Voradlberg, du bisch mis Paradies!

Trond Engen wrote me as follows:

I recently learned that the Austrian state of Vorarlberg (“Voradelberg” for locals) for some years has been holding an annual competition in popular music in the dialect, and the response and quality has been much better than initially expected, with contributions from a wide field of popular music. The report of this year’s competition here … complete with links to the songs with texts and all. And if that’s not enough, last year’s competitors are here.

I finally got around to checking it out, and it’s really delightful dialect; I draw my title from this song (to a very familiar tune):

Wo i läb, wo i bin, do bisch du und viel anders, und do gits an Afang und a End, was globscht denn du? Voradlberg, Voradlberg, du bisch mis Paradies, fühl i mi, gschpür i di, säg i „Vergelts Gott“ und freu mi. Sieach i des Läba, des Gschenk was nix koscht, hör i i mis Härz ine: „Freier Geischt, freie Seel“, rüafts i minam Härza.

Unrelated, but I can’t resist mentioning the shipment of books that arrived today from my fave Russian bookstore, which had a sale just when I was feeling the need to add to my shelves (you can see images of the covers in the “Most recent activity” box on my Librarything page):

Dostoevsky, Собрание повестей и романов в одном томе (collected stories, 1424 pp.!)
Dostoevsky, Бесы [The Devils]
Bunin, Полное собрание рассказов в одном томе (complete collected stories, 1117 pp.!)
Gorky, Детство/В людях/Мои университеты (trilogy of memoirs)
Kozma Prutkov, Зри в корень! [Behold the root!] (I’ve wanted a collection of his brilliantly silly aphorisms and other works for years)

I confess I get just as excited waiting for books to arrive as I did at fourteen waiting for science fiction magazines to show up in the mail. I told my wife if I ever start being indifferent to such things, check for a pulse.

Comments

  1. But not a tune that is familiar to most Austrians, which makes it an interesting choice for a neo-folk song.

  2. David Marjanović says:

    That is a drastic illustration of the dialect diversity – all Alemannic, but all of Alemannic – that can be found between Lake Constance and the Silvretta mountains. The singer’s accent sounds nothing like either that of the neighbors we had in Vienna, nor the Much Higher Alemannic one one of them once quoted.

    Like, I didn’t even know there are people there who aren’t fully rhotic. I’ve encountered things like [fr̩ˈar̩l̩b̥ærg̊]. I’m similarly surprised by the singer’s [ʀ]. The occasional voiced [d] she drops in, though, has to be a feature of professional singing she’s carrying over.

    Here is a very different accent in the same contest. And here, still from the same contest, is one that presents a confusing mix of features. And this one, also from the same contest, has a different confusing mix of features (2.15–3:00 is enough). Finally, Vorarlberg without /r/ or /d/ here, still from the same contest; note the Bavarian loanwoard jausnen.

    And no, I’ve never encountered the tune before. Where is it from?

  3. It’s interesting that many pop songs in Croatia are entirely in ‘dialect’ to the point that people from other regions can only partially understand them, but they are hugely popular nevertheless. Festivals in various ‘dialects’ have been running from 1960’s. There is also a lot of ‘dialectal’ poetry

  4. And no, I’ve never encountered the tune before. Where is it from?

    It’s “Edelweiss,” from The Sound of Music. It’s so popular in America, anyway (don’t know about the UK), that if I google “edelweiss” that clip is the first thing that comes up.

  5. And no, I’ve never encountered the tune before. Where is it from?

    It’s the melody of “Edelweiss, Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music, a musical based on a highly fictionalized version of the departure of Captain Georg von Trapp and his family from Nazi Austria in 1938. The muscial shows them escaping on foot (with baggage and musical instruments!) to Switzerland: in fact, they left openly by train for Italy. The regime was undoubtedly glad to see them go, as von Trapp, though a conservative aristocrat, was firmly anti-Nazi and anti-Anschluss. They settled in Stowe, Vermont, from which they conducted U.S. and world tours as professional singers, a role they had adopted when von Trapp lost all his money in the Depression.

    The irony arises because the musical, and this song in particular, is probably the best-known thing about Austria in the U.S., certainly in the 1960s and perhaps even today.

  6. There was even an urban legend that Ronald Reagan once had the military band strike up „Edelweiss“ to greet the Austrian Chancellor, assuming that was the Austrian national anthem.

    Even today young Americans apparently still love that musical. We just hosted an American a capella singing group in Vienna and one young woman‘s priority was to make a side trip to Salzburg to do the Sound of Music tour.

  7. Yes, the geography of The Sound of Music is somewhat mixed up. von Trapps (both real and musical ones) lived in Salzburg region (Zell am See, to be a bit more specific) from which it is impossible to cross on foot to Switzerland. But it is possible from Vorarlberg. The musical comes highly recommended.

  8. When I toured Salzburg with a group of Americans (twenty-four years ago now), the guide basically assumed that we had all seen The Sound of Music. I think we all had; and, in fact, most of us had played in the pit orchestra for a production of the original play.

    Personally, I like the play quite a bit better than the film, for a couple reasons. One is that the songs are better integrated into the plot; for example, the movie has to feature a random marionette routine in order to justify the inclusion of “The Lonely Goatherd.” My favorite song, “No Way to Stop It” is also not in the film, and the character who sings it is turned into a villain. On the other hand, the massive set piece for “Do, Re, Mi” in the film is quite impressive. (And I’m not saying that the amateur production I was involved in was particularly good specifically; I cannot have been the only person who found it odd that the Nazi boyfriend was played by a flamboyantly gay African American.)


  9. Ernst Röhm
    was known to be gay, and there was a trope among contemporary anti-nazi satirists to caricature the SA as a gay brotherhood. But African-American indeed stretches credulity…

  10. David Marjanović says:

    It’s interesting that many pop songs in Croatia are entirely in ‘dialect’ to the point that people from other regions can only partially understand them, but they are hugely popular nevertheless.

    This happened with at least one South Estonian (Võro/Seto*) song in Estonia. South Estonian is the sister-group of all the rest of Finnic.

    * Võro if Protestant, Seto if Orthodox.

    The Sound of Music

    That’s what I feared.

    Most Austrians don’t know it at all. Those who know it know it because it’s so popular in the US, and find it an embarrassing heap of kitsch.

    Fun fact: “nobility with all its privileges”, including von in surnames (unlike in Germany), was abolished in 1918.

    though a conservative aristocrat, was firmly anti-Nazi and anti-Anschluss

    Far from a contradiction, this attitude was quite common. Even apart from half of its very name, National Socialism was too novel and too godless for a lot of people, most famously the ones involved in Starhemberg’s attempt to assassinate Hitler; for Austrian aristocrats, add to this that they understandably never got into the other half of the name either.

  11. find it an embarrassing heap of kitsch.

    It is in fact an embarrassing heap of kitsch, but a maddeningly tuneful one.

  12. an embarrassing heap of kitsch

    Americans think so too, but we tend to like embarrassing heaps of kitsch.

    this attitude was quite common

    I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  13. an embarrassing heap of kitsch

    Next time you will tell us you don’t like ABBA.

  14. I don’t, personally: too slick. In any case, they were never as huge in the U.S. as elsewhere, at least not until the show and film Mamma Mia! came out.

  15. @David Marjanović: The widow of Claus von Stauffenberg (whose legal surname after 1919 was changed to “Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg” to preserve the family’s lost noble titles as part of their family name) described her husband (quoted in translation):

    One of his characteristics was that he really enjoyed playing the devil’s advocate. Conservatives were convinced that he was a ferocious Nazi, and ferocious Nazis were convinced he was an unreconstructed conservative. He was neither.

    I’m certain whether the German word Nina von Stauffenberg used was actually konservativ, but the sense is clear—that she saw traditional (largely royalist) conservatives as diametrically opposed to the Nazis.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Whoa. Starhemberg… I meant Stauffenberg. It turns out, though, that there is a Starhemberg who fits amazingly well except for not being involved in the assassination attempt. Still, I must have been thinking of his namesake whose claim to fame dates from 1683.

    Also, yes, the nobility was abolished in 1919, not 1918.

    It is in fact an embarrassing heap of kitsch, but a maddeningly tuneful one.

    Indeed I have that tune as an earworm now. That said, I don’t remember any of the tunes from the one time I watched much of it on Austrian TV a few years ago.

    I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

    That’s how I took though.

    Next time you will tell us you don’t like ABBA.

    Well, no, but 1) I claim the mercy of late birth and 2) I don’t like most of 20th-century music anyway, so that means little. Like, I don’t dance; I have no idea what’s supposed to be enjoyable about it; I simply lack any urge to move to any kind of music.

    I’m [not?] certain whether the German word Nina von Stauffenberg used was actually konservativ

    I can’t see anything else it could be.

  17. Even apart from half of its very name, National Socialism

    Sure. I suppose I’ve just gotten sick of explaining to Americans-who-don’t-want-to-know that National Socialism was no more socialism than People’s Democracies were democratic. At best this analogy produces silence rather than enlightenment. They know the Third Reich was all about nationalizing the means of production.

  18. Up until the Night of the Long Knives, there was an actual socialist faction in the NSDAP. For example, Anton Drexler, the founder of the party, had an obsession with nationalizing the big department stores. (I assume there was some antisemitic canard underlying this.)

  19. Yes, and I even concede that point in advance. But when people insist on calling Hitler himself a socialist, I am reduced to saying “You lie, and you know that you lie.”

  20. Trond Engen says:

    Thanks for posting it. I meant to take vividly part in the discussion, but I hadn’t much chance to play clips while on holiday, and now I don’t really have much to add. Except that for mixing of features, it’s a common observation that dialect poetry often jumps in and out of dialect for reasons such as rhyme or euphony. It’s no surprise that these songs do the same.

  21. I’ve been curious lately about “You lie” (or “He lies” etc.) as a way of calling out a particular lie. For that I’d say “You’re lying”, just as I’d say “You’re talking rubbish” or “You’re being stupid”. My natural interpretation of “You lie” is “you’re a habitual liar”.

    I’ve heard it from the mouths of everyday characters in US films/TV and at first thought it was mock-portentous, an ironic adoption of the style of villains like Ming the Merciless, say. But I’ve come across it quite a few times by now. Is it in fact the usual way of saying this? Is it a recent development? Is it humorous? Or was it originally? Does anyone say “You’re lying”, and if so, does “You lie” sound weightier?

  22. at first thought it was mock-portentous, an ironic adoption of the style of villains like Ming the Merciless, say.

    That’s the way I take it, except that not everyone is being ironic — some people (like that idiot who yelled at Obama in Congress) think they’re being impressively formal. It’s certainly not the usual way of saying it; in normal conversation “You’re lying” would be the phrase used.

  23. That was my congressman. I’ve met him, briefly, but long enough to determine that he is an all-around jackass.

  24. I think “You lie” does mean “You are a habitual liar, and what is more, you are lying now.” So it carries more weight of contempt than “You’re lying”. I have to be pretty outraged to say to someone’s face they are lying using any form of words, and I’d say “That’s a lie” or “You lie” quite naturally in that situation.

  25. Thanks LH and JC. Sounds like it might have started as a humorous style-shift but is becoming unmarked (like “so not…” ,as in “She’s so not interested in making you a roulade”?)

    LH/Brett: I vaguely remember that incident, and it might even have been the one that first made me think it’s not just humorous.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    Except that for mixing of features, it’s a common observation that dialect poetry often jumps in and out of dialect for reasons such as rhyme or euphony. It’s no surprise that these songs do the same.

    They don’t even do that that much. What’s so striking is that they’re in such different dialects to begin with.

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