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The words don’t hurt…

I am somewhat autistic—dislike bright lights, dislike certain fabrics, dislike eye contact, dislike loud noises, dislike mess—and so, until I was at least sixteen, I used to think, “Why do the lyrics in songs not contain any information? Why are all the words just nonsense? These songs should have a storyline in them—a beginning, middle, and an end. The words should make sense.” It took me a while to realise the words do not matter—you need to break up with someone, then all the songs just mean so much.

The above song purposefully makes no sense, it was made by Adriano Celentano in the 1970s to prove that Italians would like any song so long as it had some English words in it—even if the words made no sense. Sure enough, it went to No. 1 in Italy and in much of Europe. Perhaps Italians did like songs with English lyrics because English pop music—Beatles, Stones—was massive at the time; they were just actuated by status, not music.

However, the point was facetious—pharisaical, actually, and Celentano is Jewish—because most song lyrics, in English or any other language, do not make sense; nor do they have to make sense to mean anything. I could perfectly well write a song that went “Who took the bam from the bam-baram? Who took the ram from the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong?” and it would make sense (actually, that is based on a Le Tigre song—on a real pop song). It makes sense because music is about rhythm—the rhythm underlies the words and the meaning it conveys is not inherent to the words. Hence Celetano’s point was redundant—he didn’t understand what music is.

I was on the toilet in Costa Coffee the other day and there was a kid outside the door who rattled the handle and whined, “Someone’s in there…I need the t-o-i-l-e-t now. I need to go. They are in the toilet,” and on and on. He was, obviously, a spoilt little brat; and this was confirmed when I left because at the door he looked at me and said, “chicken nugget.” Now, he was pretty young, so I doubt he actually knew any profanity—though kids pick it up pretty fast—and yet he might as well have called me “fucker” or “wanker”. Indeed, I almost slammed the little shit’s head against the wall and said, “Your mother is a whore and you crawled out of her smelly cunt to be brought up your shitty lazy father to become spoilt little shit who needs to be taught some fucking manners.” Moooommmmy the man…the man *sob*….he w-as…meaaann to meeee...Anyway, I didn’t do it—just motioned to cuff him with my elbow by *accident*.

Anyway, what this demonstrates is that meaning—even profanity—can exist independently from symbols. You can say “chicken nugget” as much as “wanker” and still be understood—and songs, with their rhythms, work on the same principle. Hence it is *autistic* to demand that lyrics are meaningful in the way ordinary conversation is meaningful. This underlies religious principles as well—as mentioned previously, the Holy Grail, per Dante, means to love justice; and yet this does not mean to love criminal courts—although the idea is connected—rather, it means to love a sacred sound (the carmen, the song—as etymologically related to karma).

Similarly, “the logos” often spoken of in Christian theology is not some abstract philosophical concept—it is an invisible sound, perceptible only by the shimmer of air around it. Do I have the Holy Grail? Insofar as I know it means “to love justice”, yes—insofar as I do not have the sound of justice (as yet), no. What I have is Diligite iustitiam qui iudicatis terram—love justice, ye who govern the earth.

What this all points to is the idea that “what lies beneath” (or, perhaps, above) ordinary language is rhythm—the technology of sound; and this can alter reality not only in the sense that music can be sensual or rhetoric persuasive but in a magical way—the right rhythm will change reality, possibly a certain rhythm sustains reality. So Celentano’s point was a misdirection—yet he is a satirist, not a serious person; and so he was facetious—what looked like a clever point, an attack on vanity, turned out to be nothing at all on closer examination. Rhythm speaks, words clothe. Incidentally, showbiz is in his blood because his daughter, many years later, was selected to play Satan in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ—and that was one reason, among many, why Gibson’s film was so controversial…


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