The Jazz.com Blog
March 16, 2009 · 2 comments
Alan Kurtz, our web site's resident curmudgeon, recently dropped an uncharacteristically sensible note into our Suggestion Box, which met with immediate approval. The time has come, Alan asserted, for jazz.com to obtain the services of an Expert Translator, fluent in as many languages as possible, whose duties shall include scouring the Internet for promising articles, negotiating formal permission to republish, and rendering them into the stylish and fastidious English that jazz.com readers have rightfully come to expect.
Since Alan was so insistent, we delegated to him the task of retaining an Expert Translator. We hasten to add that jazz.com is an equal opportunity employer, committed to diversity in the workplace. Yet, for reasons that should become clear from Alan's report below, even we were taken aback by his selection. Readers are invited to comment below or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. But please bear in mind that, for better or for worse, this position has been filled. No more applicants will be considered. T.G.
Like most of the other candidates I'd interviewed that week, Orville Wilburbecke entered my office looking friendly and self- confident. In contrast to the others, he left looking the same way. Unlike them, Orville had gotten the job.
Not for himself, mind you. Indeed, as soon as we'd seated ourselves at opposite sides of my desk, Orville admitted that he is personally not a translator. "However," he responded to my quizzical stare, "I have exactly what you need." Unbidden, he enumerated the virtues of his software application, RoboLinguist: versatility, efficiency, and economy. "Why settle for a human translator's grasp of a paltry handful of languages, when RoboLinguist puts 27 tongues and dozens of dialects at your fingertips? Why wait hours or even days for a passable human translation when RoboLinguist can deliver the goods in nanoseconds? Why get bogged down in the quagmire of recurring payroll, accounting, tax deductions and reporting obligations, not to mention overhead costs including liability insurance? RoboLinguist can do the same job better, at a nominal licensing fee and in the space of a few gigabytes on your hard drive!"
"Look here, Wilburbecke," I interjected. "That's all well and good for general purpose translation. But we're dealing here with a highly specialized situation. Are you telling me RoboLinguist could cope with jazz?"
Orville was sublimely unfazed. "It's already being done," he assured me, looking just smug enough to suggest, without saying so, that I'd fallen behind the times. "The leading online publishers of jazz-related articles are increasingly invested in RoboLinguist, with a satisfaction rate approaching if not exceeding 100%."
To illustrate the powers of RoboLinguist, Orville produced from his sample case an article that he claimed had lately been published by reputable web sites. The original, which he showed me first, had appeared on Jazzitalia. Since it was in Italian, I could make no sense of it, but nevertheless recognized "Musica e politica, oggi?! A colloquio con l'etnomusicologo e sassofonista Jerome Camal." This was Franco Bergoglio's interview with music scholar Jerome Camal, both of whom I knew by reputation. Signore Bergoglio is author of the book Jazz!: appunti e note dal secolo breve (Costa & Nolan, 2008), and Jerome Camal is a saxophonist and ethnomusicologist whose doctoral dissertation in progress is titled From Gwoka Modènn to Jazz Ka: Music and Ideology in Guadeloupe. I'd been looking forward to reading this interview, but was unaware that it'd been translated.
Mr. Wilburbecke thereupon proudly displayed the RoboLinguist version, titled "Music and politics, today?!" Like the wily fisherman who relaxes when he knows his quarry is hooked, Orville settled back in his chair as I avidly devoured the text.
"Jerome Camal," it began, "French of birth, is assistant to the Washington University of Saint Louis in jazz studies, logic of music and logic of ethnic music. But it is also a saxophonist that is not satisfied with to live of academic searches and he doesn't want that teacher calls him, but he prefers to play in the places, to plunge himself in jam sessions and to teach the practice of the tool."
At this point, I imagine my face betrayed puzzlement. "You say this has been published on reputable web sites?" I asked.
"Approaching if not exceeding 100% satisfaction," Orville assured me.
I read on. Soliciting Camal's opinion of 1960s radical jazz critic Frank Kofsky, Bergoglio declared: "I think that its intention was to put its studies the method of Marxist analysis into practice, doesn't it seem you?"
"I arrange," Camal replied. "Kofsky is an interesting character. Indeed ideology envelops its writings in so mighty way to make more its reasonings object objections. An example of this attitude is its interview to Coltrane in which him test, without succeeding us to make to guarantee from Coltrane its political ideas." I began to worry that I was missing something here.
"You think there is a connection," Bergoglio pursued, "among the New it damages American and the jazz? And of what type?"
"And an ample question," allowed Camal, "too much for a rapid answer." Turning to another '60s radical jazz critic, Amiri Baraka, Camal observed: "Many groups and artists of the movement coagulated him around the African-American arts, the reasonings of Baraka they resounded."
Adopting my sternest expression, I demanded that Wilburbecke reveal at once which web sites, exactly, had seen fit to publish this translation?
"Most notably," said Orville, beaming with what I took to be pride of placement, "EzineArticles.com, which maintains a database of hundreds of thousands of quality original articles that it markets to ezine publishers everywhere. Perhaps you know the founder, Christopher Knight."
"Not personally. But did he or someone else over there actually read this?"
"Every single article is human reviewed," Wilburbecke solemnly vouchsafed.
I remained unconvinced. "The thing is, Orville, that jazz.com is more tightly focused than most ezines. We appeal to readers with very refined musical interests."
"So does Fubrus Knowledge Database," Wilburbecke countered. "Perhaps you know FKD's founder, Kej Beogradski."
"Can't say I've had the pleasure," I admitted. But I'd certainly heard the Fables of Fubrus. Anyone who acquires content from them is said to be totally FKD. I could not help but be impressed.
I resumed reading Orville's robotic translation, in which Franco Bergoglio had by now moved from '60s radical critics to John Coltrane. "I think," explained musicologist and tenorman Jerome Camal, "that the case of Coltrane to treat we need to consider his/her music from two separated visual angles. Primo: which type of political message (if it is one of them) it foresaw Coltrane for his music? According to: which done mean political you has been tied up to his music to back, from the most different listeners?"
Probably I was just tired. Maybe Orville had worn me down. Or perhaps it really did make sense. The longer I read, the more persuaded I became that RoboLinguist was, at minimum, worth a try. Besides, if those other web sites bought it, I was afraid of being left behind. Curmudgeon or not, I won't be lumped with the Luddites. Jazz.com's mission in cyberspace comes first.
Thus did I decide that it's high time for us to plunge into RoboLinguist and teach the practice of the tool. After all, ideology envelops its writings in so mighty way to make more its reasonings object objections. With RoboLinguist's help, jazz.com will coagulate around the arts and reasonings of those they resounded. We need to treat his/her music from separated angles, according to which done mean you has been tied up to music to back from the most different listeners. You know what I'm saying?
Orville Wilburbecke sensed instantly that he'd made a convert. "How soon may we install RoboLinguist on jazz.com's computers?" he gushed.
"And an ample question," came my weary response, "too much for a rapid answer."
"I arrange," smiled Orville. "Approaching if not exceeding 100% satisfaction."
This blog entry posted by Alan Kurtz.