Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Classics in Pop Culture, Part II

Classics in Pop Culture, Part II

In my last post I presented a project idea that involved sending students out on a scavenger hunt to find songs with Latin or Greek in the lyrics, and then relaying their discoveries to the class. This week I offer an idea that requires more creative engagement from the students.
Rondellus’s album, Sabbatum, is
composed entirely of Black
Sabbath covers…in Latin!

Instead of driving students to go out and find songs with Latin or Greek, have them choose popular songs they like and translate them into Latin or Greek! This is a task that some professional musicians have undertaken in recent years—and have met with success in their attempts. The band Rondellus has taken the music of Black Sabbath, such as “Planet Caravan,” translated the lyrics into Latin, and set the music to a medieval-like composition. Fint Floyd, a Pink Floyd cover band, has taken the entire album The Dark Side of the Moon and reworked it with Latin lyrics. For example, “Pecunia,” is the band’s take on the 1973 hit “Money.”

There are different ways students could approach a project like this. For some a simple translation might suffice, while others may wish to record the lyrics and put them over the track they use. Even more ambitious students might record their own composition with the translated lyrics. The most ambitious may do this along with a music video.

To make the project most useful for learning Latin, students should be able to account for the decisions they made in word choice and arrangement. Students could, and perhaps should, also aim to include some poetic devices, like alliteration or chiasmus, in their translations. An ambitious student may choose to emulate the style of his or her favorite ancient author, or an author relevant to the course.

This project can also be used for classics courses that do not emphasize language. Students might take historical or cultural themes and work them into the lyrics and melodies of popular songs. There are many great examples of this done already on YouTube. Those done by historyteachers are particular favorites of mine. For classes without time to create their own songs, viewing or lip syncing to videos such as “Trojan War” (“Tainted Love” by Softcell) or “Viva Roma No. V” (“Mambo #5” by Lou Bega) would make a great fun class day.

Urge your students to get creative with some of these project ideas! Have you had experiences with projects like this? Do you have similar project ideas that you would like to share? Are you still uncertain how you might make a project like this work? Leave your comment or question in the section below! And be sure to stay tuned for a future post where I take classics in pop culture one step further.

-Connor Hart