Saturday, May 28, 2005

Reading vs Listening

Just a quick one...Neil Gaiman posted a great response on listening to written works versus reading them...

So, audio books. And once again, Harold Bloom demonstrates his twerphood to the world. "Deep reading really demands the inner ear as well as the outer ear," said Harold Bloom, the literary critic. "You need the whole cognitive process, that part of you which is open to wisdom. You need the text in front of you." From this we learn that art and wisdom only go in at the eyes. What comes in by the ear is manifestly a lesser experience. The corollary, of course, is that real writing gets written down by the hand, and only inferior, wisdom-less writing gets dictated by the mouth, which is why Paradise Lost must have been rubbish...

Again, it's just snobbery and foolishness.

Yes, and much more than that. It is another symptom of colonialist culture raising its ugly head again. What is another characteristic of many of the cultures crushed and suppressed by colonial activity? They were cultures with strong oral traditions. Their history and cultural knowledge base was held in sacred oral teachings passed from one generation to the next. Even bagpiping was taught using a special language. When individuals have learned their history, ancestry, and culture by heart...when they carry it with them is hard to deny, erase and replace it. When we have to go to books to find out who we are and to remember what we knew...oh, how easy it is to rewrite it all.

And I am coming to believe that we have lost something vital. When we stopped thinking of storytelling, poetry, and minstrelry as essential components of healthy culture and community, I think we turned our backs on a part of our common human heritage that adds immense joy, depth and continuity to our experience of living. Gaiman again:

I don't believe there are books I've never "read" because I have only heard them, or poems I've not experienced because I've only heard the poets read them. Actually, I believe that, if the writer is someone who can communicate well aloud (some writers can't) you often get much more insight into a story or poem by hearing it.

Bravo! I have a little pet project I am slowly working towards acheiving. I want to get my friend Tim Landers, one of Canada's best living street poets to record some of his poems for this very reason. Because nobody can read them like Tim...and it would be a terrible loss not to have this record. And Tim would also like to record Chaucer--and I'm sure there are few who could read it like he would--who styles himself after Longshanks Will of Ludgate Hill.

Okay, I said quick and it's got longish...

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