Spanish Translation with Aaron Coleman

I first learned about the art of translation from working under Prof. Bourne. I think Coleman described my understanding of it well. It’s that he could walk away from a translation more easily than his own work because the words are already there. He is just trying to reconfigure them. It was also interesting to hear him talk about the balance between rhyme scheme and form versus meaning.

Hearing Coleman talk about how he really just fell into studying Spanish was fascinating too. He just worked very hard with the encouragement of past teachers at his back to learn the language until he ecame sufficient for communication and he loved the doors that it opened. I guess that’s the thing about learning new languages, being able to talk to more people on subjects that previously would have been off the table.

Narrative versus Interview Endings

The ending of Boycott was more compelling than the ending of Four Little GirlsBoycott ended with a short scene of Martin Luther King Jr. interaction with the city’s youth and stands as a point of comparison. He stands out from them in his suit versus their casual wear. I think this scene draws attention to that although Christian Blacks were seen as the most civilized version of African Americans, Martin Luther King Jr. had to fight through all the pushback that we just watched in the film.  In contrast, the ending of Four Little Girls is just a slideshow over music and feels out of place with the rest of the film. Ultimately, the power of the endings is connected to the type of documentaries that they are.

 

Boycott was a narrative documentary with actors playing out important events to reframe the historical moment.  On the other hand, Four Little Girls is just a set of complied interviews of a retelling of an event and these girls’ short lives. White the final scene of Boycott ties the film together and reflects on the scenes that came before with a tonal shift, Four Little Girls is jarring. The sudden transition to music snaps the viewer out of the interviews with a barrage of images and no time to process the heavy assault of details they were just given.

King Vidor Ain’t It

The article, “‘’Taint What You Was, It’s What You Is Today’: Hallelujah and the Politics of Racial Authority,” is part of a larger book entitled Hollywood Be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929-1949.  “‘Taint” is the first chapter of the book and covers the production and pre-production of the film we just watched for class, Hallelujah. The beginning of this chapter focuses on King Vidor and some of the choices he put into the film’s making. Let it be known that “the final product was largely the result of Vidor’s wishes and decisions, with a few significant exception of intervention from the studio and the censors” (20). Because of this, we can extrapolate that most decisions of the production were approved by him and can, thus, use the information to examine him.

King Vidor in a suit and hat

King Vidor notes his motivation for making the movie was “the sincerity and fervor of [black people’s] religious expression [and] the honest simplicity of their sexual drives” (20). This is not the only time that King Vidor equates black people with simplicity. He, “knowing the negro, [chose] a simple theme for ‘Hallelujah’” (21). I shouldn’t need to say so, but for the purposes of clarity I will shine a light on the problematic implications of this thought process. The two-dimensional qualities of the black character in the film, torn between vice and virtue, are sincerely how King Vidor views the race.

Furthermore, he considers himself an authority on the depiction of these people and had “created the story from his own observations of southern black life” (20). In fact, he had so much confidence in his ability that “aboard the ship returning to the United States he drew up a list for the studio elements ‘suitable for an all-Negro sound film’” (20).  In other words, he constructed his ideas before consulting any member of the race for ideas they may have.

Hallelujah cover

However, fret not. There was at least one black person working on this, besides the cast of course. King Vidor, himself, “selected the white screenwriter, Wanda Tuchlock, and Ransom Rideout, a black playwright and studio writer, added dialogue at the studio’s request” (21). Parsing the phrasing, it is a likely assumption that Rideout did not write all the dialogue. It seems like the real writer was Tuchlock and Rideout was just there to make some of the dialogue sound more “authentic”.

I could go on, but I make my entry from what I found in just the first couple of pages and the chapter goes on for 33. It was an interesting read and gave concrete facts to the vibes of problematic depiction I got from just watching the film the first time.

Preaching on Wax

For this assignment, I was meant to watch an interview with Dr. Lerone Martin on the Left of Black at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University, Dr. Lerone Martin speaking on the evolution of Black spiritual music, and an article about the contents of his book, Preaching on Wax: Phonograph and the Shaping of Modern African American Religion. These videos and article with Dr. Lerone Martin give a small insight into the African American culture surrounding religion and the media and their intersections. Dr. Martin was raised on tele-evangelism and thus surrounded by this combination and wanted to know how it came about.

Book Cover of Preaching on Wax

Through these pieces, Martin explains that the affuent and educated images used by preachers were meant to expand their popularity, not just for the sake of being popular, but to spread their message farther. These people use their celebrity status, fancy clothes, educated tones, and more to create credibility with their audiences. He warns, however, that for some their message can be warped to improve popularity.

Originally, preachers recorded their sermons on records to combat the popular jazz and blues artists of the times. He finds connects to the practice in the past and the present of the time. Martin connects the musical speech to work songs and the double entendres, slaves would sing to each other to communicate in secret and encourage each other through a day of hard work. Martin also connected the recorded sermons to gospel with the use of call-and-answer and a large pause from the speaker. The call-and-answer, according to Martin, originated in West Africa as a method of storytelling to get the audience engaged and create community. The large pause from a speaker is meant to signify a space where the divine enters and speaks to the audience through the speaker.

Black and white photograph of train

When I first heard the record by Rev. J. M. Gates, I honestly did not notice it was a sermon. I recognized the religion connections in the words, but it just sounded like a strange and ominous song to me. Even when I heard it was a sermon, it did not mean much to me. However, when Prof. Lerone Martin mentioned his exposure to evangelism as a child, something clicked. In that interview, there was a question about how to keep the integrity in religion while selling the records as a commodity. I wondered this too and whether the message was made into more of a show and entertainment to get views and how far that actually went. I wondered if people would have been honest about their truth motivations if Dr. Martin had asked them. I wish I had more experience with how preaching actually was outside of media so I had something to compare it too.  For now, my questions remain unanswered.