Even if he wanted to, Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb couldn’t repeat himself. Just watch him sing sometime; the guy’s got two vocal mics, one distorted, one clean, and he doesn’t make up his mind which one he’ll be singing into until he’s halfway through his line. Tucson (Fire), Gelb’s latest release (credited to Giant Giant Sand), is named after his Arizona hometown. He will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.
Gelb: If you’re reading this, you have a grasp of the language and love of lyrics within music and how they assemble in song.
Infiltrating several borderlands since 1986, it has been a continuous curiosity regarding how much of lyrical content matters to an audience where its semantics are not primary. Who then are we performing to? The Intelligentsia? The fortunate few? The kind of people we hardly hang out with back home ?
Notably, this has changed steadily with each passing decade. A younger audience forced to master the language in order to absorb the influx of pop culture has emerged. My wife, born in Denmark, has no discernible accent, but may stumble on a word like “semantics” from time to time. This mastering of pronunciation came from listening to a steady diet of Elvis Presley as a kid.
During an extended period of time overseas, I’ve chosen only to learn enough not to starve, especially during my vegetarian years. There is a mesmerizing quality to listening to people chat without the luggage of meaning attached. It becomes a room full of cello strokes with familiar rhythm and pause. When startled by Americans conversing in proximity, their conversation breaks the trance of symphonic cello murmur by seeping in like second-hand smoke and unwanted details of their languid small talk. Notably, many people mutter like a nervous tick instead of actual communication like a verbal comfort food that is mostly moot.
Babylon. You’ve heard about it, Tower of Babel and all. If biblical accounts are to be believed, some think it a horrible blow to a species, that from that point on in order to babble on, linguistics were required in a myriad of tongues. Later on, in an attempt to correct this age old dilemma initiated in the late 1800s with the invention of Esperanto, a universal language constructed by Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner Lazar Zamenhof, to whom Tolstoy was a fan of, was complete.
Due to the current overwhelming saturation of media and info absorption, which is perpetuated by infinite amounts of tiny electronic devices, your attention span has given up on this diatribe somewhere between paragraphs three and four. But, for those of you still reading, there is a payoff here, I offer this: the film Incubus from 1966 staring William Shatner (just before his original Star Trek series began that same year), directed by Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens (the creepiest show on weekly TV at the time), captured by brilliant cinematographer Conrad Hall (Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid) and written, filmed and recorded entirely in Esperanto.
Video after the jump.