting and definitely worth reading for the language.

Mom and I were talking a few days ago about reading in different languages.  My mom’s trilingual in English, Marathi, and Tamil.  She grew up reading novels with ease in both  English and Tamil.  I asked her if she ever had a weird out-of-body feeling when she was reading in either language because I experienced that several times while reading 해를 품은 달.  I’d be sucked into the story for several minutes and then I’d stop and marvel at the fact that this story is written entirely in a language that was unknown to me for 20+ years.  And I was understanding it.  Not only was I understanding it, I was having a visceral reaction to it.  For the first time since I started learning Korean, I was doing more than just comprehending.  I cried during the sad scenes, blushed during the romantic scenes, bit my nails when things were getting intense.  I always thought that no matter how long I study Korean, I would never be able to shake off that element of “foreignness.”  But the fact that I’m getting to the point where I can react to a story written in Korean the same as I do when it’s in English is yet another indication that I can be comfortable enough in a “foreign” language to the extent that it doesn’t feel “foreign” any more.  Amazing!

Mom said she never felt like that when she switched between reading in different languages, probably because she grew up learning all three at the same time.  Sometimes  I wish I had grown up knowing multiple languages just as well as I know English, but then I guess I would miss out on experiencing a transition like this!

칠거지악

I can’t adequately express how much I’m loving 해를 품은 달 (The Moon That Embraces the Sun) these days.  It’s been a really, really long time since I’ve been this emotionally invested in a story of any kind and it feels refreshingly good.  Although I’d say I’m enjoying the novel a tiny smidgen more than the drama at the moment, the first few episodes of the drama really swept me off my feet.  The child actors are so precious and talented; I just want to keep them in my pocket forever and ever!  This scene from episode four is one of my favorites:

: 가만. 설마 너 나와 그 아이를 질투하는 것이냐?
연우: 예? 아님니다.
: 이거 큰일이구나. 투기는 여인의 칠거지악 중 하나거늘…  나의 비가 될 아이가 이리 투기심이 많아서야…
연우: 아니라는데 왜 자꾸 그러십니- 예?
: 세자빈 간택이 시작된다는 말이다.  너도 처녀단제를 올릴테지? 기다리겠다.  너라면 분명 세자빈이 될 수 있을 것이다.

칠거지악 is a curious little word that I wasn’t familiar with.  I’ve seen it translated as “The Seven Deadly Sins” but that’s not what it literally means.

칠거지악 [명사]조선 시대, 아내를 내쫓을 수 있는 이유가 되는 일곱 가지의 허물. 곧 시부모에게 순종하지 아니하는 것(不順舅姑), 자식을 낳지 못하는 것(無子), 행실이 음탕한 것(淫), 질투하는 것(妬), 나쁜 병이 있는 것(惡症), 말이 많은 것(多言), 도둑질을 하는 것(盜) 등을 이른다. (source)

During the Joseon era, these were seven reasons for divorcing a wife:  Disobedience to her in-laws.  Inability to bear children.  Promiscuity.  Jealousy.  Having an incurable disease.  Talking too much.  Stealing.  

I did a bit more research into 칠거지악 and learned that it is a Confucius teaching found in 대학(大學) or The Great Learning, one of the 사서(四書) or Four Books which, along with the The Three Classics, make up the definitive texts of Confucianism.  Collectively, they are called 사서삼경(四書三經) or the Four Books and Three Classics.

Unsurprisingly, there is no equivalent for a woman wanting to divorce a man.  However, I did read that there are three exceptional situations in which a man cannot divorce his wife, even if she commits one of the seven faults under 칠거지악:

  1. If she has no other place to go.
  2. If she has mourned his parents for three years.  (i.e. She demonstrates filial piety.)
  3. If she was at first poor and then became rich after getting married.  (i.e. She raised her family’s social status through marriage.)

I remember learning a little bit about Confucianism forever ago in high school but not terribly in depth.  I wouldn’t say I’m… completely interested in learning about it but in the context of sageuk dramas, it definitely helps to understand Confucianism to understand certain plot points and bits of dialogue.  It’s also a novel experience (no pun intended)  trying to read up on Confucianism in Korean… yeah… I think I’ll stick to English for now.

인감도장

Anybody else out there watching 49일?  I’m enjoying it so far.  It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s entertaining and… I don’t know if the dialogue is relatively simple or if my Korean is getting better but I’m starting to realize that I don’t need to rely on subtitles as much anymore!  But then, when I inadvertently start to glance away from the subtitles, I freak out and look down at them again (it’s like riding a bicycle – the instant you realize you’re riding without training wheels, you start wobbling again.)

So, until recently, I was really confused about the whole seal thing.  What was the seal?  (I kept imagining the old-fashioned way of sealing letters – you know, with hot wax and a signet ring).  Why was the seal important? Why did Ji Hyun mix it up with a tube of lipstick?  What does it have to do with her land?  Why are Min Ho and In Jung trying to steal it???  So I decided to do some research on the 인감도장 (“registered personal seal”) that the characters kept obsessing over and now I think I have a fair idea of why it’s so important.

I learned that the personal seal, used in Japan, Korea, and China, is equivalent to a signature on an official document.  Although, “equivalent” might not be the right word here since many documents can require both a signature AND a registered seal to be considered “valid.”  Apparently, there are different types of 도장 (personal seals) of different levels of legal importance.  The 인감도장 is officially registered and is used for more important business transactions.  So basically, in the context of 49일, Ji Hyun’s land (which was part of the business deal Min Ho was trying to close) couldn’t be sold without her seal on the documents.  And the reason Ji Hyun mixed it up with a tube of lipstick is… well, it really looks like a tube of lipstick (not a ring like I thought, haha).

Anyway, this is just something I found interesting because I’ve never heard about it before (forgive my poor Westernized education) and I don’t really know anything about it, so feel free to correct me if there are any mistakes.  And, GO WATCH 49일!

(Source)

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