Articles

Sigur Ros

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2005 by Cody McComas

So I came across (more like was lead to) a really cool site. It is the site of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. I love everything about this site. It’s layout, content, the band it represents. It is just so well done. I really like it. If you go to the “media” section you can download a bunch of thier songs. I particularly recommend:

“streamside”

and

“untitled #4 (a.k.a. njósnavélin / the nothing song)”

Here is an “explanation” of the lyrics to “#4” quoted from the website:

“A recent study of mine concludes that the Hopelandic language Sigur Rós uses is derived from a little known ancient language, Essil (roughly translated as “light”). Though its speakers are long dead and their country long forgotten, I have learned about its culture through its surviving art and poetry. “Njósnavélin,” a new song by Sigur Rós, uses a piece of Essilian poetry for its lyrics. Unfortunately, literal or even poetic translation fails to fully explain the concepts behind the words, so an explanation will follow the transliteration and translation. (Although Essil uses its own alphabet, there is as of now no font to type it. A catalogue of the alphabet’s characters and the culture’s artwork might be available in the future.)

Njósnavélin in Essil

(original title: “ete tas Essilev” = “Light’s traveller”)

Essil on
Essil on erifet al
Essil on
Essil on eriftel al
Essil on

(Pronunciation: ee-sile on [long “i,” as in “hi” and long “o” as in “throw”], er-o-fet all)

Literal Translation:

I travelled through light
I travelled through light; I am not afraid
(repeat)

Explanation:

In Essilian mythology, light was the source of everything. People were born of light and remained immortal as long as they upheld nature and light. The preferred communication of scholars and monks was thought and telepathy, which they understood as the pathway of light that bound the minds of all. But for the sake of posterity, they recorded their thoughts in Essil, the language named for light itself.

Their belief was that water preserved light, and from this preservation of light they came into being. This song, “ete tas Essilev,” is an account of their sort of birth… instead of reproduction and natural child-birth, the people of this culture claimed to come into existence from the water and light. The verb “essil” is a concept of both birth and thought. The speaker is talking about swimming in the water before birth, a collection of light and souls (or, arguably, a single soul shared by all). The form “E(e)ssil on” is a first person perfect form of the verb. Our understanding of the perfect form has changed over time. Instead of a single action in the past, the perfect tense here is understood to mean a continuous action… this soul was floating and travelling from the beginning of time, and is still a part of their “essil.”

The alternate line’s “erifet al” is a first person negative present of the verb “rifet,” which means not simply to fear, but to be incredibly fearful, to be terrified. Why would one consider birth fearful in the first place? Surely with such a languid tone and the lazy repetition of phrases and lines, this is not a song of fear, nor is it a song of the abscence of fear… it speaks of a peaceful ignorance. The present here, too, is not to be taken in its true form. Rather, it means the person was not afraid at birth, nor are they now. The explanation of this is the Essilian culture considered coming into existence and existence as the same thing, a continuing and never-ending process. So where does fear come in? The Essilians are doing two things: first, they are praising light, Essil, for its comfort and power, but secondly, the speaker is asserting his belief in Essil… therefore he is speaking of his trust that he will continue existence and not be revoked his life (a thought expressed in the noun/infinitive “ocente”).

Taking all this in mind, a poetic translation becomes more possible. But, for the sake of the original scheme, it is necessary that its simple repetition and ideology be preserved. Thus the poetic translation:

In this lake of souls
In this lake of souls, I lose all fear”

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2 Responses to “Sigur Ros”

  1. cool lead… 🙂

  2. Wow Cody, this really is awesome music. Thanks.

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