(For the synesthesists out there: an unfinished thought, inspired by the unexpected impact of listening to Michael Nyman’s The Ogre while reading David Harsent’s Night poems)


Reading in silence
The depth of it. The power of unsaid words.
How they land on the mind. Water or mist. Cream or gas.
How they trickle down. Is it a drop-drop or a hush or a bang?
Is it an hhhh ooo? Is it a yes, yes, yes? Is it a zig zag, a swash, smash, crash…?

It’s none of this.

It’s an embrace. It’s a vision. Images rather than sounds, really.
The words, made image, directly.

Or is it feeling?
Tension, laughter, fear, peace, calm, revery, anger, shock, clarity…

No. None of these things.

It’s a communion with the mind. Yes, the unsaid word,  drank through my eyes, direct to the brain, an intravenous shot of verb. Of concept. Of phrase.
Drip-drip… No: swoosh, straight to the head, or straight to the gut.

What are my hands doing? And my face? The impulsive grimaces.
The fingering of paper, hair, cloth, air.

The object is forgotten. There is no physicality.
The words are injected straight into me. Me, the silent reader.

So what happens when… when I read to the sound of music?

Forget lyrics. I mean melody alone; old, recent, new.
Nyman. Glass. Debussy. Chopin.
Any pick you want out of centuries of wordless music.

When you add music to the reading act. The sauce.
When you add sauce to that perfect morsel of enchained letters…

What happens?

Well, the whole process goes upside down.
All of a sudden, the word has a sound. The sentence needs an explicit rhythm.
The invisible (mute) narrator comes to the fore. A voice raises inside you.
Now you are reading aloud, inside your head.

The musical act transforms the reading act into an internal performance.

It’s still a world apart from the act of listening to someone else read.
But it requires listening. To oneself.
To a version of me as a reader, with a voice and a cadence.
And the music is my soundtrack. And the moments, the visuals, the sensations, are now dancing to the chosen chords.

What does this do to the imaginary act? How is the cream, water, gas, mist of the mind toned by all of this new cacophony? Is the fluid made solid?

I am now aware of speed. Of pace.
I am aware of inflexions (deep, throaty or sharp, squeaky or soft, muffled, doubtful or assertive, feminine or masculine, grown up, ancient or childish).

What is this doing to the shape of my read?
To its depth, to it’s overwhelming power to seduce, saturate, invade every corner of my consciousness and my imaginary?

How is Nyman shading Lispector’s grass and leaves?
How is Debussy ironing Atwoods’s shirts and skirts?
How are these written places, peoples, moments, being coloured, sharpened, difussed or completely messed up by the suggestions of the composer?

I am thinking now of a different written code. The word+sol-fa text.
Could both languages be weaved? Could a writer suggest the soundtrack to its story, to its every moment, its every layer?

The act of reading
The dance of reading
The musical bath of reading
Reading as a sound performance
The soundtrack to reading

Music as the sauce. The rhythm to reading.
But also as the highjacking of the pure, silent, seamless act of shooting up words, the intravenous devouring of text.

Music as the power of narration. As the imposing of a voiced narrator.
As the tyranny of the voice, a concrete sound, over the fluid, seamless, abstract absorption of sense made possible through the communion with words,

in silence.