I read an article about a piece of music the other day where each section started with a direction, like “to be whispered like an incantation.” Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, it took me a while to figure out what these directions actually were. At first I thought the author was telling me how to read the following words, and me being me, I got a bit feisty and frustrated. Don’t you tell me how to read this! I’ll read it however I want!!
Of course, then I realized that these were just quotes from the score where the composer had written instructions for the performers…whoops. Anger instantly abated.
But then I thought, why is this any different? The composer is telling me what to do in his or her music so that I (or whoever the performer is) can communicate the right emotions or “message” when I play it. What if authors did that? What if they wrote instructions for readers on how to read different parts of their books?
Of course, narrators are a way they do do this in a very limited sense. When I read something like “she huffed” before a line of dialogue, I then read that line of dialogue in a “huffy” way, just as the author told me to–and without getting defensive! (Side note: what happens when the indication “she huffed” comes after the dialogue? Do we retrospectively “correct” how we read the words??) In this sense, then, maybe the composer’s markings in a score are like the narrator’s words in a story. But in the case of classical music, the performer mediates between us and the composer by playing the music in the prescribed manner like an actor performing a particular character.
So what if authors did explicitly give instructions for how to read a book, like “to be whispered like an incantation”? What if they gave us instructions to read the book out loud, or outside in the sun, or after we just broke up with our boyfriend/girlfriend, or late at night with only a small lamp to illuminate the words, or even while eating apples? Each way of reading something has an impact (however small) on the meaning or enjoyment we get out of it…and authors/composers do generally want us to get the most out of their work.
I’m very curious as to what people think. If you were given specific instructions as to how/where/when to read a book, would you find it intriguing or get “huffy” yourself? Let me know in the comments!