The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Shedding light on the meaning of text

This is a passage from Richard Vella’s lecture originally presented in a fourth year composition class at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 1989. Entire lecture can be viewed at

Text does not mean words but rather the word text comes from the latin texere , to weave. Textum came to mean the tissue or web of a thing which is woven. The texture is then anything that is woven, the quality of the weave. In other words the text is the weaving together of all the elements into a shape, fabric, form. In music this came to mean texture. The text of a book or essay is the weaving together of all the various arguments via words. In film and opera the text is the weaving of the sonic and visual via their respective technologies. Texture is the fabric, text is the argument.

The setting of words to music is not simply text and music but rather the text is the overall weaving of the literary text with the musical texture. The text is the `meaning’ (argument) the composer wants to communicate via all these elements.


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