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The word as text and song
"They war made for singing, an' no for reading; but ye hae broken the charm now, an' they'll never be sung mair."
Oo na, na Sir. There was never ane O' my sangs prentit till ye prentit them yousell, an' ye hae spoilt them a'thegither. They war made for singing, an' no for reading; but ye hae broken the charm now, an' they'll never be sung mair. An' the worst thing of a', they're nouther right spell'd nor right setten' doun!
When we take the song from men, then we turn it into a thing; as printed words, ink sits dead on a page. All this exists as if outside us—if a book is printed and never read, does it contain anything? We then thought the world as constituted by the written word; this the prototypical form of reality. Of course, today it has been reduced to images again; yet of another kind—and that a matter for another day.
The written word is dead where the song once lived. One exists unto itself, where the other is the embodied activity of an existing being. Where the singer shuts his mouth, the song fades away ephemeral; where the writer caps his pen, the word seems sturdier for having now sunk into its page. One can grasp a book, even strike someone with it; but for long one could never capture even the echo of a song.
Yet see the second sign, for with the singer all is united in their being; yet with the word the words are split between books, each author themselves often split between several books. Which of these is Edmund Burke—or better still, which pseudonym is Pessoa? And even the word itself, where in the song all flows together; whereas on the page the words stand stark and separate. Now after the death of cursive, after the rise of the mass-printed word; now even the letters themselves appear as fragments, standing most stark in sans-serif.
The word is on all levels thus reduced by the form of text to a dead and fragmented thing. Here some imagine this to still hold life, yet all in a word is what we put there; a book can only contain so much as within us lies already latent.