Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ulfilas and the East German Branch

All the surviving Germanic languages today are either from the West Germanic branch, including English, Frisian, Dutch, and German; or the North Germanic, Scandinavian ones. The Eastern branch died out a long time ago, and the only substantial extant manuscript we have of that family of languages is a Gothic translation of portions of the Bible by Ulfilas. It amazes me how one tenuous thread can open such a fascinating and comparatively wide door to linguistic history.

Ulfilas, or Wulfila, made his own alphabet for the translation, the letters drawing heavily from Greek and Roman. The photograph above comes from Robert Pfeffer's very excellent site (in German and English), which has historical information as well as mythological art. In this Youtube video, Pfeffer does an absolutely fascinating job pronouncing a passage from the Gospel of Luke:

What amazes me how un-Germanic it sounds, at least at first, but then you pick up on certain words that look similar to words in modern German or English. (Incidentally, I left a comment in German on the video, or at least I tried.) Though we can't be sure what the language really sounded like, to me this is as convincing as it gets.

Take a look also at this lesson from Alexander Arguelles's excellent YouTube series on modern and extinct languages:

As you listen to his translation of the text above, you'll see some connections. Let me give one more example of Gothic - the Our Father, in this case using Roman characters and a thorn (þ) for the th sound:
Atta unsar þu in himinam,
weihnai namo þein,
quimai þiudinassus þeins,
wairþai wilja þeins,
swe in himina jah ana airþai.
hlaif unsarana þana sinteinan gib uns himma daga,
jah aflet uns þatei skulans sijaima,
swaswe jah weis afletam þaim skulam unsaraim,
jah ni briggais uns in fraistubnjai,
ak lausei uns af þamma ubilin. Amen.
Just looking at the first line, we see atta = father; unsar = unser (our in German); himinam = Himmel (heaven). The second line: weihnai = holy (so Fröhliche Weihnachten, which is Merry Christmas in German, literally means something akin to "Happy Holy Night"); namo = name; þein = thy, thine. Then a few lines down, daga = day.

And so on. What we'll likely not fully know is what these people did for fun, what they ate, what music or art they might have created, what their society was like. But the idea that a Germanic culture existed down near the Mediterranean region back in the 4th Century, and that they spoke a language related to ours, however distantly, shows us a significant link in a long chain that extends even farther back to places we can only imagine.


P.S.: Robert pointed a a great series by BenJamin P. Johnson, "Gothic for Goths." The first video begins with the alphabet:

I look forward to watching the rest of the series - click here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Robin Trower

Nothing spells love like Robin Trower. Oddly enough, this album from a 1975 performance in Stockholm's Konserthus is not on Spotify or in MP3 format on Amazon right now. (A number of the things here aren't, now that I think of it.) So...

Download here (no password):

My absolute favorites here are "Daydream" and "I Can't Wait Much Longer," (also on his first album*) with bassist James Dewar's stellar voice in full force. The tunes have a moodiness that I greatly identify with. Dewar died in 2002, but Trower is still strong - never lost his chops as a guitarist.

From here you can explore a number of albums both on Spotify and Amazon. A few to start with: Twice Removed from Yesterday*, At The BBC 1973-1975, B.L.T. (with Jack Bruce... and a picture of a sandwich on the front cover), and Living Out of Time (Live). He's got great live energy. I have to catch up on more of his studio albums, especially the most recent ones.

Almost forgot to mention Bridge of Sighs. That's a good one too, especially that killer intro on the title track.


P.S.: A lot of the early Procol Harum is fun stuff. The tune "A Salty Dog" is a gem.

P.P.S.: Passed the 100,000 mark with the page views on this blog. For comparison I have another Blogger blog for almost as long, that I seldom maintain, and that one has like 600 views. Music is always a more fun topic.

I've been digging Tumblr too - I share daily picks over there. It's much easier: nothing to post, as the albums are already online. But there are endless amounts of cool photos and art to check out as well. There are a lot of people in the world, many of them on Tumblr, just tumbling away :-)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thoughts Before The Superbowl

First, I went and got a six pack of Geary's Pale Ale. Home run. All right, wrong word. Touchdown! This Portland, Maine brew embodies everything I love about ale. Just smelling it lets you know this is English style. The yeast and hops help give it that unmatchable aroma and flavor, albeit a little more dry and herbal than some of the pale ales from across the way. Another American great of similar kind is Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55. Try these if you like the flavor. I can't recommend them enough.

Next, the photo above. The Boss. Bruce Springsteen himself. I am listening to Live in Dublin right now. This is an unbelievable concert. He performs with The Sessions Band doing Pete Seeger tunes together with his own stuff, here with banjo, fiddle, accordion, brass, and plenty of acoustic energy. You can find this on Spotify too. It's even better than the beer.

Now none of this has anything to do with football. I have not been following all season, so I'll have some catching up to do watching the game. I didn't even have any idea who is performing in the half time show till I just looked it up. Beyoncé it is. Usually the half time show is just glimmering lights and a fashion show, but I really dug what Bruce did a few years back. That rocked.

Anyway, I'm still looking through the archives to see what I can share next. For now, enjoy the game if you're watching, and if not, go enjoy something else. Happy February.