Individual Work
Ah (A shower song)

K Michel and Dirk Vis wrote a piece of electronic literature named “Ah (A Shower Song)” in Dutch, which was translated into English. A simple animation, it has black text moving from right to left on a white page. However, some words move at a different speed than others, and reading the sentences becomes difficult. Furthermore, there is no punctuation, so making sense of the words flying by is up to the reader.
Unfortunately, the program is not interactive. The reader can only watch as the words float along the screen and interpret meaning from that. The animation has an overall tempo, because of the limits on the speed of the words. If the reader misses a few words, there is no way to rewind and re-read them. However, it also says something about the human thought process. Sometimes, we have a thought that we can’t remember because too much other, sometimes useless, information is taking up our attention.
There are many metaphors in this electronic piece of literature, including the clock and the words “ah” and “la”. The clock is simply demonstrating the movement of time. The words “ah” and “oh” are supposed to be breathing words. Though I don’t think they correctly sound like breathing, they still do their job of letting the reader know what is happening. Finally, the word “la” scrolls by many times, sometimes not in the straight line like the rest. This is supposed to illustrate the singing in the shower, and even would make sense if it was a narrator that was breathing and singing.
One of the most profound sentences in “Ah” is “time passes but does not exist”. I feel that this medium of watching, and not being able to pause or continue the story, is very appropriate, and deals directly with this sentence. The reader has a sense of time as he watches the text scroll from right to left, but they are not able to see how far along in the story they are. If the reader was able to control the movement of the words, it would allow them to feel like they have control over time, and by extension, ruining the greater message in this piece.
During the part of the piece in which the narrator sings “la la la”, the text finally changes position on the screen. Until that point, the text follows in a straight line. However, the singing in the shower part has height and the words curve along the screen, up and down. This may be to symbolize the pitch of the song that the narrator is singing in the shower. Another interpretation may be that it is showing the “stream of consciousness” that the author first mentions in his description. Also, it is interesting that when the narrator is “singing”, with the words moving up and down, the sentences actually split into two, so the reader has to decide which line to follow. This, in some passive way, allows the reader a form of independence in which he chooses which words to read. This is really the only slight interaction that the reader can have with this piece.
The spacing of the words “wind” and “breathing” are longer than all the other words. This is so that the audience reads this slower and pays more attention. Also, after these words, the phrase “in and out” rushes by, conveying a sense of breathing and pace. The word “breathing” is simpler in analysis, but the word “wind” means much more. When the reader sees the word “sail”, they will probably think of the word sailboat, and then understand the connection to the wind. The wind goes in and out of the sails in order to give the boat speed. This relates back to the pace of the words. The words are moved by time, another invisible force, like wind, that allows the reader to progress in the story, much like a boat, slowly but surely making its way through the water.
Towards the end of the piece, after the “singing”, the text story becomes more confusing by having somewhat random thoughts follow one another. The piece does not give a clear message when talking about how islands have different colors at different tide levels, what the reader does not know, seeing two faces instead of a vase, and the color of the sky on the moon and on Mars. The words “in and out” once again appear, showing that it relates back to the breathing and wind. The tide is controlled by time, higher or lower depending on the hour of the day. The clock counting the “smoke of the hours”, however, can be related back to the time concept. It once again illustrates how time is an intangible concept and that we are unable to stop its movement.
Finally, after another “singing” part, the story starts over at the beginning. By this time, the reader is beginning to understand the point of the breathing words that are mixed into the story and the first few sentences make more sense. When it reads that Einstein said that the “clock counts the breathing” the reader can understand the repetition in the story. Like a clock, which is also advanced by time, the hands go around to only start over in the same position. Likewise, the story repeats itself to only show the same beginning words. This can also be seen to represent history as it repeats itself.