At fourteen, Ray Cramer and I were at odds because he didn’t appreciate my sight-reading tendencies. I, one of his newer students, arrived at piano lessons each week, ready to play, posturing practice on pieces we’d already learned. And I, a pleasure-seeing student, sought approval, yet practice was not what I had done. What I truly excelled at, what I was unstoppable at, what we both knew, was I could sight-read. “You blaze through new pieces with no patience for those you know.” And some days the unspoken, “I have no patience for you.” It was clear Mr. Cramer and I didn’t see eye to eye.
For glider pilots, it’s essential to be able to recognize cumulus clouds because they tell them where warm air is rising, enabling pilots to fly longer and higher and farther. For sight-readers, it’s essential to recognize and connect key notes and make music between them, enabling us to play longer and faster and more meaningfully. Whether we’re reading clouds as a sign of where to fly or reading notes as a sign of what to play, it’s an exercise in the familiar being used unconsciously.
Whether the written text — of cumulus clouds, of notes, of serifs, of CSS, of whatever your markup — gives us content, or whether we read significance into that content and make meaning, no matter. We use signs to assimilate words, freely interpreting and creating new meanings, new languages even, giving way to new content and interpretations.
You can get bogged down in details, knowing the average paperback has 50 characters to the line, 35 lines to the page and 250 pages of text. You can sort through a publication dedicated to the advancement of soaring, or learn the proper way to get into soaring. You can know the details. First, however, it’s essential to ascertain how to sight-read, connecting spaces in between.
Use familiar knowledge unconsciously. Sight-read. Make your own pieces with the notes you know well and the rest of the piece, the story, the language, will fall into place. Often you’ll see that most won’t agree with your version. And that just means it’s working.