“Music speaks to us so powerfully,” writes Diane Ackerman in her book A Natural History of the Senses, “that many musicians and theorists think it may be an actual language, one that developed about the same time as speech.” She writes on about a psychologist from Harvard who thinks of music as a sort of intelligence, that musical ability resides within the frontal lobes of one’s brain. I’m listening to the pop artist Santogold as I read this. I’m not certain that I would call music a language so much as a means with which to create an immediate sense of environment. But if Ackerman’s thesis holds water then what is the language of Santogold?
Santogold is the stage name of Santi White, who currently resides in Brooklyn and is part of the current pop-music renaissance that is based there. She might as well have called herself Solidgold; after stints as a songwriter, producer, and a singer in a punk band, her greatest success came when she turned her skills on herself. Santogold’s solo career took off like a bullet: the ever-tough reviewers at Pitchfork liked her, and Rolling Stone named her an artist to watch. In less than a year, she went from concert opener to concert headliner.
The language of Santogold, then? Not R&B, not hip-hop. A mash-up. She is a black woman with a punk mindset, and her indie music-language is multicultural and deejay-beat driven and of the sort that forceful people make. But one of Ackerman’s thoughts persists: “If music evolved along with spoken language, why did it evolve? What was its survival value?” Good questions — my less-than-elegant reply is that music, language or not, gets me through a day. And that’s enough for me.
SANTOGOLD, House of Blues, Friday, October 10, 6 p.m. 619-299-2583. $20.