Saturday, February 9, 2013

Active vs Passive

I just ran across this fascinating quote on the Ghost of a Flea:
"But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, 'I should sit here and I should be entertained.' And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true."
- From an interview with novelist Zadie Smith on KCRW's Bookworm program
Yes, yes, exactly! Anything worth reading you are going to find yourself interacting with in this way. Take a dialogue by Plato, for example. The Euthyphro is a good one. The only way to read it is to engage with it. And with music, for example, when I listen to music it is always a more superficial activity than when I play music or study the score. Sitting down and playing through a piece of music is a very engaged activity as is reading the score.

Those clips on YouTube that include the score are quite a nice idea...

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