Sex, Drugs And Gobbledigook: Sigur Rós And RjDj Emote In ‘Musilanguage’

Babbel considers language that blurs the line between gibberish and emotive communication.
October 15, 2008
Sex, Drugs And Gobbledigook: Sigur Rós And RjDj Emote In ‘Musilanguage’

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.

For those seeking to devolve employing the latest technology, a new iPhone app RJDJ is on the case with a lot of seriously funky features. One is converting normal speech into something more, let’s say, emotive, according to the music you’re listening to — a digitally generated “musilanguage”, as it were. Birthed over the weekend, RJDJ is explained in the below video, where an enthusiast describes it as “connecting the outside world to your acoustic perception.” This is, in his esteem, sort of like drugs:

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We are a team of more than 750 people from over 50 nations with a shared passion for languages. From our offices in Berlin and New York, we help people discover the joys of self-directed language learning. We currently offer 14 different languages — from Spanish to Indonesian — that millions of active subscribers choose to learn.

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