Talking Heads – I Zimbra [1979]

As mentioned in the text, Talking Heads member David Byrne said that he was inspired by Kurt Schwitter’s Ur Sonata, by how it was nonsensical yet musical. Brain Eno suggested using Hugo Ball’s text to emphasize the tone, rhythm, and emotion of the voice over the semantic content. Or, in reference to listening modes, make listeners use reduced listening rather than semantic listening.

Interestingly, I use reduced listening over semantic listening by default, in that I usually do not pay attention to the lyrical content of songs that I listen to. So, at first listen, it sounded like any other dance record. But when I use semantic listening, it becomes a bit unsettling that the lyrics never settle into something comprehensible. It sounds like English, but it’s not.

Prisencolinensinainciusol by Adriano Celentano is another example of English-sounding nonsensical lyrics:


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