AS IN ENGLISH, Slovaks sometimes say of a virtuoso performer that music flows in his veins - hudba mu prúdi v žilách. Even those of us in the audience experience music in our hearts and bodies; its enjoyment does not require language. Unfortunately, everything that comes before and after a performance does.
How do you say something intelligent (or even not so intelligent) about a concert in Slovakia? And when you head off to see live music, how do you know what it will sound like?
On a basic level, advertisements for concerts are self-explanatory. If you are reading a programme of the Slovak Philharmonic, you have a pretty good chance of hearing classical music. Meanwhile, when you pass a grainy, black and white poster with descriptions under the bands that read something like "death vomit grind kore", you know you are in for something a little noisier.
Between these extremes there are other visual cues that let us know if we will be seeing a big commercial show (all the sponsors' little logos at the bottom of the poster), ethno or world music (bright colours, foreign words, and exotic images), or electronic dance music (computer graphics and scantily-clad ladies).
But these rather standardised cues are little help when you want to know, for example, what instrument (nástroj) each performer plays. Especially at a classical concert, there can be quite a lot to take in. A basic list includes the violin (husle), piano (klavír), percussion (bicie), flute (flauta), and cello (čelo). Viola is viola.
Once you have decoded the programme and enjoyed the concert, what do you say next? If the music was softly beautiful, ľúbezné tóny (sweet tones) is an appropriate description of the sounds that caressed your ears.
A common description of gypsy music, which many visitors to Slovakia experience, is "falošne ale s citom" - "false but with feeling".
If you go to see a live concert (živé vystúpenie) of a different genre (žáner), like rock (rock), you are likely to find the singer (spevák), bassist (basista), guitarist (gitarista), and drummer (bubeník) that make up your usual band (kapela).
If the music heard at the show is upbeat, energetic, and vital, young people call it našlapaná. Literally, našlapaná means marched or treaded on, so I am not sure how it came to define music as exciting.
If you want to say the music rocks, try "dobre to frčí," literally "it is really zooming".
On the other hand, the concert might be bad. Some friends describe such music as basement (suterén), others use mud (bahno) or trash (odpad). The first is a funny turnaround from the use of underground in English to mean non-commercial or inventive. To get these meanings across in Slovak, try nekonvenčný (unconventional) or else just use underground - it is understood as an appropriated foreign word.
If it turns out that the concert is too loud and the kapela is out of tune, illustrate your feelings by calling the whole affair rachot. This word is a good one for any descriptive vocabulary, as its many meanings as a noun and adjective include roar, grumble, rumble, clangour, clatter, and chug.
To generally express unhappiness with terrible music, try "je to úplné peklo!" - "it's total hell". If any of the classical lovers among The Slovak Spectator's readers try this at their next concert, please let me know how it goes over.
But if you like loud music, you can express your appreciation with "to je nárez", literally "it is beating/thrashing", meaning that the music has drive and a good, fast rhythm. Nárez is also the term for the cold cuts you get at the butcher's shop, but that has nothing to do with music.
Musical language also enters everyday Slovak as metaphor. For example, the phrase "veľa peňazí za málo muziky" ("lots of money for little music") means that someone wants a large reward for very little effort. On the other hand, "veľa muziky za málo peňazí" ("lots of music for little money") means the opposite - someone wants you to do miracles for very little return or with few resources.
When there is an accident or some kind of problem, a flippant way of excusing yourself from blame is "ja nič, ja muzikant," ("I'm just a musician") meaning something like "I just work here".
The orchestra conductor (dirigent) is the victim of the Slovak assumption that he is egotistical and bossy. When you get fed up with someone's domineering personality, you can mutter, "he conducts everything here" ("on to tu všetko diriguje").
And when a prisoner finally decides to talk, his captors might say with satisfaction, "no, veď on bude spievať" - "so, he's going to sing". On a lighter level, when your big-mouthed friend spills the beans about your personal life to the wrong person, you can voice your anger with "musel si to všetko vytrúbiť?" - "Must you trumpet out everything?"
Since yelling at your friend is not likely to lighten your mood, you will probably want to complain to someone else about what happened, saying that "brnkal mi na nervy" ("he plucked my nerves"), and that afterwards you were in a bad mood - "nebolo mi do spevu", which literally means "I was in no mood to sing". Luckily for the majority of us, native and foreign speakers of Slovak alike, when we go to a concert we are not required to.
14. Jun 2004 at 0:00 | Eric Smillie