About Words Sounds Images Sources ----- Vol.I



“What they are, are words that I’ve taken from maybe seen written down in a language that I don’t understand, and liking them and maybe making new words as well out of them. I mean I’ve got reams and reams of words that I don’t have a clue what they mean, but I wanted them because, I knew I’d be able to express myself without giving anything away.” ----- "I mean really the records are—a representation of our coping skills, and I think I was very much in denial, and I think that you can hear that on Blue Bell Knoll. You know, not one word can you grasp. Giving anything away…it just wasn’t allowed.” -----Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) ----- NPR Interview ----- 1993

As a fan of Cocteau Twins I don't watch Elizabeth Fraser sing for fear of understanding exactly what she's saying ----- she masked her feelings through these jumbled words and languages, creating new ones in the process ----- should we decipher them or leave them as they are? ----- also, how can abstract sound be transcribed? ----- does punctuation exist in music? (& how do you sound a bracket?)

When I was living in Germany I could think clearly even on a packed tram, because I couldn’t understand or eavesdrop on conversations ----- the language became noise ----- it became harder to think as I learnt more German, due to the cropping up of words I was starting to comprehend ----- similarly in listening to music I enjoy succumbing to the sounds of foreign languages, and often don’t want to know what they are saying ----- after watching the eponymous documentary on Buena Vista Social Club, some lyrics left me underwhelmed and others reinvigorated or even surprised ----- the extremely cheery song El Cuarto del Tula is about a girl who falls asleep in her bedroom with a candle on and her whole room goes up in flames:

YouTube ----- Apple Music ----- Bandcamp


  So are you basically fluent now then or what?

What does fluency look like? When you say it out loud, it seems fixed — to be fluent — but the more you think on it, and the more you try to be fluent in something, the murkier it becomes. Fluency is strange because it’s about acquiring a skill you already achieved once without even having to try. The question always makes you focus on what you don’t know instead of what you do. Well, not really fluent, you answer. It’s not like how I speak English. How I know English. But I mean I can have conversations and that.

  Well could you have this conversation we’re having now?

A strange question. It makes you reimagine the whole exchange in another context. Naturally it doesn’t seem right to you. It’s uncomfortable to claim fluency, as if it meant you brazenly ruling out the prospect of not understanding something: not just a word, but the layers behind them as well. Words have different vertices, you interpret them according to tone, context, memory. Where do their aspects go in other languages; are they still the same?

A friend of mine moved to Brazil a few years ago, and before she left she told me she was nervous about meeting new people there. She worried about being perceived differently in a new language. She was afraid that if she had to speak more plainly, or confused her grammar, she would seem less intelligent. She even wondered if she would become a different person, outside of English. She wondered, would people still think she was interesting? In a sense, these feelings were rooted in a fear of what fluency suggests: an infallible, impossible mastery of a different cultural tradition, a different history, a new verbal and emotional mechanics. That’s not what people mean when they ask, of course. They just mean can you understand it.

Language students are taught to scrutinise the gaps between words and their meaning, and it makes them overthink constantly. Ironically, there comes a point where you reach an impasse, at which the more you know about your words the harder it becomes to self-express in useful ways. Some worry at this point that they are starting to regress. In actual fact, this is the student gradually realising the extent of years of unconscious linguistic and cultural immersion, and it overwhelms them.

If you think too much about your grammar, ordering a beer or talking about football becomes impossible. It sounds absurd, and it is: the point is obviously to not think about it. Werner Herzog, who has learned and forgotten several languages in his lifetime, was speaking here of psychoanalysis: ‘When you inhabit a house and you illuminate every last corner of the house with strong lights, the house becomes uninhabitable’. For a similar reason, one of the markers of fluency is said to be when you stop ‘translating’ altogether, and you can hold objects and concepts in your head with different signifiers. You stop asking yourself whether the conversation is the same in two languages. It’s the point at which expression is practically thoughtless; at which a cadeira is no longer a chair, but a cadeira.

Now I'm no longer a student, I feel like my attitude has casualised, become more recreational. Your contact with a language ebbs and flows subject to circumstance. There are times in my life where things have different words on them and times when the words slip away. But sometimes I wonder if this is just me reconciling myself to laziness, or is even the recognition of a certain failure. Now I’m stalked by the new fear of memory loss: of losing ‘fluency’, and with it a part of my self I thought I’d gained for good.

I do things to try and keep these worries at bay. I talk to old friends, read newspapers, watch films. There’s a Portuguese café near my flat I sometimes go to as well. The last time I went, an older man from Madeira overheard my accent at the bar and couldn’t place it. He had some questions. He wanted to know where I was from, because I didn’t sound Portuguese to him. I told him in Portuguese I was English. It confused him. He told me that he didn’t understand why I’d bothered to learn (switching self-assuredly to English) because, generally speaking, it was a waste of time for the English to learn other languages, if the whole rest of the world speaks English already. And what’s more he said it was a waste of time to learn Portuguese specifically. He said Portuguese is simply too difficult. I have encountered this opinion several times. It’s either the accent, or it’s the grammar, or likely both, depending on who you ask. To some it’s just impossible for the English to master. The man from Madeira told me that the English, you see, the English just can’t get a handle on Portuguese. Know why? Too many verbs, he said. We simply can’t remember them all. He told me that Portuguese was harder to learn than Mandarin Chinese.

by Kiran Leonard

I just found out from from a conversation Elizabeth Fraser had with John Grant in 2017 that she is massively influenced by one of my favourite vocal performances of all time ----- Kalimankou Denkou by The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir is my sleepsong & many sleepless nights led to it being my most played song in both 2018 & 2020 ----- putting it on repeat generally knocks me out cold ----- I've always thought that the last lyric was "for Liverpool" and enjoy the prospect these Bulgarian singers have some form of allegiance to Merseyside:

YouTube ----- Apple Music

Artists and writers are known for creating words ----- many need to construct their own as the perfect ones don’t exist to describe what they are thinking or feeling ----- the public carries these forward into use through proliferation in an essential development of our language ----- like the Liverpudlian/Bulgarian connection I made with Kalimankou Denkou, it is also a form of myth-making for the listener ----- there are infinite interpretations available until the lyric is stamped in front of them.

Some great neologisms by musicians and authors alike include: Eminem’s “stan” (stalker fan) -----The Beastie Boys’ “mullet” (!) ----- Dr. Seuss’ “nerd” ----- John Milton’s “pandemonium” ----- Lewis Carroll’s “chortle” ----- & especially Sylvia Wright’s “mondegreen” ----- a noun used to describe the result of mishearing a word for another word or phrase, especially spoken aloud ----- Wright was inspired by the commonly misheard line of “Lady Mondegreen’ from “laid him on the green” in Scottish ballad The Bonnie Earl O’ Moray.

“I gained so much from [inventing language]. I didn’t expect it to be such a fulfilling experience, at first it was an avoidance tactic. More than that. But I must have given myself permission along the way that I was really gonna go for it and not worry about people’s opinions.” ----- Elizabeth Fraser ----- in conversation with John Grant ----- 2017

In German, you can compound words infinitely to create new meanings ----- known as ein zusammengesetztes wort (a set-together (compound) word) or ein Bandwurmwörter (tapeworm word) ----- the longest (defunct as of 2007) example being Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz = “the law concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labelling of beef” ----- a couple of my favourites are Der Kummerspeck (literally grief-bacon = excess fat from emotional over-eating) & die Eselsbrücke (literally donkey-bridge = a memory device/mnemonic) ----- Mark Twain called them "alphabetical processions".

In English (as an English speaker) it is harder to do this etc. etc. xxxxxxxxxx, made up words, other languages inside etc

The Loch Ness Monster Song by Edwin Morgan:

Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl?
Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbgl.
Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl –
gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gm.
Hovoplodok – doplodovok – plovodokot-doplodokosh?
Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok splfok!
Zgra kra gka fok!
Grof grawff gahf?
Gombl mbl bl –
blm plm,
blm plm,
blm plm,

"grof" means "count" in Slovenian & “rough/coarse” in Dutch ----- “zgra” (игра) means “game” in Bulgarian ----- “fok” means “degrees” in Hungarian ----- “doplodovok” (доплодовок) means “supplements” in Russian ----- “plovodokot” means “the pipeline” in Macedonian or “fruit cat” in Russian

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) represents spoken sounds in letters ----- variations in symbols indicate the sounds in different locations in your mouth ----- a paragraph set in IPA can also look a LOT like musical notation with the rests and ties arching over and under the letters ----- the word bridge in IPA (/bɹɪd͡ʒ/) has a tie very similar to that which connects musical notes ♩⁀♩‿♩

IP Puh Puh aeö R wA IN A OÄÜ by Isobel Neviazsky

Could a transcription program be made that transcribes vocals / sound into the phonetic alphabet, not prescriptive to a specific language?

I tried to use Google Translate’s voice input to pick up any words in Cocteau Twins songs, but nothing came out (I tried a few languages) ----- in the search for phonetic transcription programs, I found Mozilla's DeepSpeech & Common Voice that aim to do just that (not exactly) ----- when contributing phrases to Common Voice which aims to "help teach machines how we speak", one of the first phrases I was given to read was "lyrics to the song vary greatly, as performers often improvise verses when performing" .....

When written down, these improvisations and tics that come out through performances and conversations ----- do does the inclusion of um utterances in sentences reduce the meaning of them? or are they simply a waste of reading time ----- how much should a subtitler edit out of a conversation? ----- how long should you pause when reading ... and ..... ?

no yeah I mean so yeah I think I'd say
that well you know, well like not really but
so well exactly then but not, so look,
you get what I'm tryna like say, or like
yeah, no, yeah, similar to the, if you
look at it, it's sort of as if like a
wavering sinew of compressed heat,
a sour and crimson movement of the fingers
a mouth that slightly opens, or a ping!
a whirlpool flashing, though but like if it's hard
I mean it's not something I, that's it, but
if like, it's exactly like that, you, you,
I mean, like anyway, we won't, we can't
let's just, it's no, it's fine, let's just, alright?

by Thomas Dervan

(how do you sound a bracket?)

Placing one hand on your cheek like an (open door, pushing the words sideways

Clasping hands around mouth to make a (tunnel) of unheard yet forceful words

Rounding your ((mouth)) at the corners as if it is a receptacle for lost words

Speaking fast as you turn your head over your shoulder - words travel /

There has to be something inside, otherwise it is just a breath.

Content of a bracket is both discarded and vitally important. It is neither here nor there.

To place something in the same category.
Or to separate them from the original context.
Inclusion <-> Exclusion from a specific context
To reference something
To make clear a mistake

In music:

the bracket’s contents are commonly known as the ‘featuring’ - the special guest, but not the main act. Or ‘version’, which presents one singular iteration of multiple. Something forgotten, something lost, or excluded, but slightly mentioned - tickled, teased.

Brackets used to group instruments together on a score (multiple staves) whereas braces connect multiple parts within a singular instrument (piano etc.)

Square brackets also called Crotchets

Cheesy love poem from inside 13 tracks’ brackets:

How long must I dream
For the clouds to sing
So long -
Won’t let go,
I’m always touched by your
Love song,
Come and take me
Form prayers to broken stone.
But I know
Comes tears -
Is understanding
Than your weakness.

Try all 4 sounding techniques to speak the poem.

(how do you sound a bracket?) by Biba Cole

 “We have had people on the Internet who have written translations and they obviously have a natural talent for writing. Their interpretations are so beautiful that sometimes I have preferred what they have written to what I actually sang, it has been much more eloquent. Those people are not so precious about Cocteau Twins and just enjoyed using their talent and it is lovely to witness. But some people are very…It seems that some people are convinced they know us better than we know ourselves, and that we ought to listen to them. They want to steer us and they are very precious about us and they do not want other people to have us. If you really love something, then you have to let it go and endorse everything about it that attracted you to it in the first place. It’s just like a love affair or any relationship: you have to treat it in the same way or you’ll just suffocate and destroy it in the end if you don’t.” ----- Elizabeth Fraser ----- BOYZ ----- 1995

In forums and lyrics websites you are given points for providing information towards an artist’s release, which harvests some kind of ownership over the material ----- you can be seen as an “expert” in someone else’s information (even though the case of lyrics is quite black and white) ----- on Genius you are tipped as one of many “scholars” on the artist ----- while I was adding information to various websites for the newest Late Works release, there were ghost editors correcting my correct information ----- there must be something addictive about owning this knowledge. bart simpson bouncing

"Japanese record labels notoriously insisted on including lyric sheets with every album, and so would have staff write up what they thought they were hearing, which almost always led to some rather bizarre outcomes.” ----- Cocteau Twins website

The only official Cocteau Twins lyrics can be found on the archive of their website (and in Elizabeth Fraser's personal notebooks) ----- in an attempt to get them right, the major lyrics websites have all put forward differing translations:

Cherry-Coloured Funk (official lyrics)

You’ll hang the hearts
Black and dull as the night
You hanged your past and start being
As you in ecstasy
Still being cried and laughed at before
Should I be sewn and hugged?
I can by not saying
Still being cried and laughed at
From light to blue
I should I be hugged and tugged down
Through this tiger’s masque?

Cherry-Coloured Funk (Genius.com)

Bills and aches and blues
And poor little everything else
But still more unstable, eyes of glass
Not get pissed off through my burned lips
As good news

Still being cried on (on and on)
Laughed at behind
“Don’t fall behind, miss”
From first time to this

Bills and aches and blues
And bills and aches and blues
Bills and aches and blues
And poor little everything else
But still more unstable, eyes of glass
Not get pissed off through my burned lips
As good news

You hang the hearts black
And dull as the night (oh, hearts in love)
You hanged your past and start
Being as you in ecstasy
(Still being cried and laughed at before)
Should I be sewn and hugged?
I can by not saying
(Still being cried and laughed at)
(From light to blue)

And should I be hugged and tugged down through
This tiger's masque?

Cherry-Coloured Funk (Musixmatch)

Beetles and eggs and blues and pour a little everything else
You steam a lens stable eyes and glass
Not get pissed off through my bird lips as good news

Still we can find our love down from behind
Down far behind this fabulous, my turn rules

Beetles and eggs and blues and bells and eggs and then blued
Beetles and eggs and blues and pour a little everything else
You steam a lens stable eyes and glass
Not get pissed off through my bird lips as good news

You'll hang the hearts black and dull as the night
We hanged your pass and start being as you in ecstasy
Still being cried and laughed at before
Should I be sewn in hugged I can by not saying
Still being cried and laughed at from light to blue

And should I be hugged and tugged down through this tiger's masque

YouTube ----- Apple Music


original words by ----- Joseph Bradley Hill ----- Biba Cole ----- Thomas Dervan ----- & ----- Kiran Leonard

original images by ----- Kiran Leonard ----- & ----- Isobel Neviazsky

featuring words by ----- The Beastie Boys ----- Lewis Carroll ----- Dr. Seuss ----- Eminem ----- Elizabeth Fraser ----- John Milton ----- Edwin Morgan ----- Mark Twain ----- & ----- Sylvia Wright

featuring sounds by ----- Buena Vista Social Club ----- Bulgarian Television and Radio Folklore Ensemble ----- & ----- Cocteau Twins

edited by ----- Joseph Bradley Hill ----- & ----- Hannah Machover

every platesplatesplatesplatesplates article is open-ended ----- you can submit any thoughts or responses to this piece via our open SUBMISSION FORM using the title "Alphabetical Processions" in the multiple choice section ----- if chosen your response will be incorporated into the text !

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