Musilanguage

News out of Iceland that doesn’t deal with bank failures or the plummeting krona! OK, news might be a stretch, but we could all stand to hear some more Hopelandic these days.

According to evolutionary musicology, “Musilanguage” is a proto-linguistic form of communication somewhere in between, on the one hand, emotive grunting/cooing/moaning/what-have-you, and then on the other, semantically/ symbolically appropriate but sonically arbitrary sounds that convey meaning (i.e. words). As most things are when it comes down to it, this particular concept is about gettin’ busy.

In “Descent of Man,” Darwin describes “true musical cadences” used by “some early progenitor of man” to woo the opposite sex (or to get totally whack with the same one). This “musilanguage” — a term coined by neurologist Steven Brown — would ostensibly evolve into language and music, respectively.

The Icelandic post-rock four-piece Sigur Rós is well-known for switching up the emotive and the referential. A made-up language Vonlenska (“Hopelandic” in English), which emulates the cadences of Icelandic without actually meaning anything, peppers their songs up to the current album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (“With a Buzz in Our Ears we Play Endlessly”). Now on tour in Europe, Japan, Canada and the US, the band’s bassist confessed in an interview with Pitchfork media, however, that all the hullaballoo about the nature of their lyrics and linguistic hijinks was, and is, rather hype. For example the title of a track on the last album, “Gobbledigook”, was not so much a comment on how they express themselves, but rather a misspelling of the Icelandic “Gobbldigob”, a word for the clippity-clop of horses’ hooves.


Originally published at culture-making.com.

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