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 In”Music in Hypertexts: Toward a Real Media Integration,”Francesca Chiocci argues music can create an hierarchy to guide readers through links and provide coherence to a site. Yet, by the definition provided by George P. Landow’s “The Definition of Hypertext and Its History as a Concept“, hypertext is pluralistic. It’s (re)written by each reader, and as Roland Barthes posits in S/Z, a hypertext is composed of signifiers, not signifieds (qtd. in Landow).

Can music provide a definitive signified in a hypertext medium? Should it? Even as we engage with technorhetorical strategies to create an hierarchy within a site, each link, each lexia, must remain independent. But if music could control a site, how might the writing change? Would it change?


  1. Music may be effective as method to diminish disorientation by providing a secondary tool for background environment, or provide samples for people seeking auditory information, but it should not control a site. The Web user base is diverse. Some visitors prefer to leave the speakers off while surfing because they find sound disruptive to their reading concentration, while others enjoy the experience of multiple senses stimulated. Its like one student who studies in the library when another requireds the background noise of a tv or radio to achieve maximum concentration.

    The target audience of a site would determine the style of the links presented. Because links also lead to sites the author has not control over, the music style could change anyway as soon as the wanderer clicks away.

  2. I disagree that music can provide a definitive anything, although I concede it could and does at times effectively suggest tonality or perspective. As with other mediums such as the visual arts, we all bring our own expectations and backgrounds which help to shape our experience. What its creator sees as fitting or complementary, might be, to whatever degree, irreverent or satirical to the user: I’m with Landow and Barthes on this.

    I don’t think the writing should change to reflect or accommodate the music based solely on the music alone; even if the purpose of the site is reflected in its totality, the written text should take prominence, as every word on the page must be actively chosen by the writer to denote meaning. Music, on the other hand, is not broken up by the writer into small parts which must be assembled into a larger meaning; its whole being is likely composed by someone else–and almost always for some other context–and it’s far less precise than anything you as the writer could suggest through your words.

    Anytime you have a link, of course, you immediately establish a context (even if said link exists in isolation, the fact that you chose it denotes an active process). The same goes for music choices: by choosing a particular style or piece of music, you suggest and imply its relevance to the particular page (link). Whether the user agrees with you, is put-off and quickly looks to disable your music (as love2fish so rightly points out) is–and should be–up to them. But you, as the creator, obviously always have the right to make a suggestion of interpretation; just don’t assume the viewership will naturally agree with your choice.

  3. Well said, Stephen. Pop music may mean something completely different to a rapper, classical music can be annoying to a disco queen. The intention of the author is always filtered by the experience of the visitor.

    On another subject, I now understand why the back button doesn’t always present the history of the browser. Adriadne’s thread explained by Dang – Backtrack Function shows how history is distorted and pages can be left out completely using the back and forward buttons.

  4. It seems music should support the writing and not change it. If it supports the writing it can enhace the tone and mood, which would, if one is lucky, enhance the viewer’s experience of the writing. But this is subjective as has been said by others. One viewing the site must be prepared for the possibility of hearing music; must be open to vast musical choices; and must be willing to accept that the creator knows what he is doing.

    Music could create a hierarchy, but it might be a difficult task. That it could provide coherence to a site is no doubt clear. Like colors and background, music can provide tone and mood, and all of put together can make a viewer feel comfortable. But as for guiding the viewer through the site… Is the music soothing as to keep one on the page longer? Does it make one excited, and in turn make one want to click through links faster and with excitement? How exactly would music guide you? It can guide feelings and emotions? But can it really give purposeful direction on a website? Don’t we just click where we want to anyway?

  5. If music controlled a site the writing would change to fit the music. I think the author of the site would intentionally compose his words to fit the type of music being played be it country or rap. The music would dictate the prose and visual style of writing. This may be in a positive or negative manner and would depend on the visitors having an open mind to the constantly changing site.

  6. Music can be powerful method of communication. It can invoke feelings and transcends the language barrier. Since music can raise such strong feeling people may turn away from the sight when the music does not appeal to their taste. Chiocci discusses at the pragmatic level music can act as a guide for the audience. While I believe music can be a powerful tool, if it is used it should be to accompany the text. Dang uses the navigation of a city as a metaphor to hypertext navigation. It is important to understand where one is going and has been. The context of the message can be enhanced by music, the music must not be overpowering.

  7. I think that the music is a nice touch to ad to a website, but I don’t think that it should overpower the site. It is a great way to get a message across, but it should not take away from the site itself. I don’t really like those sites that play the music all the time. I actually like sites that let me turn it on or off. I think that music helps set a mood and cause feelings to occur. Although, I would rather see it kept in the background so that the site was the main focus.

  8. I think that it is important to know who your target audience is. A designer should consider them in all aspects of designing a web page.

    Like love2fish stated, I personally love music but, find it hard to concentrate when I’m reading. If you want to include music in a page let it be optional to listen to.

    Besides that not all music attracts the same people. A certain type and style of music could play a significant role in who the website attracts. Choosing the wrong type of music could in fact make you lose your target audience.

    I think it is very important to consider your audience before putting music as a page opener. I agree with the others when saying that music is very influential and should be left in the background. If you want to design a site do not design it solely on music.

  9. If the music is the topic, then it can work with the writing. For me the question is simplified if we imagine someone working in three browsers and bouncing from page to page for bits of information from each one. In such a case, any music is potentially a distraction. If the music is used to amplify a description in the text about music, it is probably appropriate. If the site is designed to promote the music, it needs to be there. However, using music to solicit an emotional response that will correspond to the text seems impractical in most cases.

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