Unaccompanied Sonata

By | March 22, 2021

Title borrowed from Card’s short

I struggle to find the words with which to start this post, knowing even as I write that that itself is the reason I’m writing. One of these days, the rhythm of my words will again be heard by me, even if its just for a brief moment or a snippet of lines written in a longer piece.

One major challenge I’m facing is the exponential increase in intelligent systems online, each seeking to offer unrequested help with automated preprogrammed suggestion of a word or a spelling or to predict the text that should follow my own. Very soon, we will become as soulless as the machines which guide and control our content creation.

Until I find a way to turn off this allegedly artificial attempt to shape the structure and form of these sentences I’m attempting to write over and through the machine’s efforts to predict or insert the best next word or phrase, I fear the struggles to find my own music will remain.

Yesterday’s writing spree felt good in the way it opened up lines of thought and directions of thinking to explore, but I would not call those paragraphs and posts my keyboard’s music. Writing it out by hand has a very different flow, with more thoughtful and more measured pauses, not only to compose the next few words, in indelible ink, but also due to the difference in word form making on paper.

Example of large manual typewriter of the sort I learnt on in high school. Image Credit. This may not be the brand but this resembles my dim memory of the monster most closely.

The music that I hear as I type here on the keyboard is one whose legacy can be traced to learning how to type on very large and already vintage typewriters in school in the spring term of 1983. It was my senior year, and learning typing was considered good practice for the papers we’d have to write in college later in the Fall. While that was not to be, for a variety of reasons that last night’s post only hints at, I cannot regret my excellent performance in Mrs Haley’s class nor the strength typing on the large machine gave to my littlest finger, especially for the letter ‘a’.

On the computer, keys require less mechanical strength so one moves ever so much faster that when the mind is racing against speed of thought it can feel like the fingers are flying across the keyboard. That is the music I recall. The actual rhythm of the words may not always be related to this physical aspect of creating them, and may sometimes form in parallel, alongside the accompanying sounds of the keys. The secret, I like to think, might be that the speed at which I’ve always been able to type offers my compositions on the computer an entirely different flavour from those created by hand, since now my words become visible almost as fast as I can think them and their flow can often match or meet up with the flow of my thoughts, like a rapidly moving stream.

When I use my fountain pens to make notes or draft bulletpoints, usually prior to writing up a formal report or article based on empirical data – an entirely different exercise from simply sitting here allowing the words and thoughts to form pleasurably on the blog – the difference in speed matches the need to ponder more deeply and to analyse and synthesize the key points and the structure the document to be created. This helps make my thinking visible to me, especially if there are bullet points or diagrams or lists to be made, and I can then rapidly type up the content, even if editing is required along the way. Like right now, where I’m sitting in the rapidly darkening room as the sun sets, I do not need to look at the keys of the QUERTY to create these words you’re reading.

Which artificial intelligence will generate this subtle and nuanced pleasure of performance?

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