In 2004, the data scientist Matt Daniels created an instantly-lovable graph titled 'The Largest Vocabulary in Hip-Hop,' mapping the range of rappers' vocabularies on a scale from DMX (lowest) to the Wu-Tang Clan (highest). After fans cried foul at the exclusion of then–San Francisco resident Aesop Rock, the eloquent MC's lyrics were analyzed by Daniels, thrown in the mix, and ceremoniously deemed to contain the highest instances of unique words in all of hip-hop.
I always wondered how Joanna Newsom would place on such a graph. After all, the words "malleable," "caravel" and "lateen" appear not just on her first album, and not only in the first song, but in the first verse alone -- and the rest of the record, The Milk-Eyed Mender, is a beautiful poetic hurricane of dirigibles, irrevocable pyres, mealy worms, taciturn love, exhumed pinecones, married mollusks, unflagging fervors, poetasters, Assateague and buttonwillow. In three following albums, her way with unconventional words has only increased.
Now, Newsom is slated to sit down with another far-ranging wordsmith, Dave Eggers, for a City Arts & Lectures conversation at the Nourse Theater on May 16. Newsom doesn't do too many interviews -- and certainly no public interviews -- making the night a special one for the many Bay Area fans of her dizzyingly creative music. (Newsom, a second cousin of Gavin Newsom, launched her career while living in nearby Grass Valley.)
Judging by how fast Joanna Newsom's show at the Fox Theater in Oakland sold out, you'll want to hop on this one. Tickets go on sale to the public at 1pm on Friday, March 11, at City Box Office.