English As She Is Spoke
In Paris in 1853, Pedro Carolinho published a phrasebook for the English language entitled English As She Is Spoke. The only problem was that Carolino, from Portugal, did not speak English! Instead, he apparently used a French-English dictionary to render his dialogues. The resulting, completely unusable, guide was a running joke in the English-speaking world for a while, prompting Mark Twain to write, “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect.”
Inspired at first to compose a humourous song cycle, I instead became entranced by the accidental poetry and delirious imagery of the texts. I modeled each song (sometimes explicitly) on my favourite 19th- and 20th-century art songs, namely by Schubert, Schumann, Ravel, Strauss and Barber. I hope you will enjoy getting lost in the beautiful absurdities as much as I have.