View Full Version : Musical Languages

22-03-2005, 05:10 AM
Dunno if this should go here or in the thought folder, really. Anyway, does anyone have any interesting thoughts on musical languages? I don't really know that much about them. What I'm mainly thinking about is attempts to create an artificial language (usually one with a potentially global scope) based on musical tones. Bishop John Wilkins (http://reliant.teknowledge.com/Wilkins/) wrote about this in the 1640's, but the most famous work on it was probably by Francois Sudre, who created a language called Soresol (http://www.langmaker.com/outpost/solresol.htm) in 1817. Every word in his language was made up of combinations of the syllables (and associated notes) do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si - which meant that they could be exressed either vocally or played on an instrument. Does that mean that we could try to translate any piece of music into Soresol, and then into English (I don't know much about notes and that, obviously)?
I think there have been a few more recent attempts to create similar languages. One is called Eaiea (http://www.eaiea.com/) , which is an awful name. I think it's completely tonal, but it looks a bit daft, to be honest. Are there any 'natural' musical languages? The various Sino-Tibetan languages and dialects are mostly tonal, to varying degrees, which I suppose makes them kind of musical. Any others?

22-03-2005, 09:11 AM
Never heard of this before, but it looks fantastic.

Reading the link there, Solresol is a tonal language too - it's just built from the 7 syllables of the sol-fa scale (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti; think Julie Andrews). That means that you could only translate melodies that stayed within one major scale into Solresol - once you start getting accidentals (sharps and flats) you need more than 7 syllables. Sol-fa has syllables for these, but it doesn't look like these were used for Solresol.

Of course, you couldn't guarantee that a particular melody wasn't going to translate into gibberish. It would be much more effective at turning words into tunes. So, you'd take some English, translate it into Solresol, then turn that into a melody.