The underlying structure of this instrument is a simple, ten-line poetry mixer: By clicking on one of the dotted lines that occupy the left half of the screen, you can elicit possible line readings. You might thus expect that play would amount to nothing more than choosing certain lines, in hopes of assembling an interesting poem.
What fun would that be?
When you call up a line, you should encounter an accompanying audible text, read to you by an unreal person, supplying the voice of the poem. (If you hear nothing, make sure your system is set up to access sound files.)
These audible readings do not echo the visible lines. Rather, they express a second sense or esoteric meaning: an under-language. Or an over-language; or language from some other dimension entirely. However you think of them, you need to understand that these audible lines represent executable statements in ActionScript.
This brings us to the two function buttons appearing at the right of each line:
The first of these, which looks like a nest of parentheses, or perhaps a set of waves, allows you to replay the sound you have just heard, if you did not catch it properly the first time. And indeed you may not, because the volume of the code readings is initially fairly low, and there is a second sound track running in the background, at relatively high volume.
If you listen carefully to the under-language, you'll discover ways to deal with these and other challenges. When the code associated with a line sounds like something you would like to try, click on the open square or box at the extreme right of the line. This is the activation button.
The voice of the poem will acknowledge your decision, and the button graphic will change. The button becomes inactive after you click it, and you will no longer be able to review alternative readings for that line. Once, only once... though you can restart at any point simply by reloading the current page in your Web browser.
When you first come Under Language, you'll only see buttons after the top two lines, and only these lines will respond to mouseclicks. You'll need to find a reading with an appropriate code instruction to unlock the rest.
Initially, the poem will deliver plain-English descriptions of its possible functions, using what's called pseudo-code. Some line options offer a chance to switch to verbatim ActionScript. Most people will probably find this mode harder. Making this change affects operation of the instrument in several ways, which we leave you to discover.
You'll probably also notice that your visual space quickly becomes occupied by a series of lines and geometrical shapes, produced by the program more or less randomly. Think of these as doodles the poem draws while waiting for you to complete its composition. Various line choices affect the appearance of this overlay animation. Some make it disappear altogether.
You'll notice a few other details and features, which we pass over for the sake of brevity.
One word, though, about time. You have a certain fixed interval, at the outset, after which your compositional time is up and you will find yourself staring at a "POEM OVER" screen. You may restart at this point, or simply let art rest. Options offered in the first few lines can help you beat the clock.
When you've made selections for all ten lines, several things will happen. You'll see a particular closing graphic, chosen to reflect the quality of your final text. Finally, the poem will tell you how it feels about itself, and perhaps your share in its creation.
Enjoy your journey under language!