Revisions in Action, Part 3: Music Talk

This post could also be titled “Thank you, Flintstones!” because it’s thanks to Fred Flintstone’s “Yabadabadooooo!” that I’ve figured out how to translate music talk into English.

What’s music talk, you ask?

Well, have you ever heard people who play instruments talking about the pieces of music they practise? They often use nonsense words like lalalala when describing a particular passage in the music. The first time I consciously noticed this was twenty years or so ago when I was talking to my very good friend Petra about some piece or other and it suddenly struck us how utterly ridiculous we sounded.

I was reminded of this conversation when I wrote a particular scene in SPRINGTIME PLEASURES where Charlie and her new friend Lady Isabella are discussing what Isabella might play on the fortepiano at an upcoming party. Izzy thinks a Haydn sonata would do nicely.

“I have already narrowed it down to two options. One” – she gave Charlie an expectant look – “the sonata in A major that starts with dlummM-tadatadada-tidabambah,” she sang, her fingers playing an invisible fortepiano on her lap. “You know, the one with all the triplets?”

“Hmm,” Charlie said. “Tricky things, triplets.”

Isabella’s face fell a little. “Yes. Yes, you are right. Not suitable for a first performance.”


“No.” Isabella took a deep breath. “What then do you think of the sonata in C major where the right hand starts with bllum-dam-dam-dam bllum-dam-dam-dam, and the left hand goes yabadaba yabadaba yabadaba yabadaba? It is quite lovely, and it is one of my favourites.”

So you can clearly see where Fred is coming in. To choose nonsense words in a foreign language is rather tricky, I can tell you, and it took me a while to figure out how to translate the German “jabadaba” into English – until I eventually remembered the Flintstones. 🙂