Unlike prose, which is immediately accessible to anyone who can read, music is immediately accessible only to those with specialized skills: performers. They are the ones who read, interpret, and realize it, bring the symbols to life for an audience.
But in order for performers to do that, they must have clear instructions, beyond a descriptive title.
The composer, as a result (because he/she wants the most accurate interpretation of their creation possible), provides markings which indicate:
—Tempo: how fast or slow the piece should be played
—Meter: underlying pulse
—Key (if applicable)
—Articulation: how notes should be struck, bowed, etc.
—Dynamics: how loudly or softly the music should be played
—Phrasing: how notes should be linked together
So, where are the parallels for writers in these instructions? How to do we translate an abstract language's instructions regarding speed, meter, key, articulation, dynamics, phrasing? The truth is, we already do, whether we're consciously aware of it or not.
—A story or book that begins with a long sentence comprised of soft-sounding
words that elide into each other sets a leisurely tempo.
—A succession of similar length sentences in a first paragraph establishes a
Vary the length from sentence to sentence and the meter becomes
—Key can be translated as tone, or atmosphere.
—Articulated words are those chosen for their sound as well as meaning
—Dynamics are indicated by the sounds of our sentences and the tension or
relaxation within them.
—Phrasing becomes sentence composition and structure.
Of course, unlike composers, writers think about more than just the sounds of words when they write, and the effect those sounds will have. Our language is one of reference and meaning, and we are always concerned about that. But the beauty of language is in the way it marries meaning to sound, and makes the two inseparable. This makes it a powerful couple.
...which makes our jobs doubly difficult.
Every time we select one word over another, string our choices together, set them on the page, and distribute them, we do more than merely invite people to read our work; we invite them to interpret it: we turn them into performers.
Causes Barbara Froman Supports
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Lawyers for the Creative Arts