Blissfully ignorant: Enjoying Music You Don’t Understand

I like music I can't understand better?

I like music I can’t understand better?

Over the past few years I have found myself, at first against my will, listening to music in languages I did not understand, mostly Spanish. Over time I started to understand the different sounds, for example Salsa vs. Bachata vs. Merengue and my wife would always translate the lyrics, whether I asked or not. Then a strange thing happened, I would listen to music in Spanish or Portuguese alone, without my spouse and translator around. In fact, when she is present now I am resistant to hearing what the lyrics mean, at least at first.

The reason for this is because not understanding the words allows me to listen differently. It allows me to listen to vocals as if they are instruments and turn off the analytic side of listening. It makes me to listen more actively and abstractly. I become more acutely aware of tone and subtle things I would have missed otherwise.

Here is a fairly new song that I like by Enrique Iglesias. It is Bachata, a dance a struggle with but a genre I really like, and I enjoy the mixture of vocals. My wife has told me what the song is about already, but I will not spoil the fun for y’all.

2 comments on “Blissfully ignorant: Enjoying Music You Don’t Understand

  1. theelderj says:

    I can’t say I love this song. In fact, it is really hard for me because I have hated Enrique Iglesias since the song “Hero” (the lyrics are, at the least, nonsensical).

    But I totally understand what you’re saying about enjoying songs you don’t totally understand. My wife has occasionally had me listen to music in Tamil (which I enjoy much more prior to having the message decoded by an interpreter).

    I think that part of the attraction is that we really do enjoy the unstranslated song purely as an aesthetic object separated from the overdetermined act of conveying meaning. Another part, perhaps, is that the blankness of the music allows us to import our own even poorly formed ideas into it…

    But I think this deserves more investigation…

  2. moe800 says:

    Here is another recent song I like. It is from Marc Anthony’s most recent salsa album, which is not great outside of this song.

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