Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous

Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous

Keith Chapin
Andrew H. Clark
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous
    Book Description:

    People chat about music every day, but they also treat it as a limit, as the boundary of what is sayable. By addressing different perspectives and traditions that form and inform the speaking of music in Western culture--musical, literary, philosophical, semiotic, political--this volume offers a unique snapshot of today's scholarship on speech about music. The range of considerations and material is wide. Among others, they include the words used to interpret musical works (such as those of Beethoven), the words used to channel musical practices (whether Bach's, Rousseau's, or Hispanic political protesters'), and the words used to represent music (whether in a dialogue by Plato, a story by Balzac, or in an Italian popular song). The contributors consider the ways that music may slide by words, as in the performance of an Akpafu dirge or in Messiaen, and the ways that music may serve as an embodied figure, as in the writings of Diderot or in the sound and body art of Henri Chopin. The book concludes with an essay by Jean-Luc Nancy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5140-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Speaking of Music: A View across Disciplines and a Lexicon of Topoi
    (pp. 1-18)
    Keith Chapin and Andrew H. Clark

    It is impossible not to speak of music, for language and music are inextricably linked. The ways and means of this linkage are diverse. They run the gamut from the musicality of speech to speech about music. One speaks music even as one writes, as Jean-Luc Nancy notes in his homage to the musical philosopher Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe in this collection. Sonic acts underpin all utterances, and behind every narrative (orrécit) lies a recitation and behind every recitation a recitative, that paradigmatic marriage of music and language. At the other end of the spectrum, as Lawrence Kramer notes in this...

  6. Speaking of Music
    (pp. 19-38)
    Lawrence Kramer

    Speaking of music is obviously no problem. We speak about music all the time; we speak about it incessantly. Speaking of music is a normal part of music making and music loving. We listen, we play, we hum, we sing, we talk.

    Speaking of music is obviously a problem. Otherwise the contributors to the book now in your hands (or on your screen) would not have convened on a pair of wintry afternoons to speak about speaking of music. They—we—would not have been vexed by the unspoken worry that speaking about music is lying about music. We would...

  7. Waiting for the Death Knell: Speaking of Music (So to Speak)
    (pp. 39-48)
    Laura Odello

    I would like to start out with a quote from Vladimir Jankélévitch about music, words, Socrates, and above all a certain quandary:

    The ineffable … cannot be expressed [est inexprimable] because there are infinite and interminable things to be said of it. … Ineffability provokes bewilderment, which, like Socrates’s quandary, is a fertile aporia. … There will be things to be said (or sung) about the ineffable until the end of time. Who can possibly say, Now, everything is said? No. No one, ever, will be done with this Charm, which interminable words and innumerable musics will not exhaust, where...

  8. Bach’s Silence, Mattheson’s Words: Professional and Humanist Ways of Speaking of Music
    (pp. 49-69)
    Keith Chapin

    In 1719, the Hamburg music journalist Johann Mattheson (1681–1764) wrote a pointed reminder to Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), among other German-speaking musicians: Mattheson was still awaiting their contributions to a collection of biographies. Bach never did furnish a biography, and Mattheson eventually published his patrioticGrundlage einer Ehrenpforte(Foundation of an Arch of Tribute) in 1740 with contributions from many other prominent German musicians of past and present, including Georg Philipp Telemann, George Frideric Handel (Mattheson insisted on the composer’s German heritage and the German form of his name), and, of course and at great length, Mattheson himself,...

  9. Making Music Speak
    (pp. 70-85)
    Andrew H. Clark

    In this chapter, I am interested in the manner in which music was seen in the eighteenth century as a common good and imagined strategically, not just in religious communities but in secular ones as well, as a means to effect and potentially control the public (usually through its effect on a listening body) and to create a sense of shared sentiment, purpose, and citizenship. To this effect, I examine the ways in which three well-known eighteenth-century Europeans who wrote on music and its effects—Denis Diderot (1713–84), Johann Mattheson (1681–1764), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78)—theorize dissonance...

  10. Rousseau: Music, Language, and Politics
    (pp. 86-100)
    Tracy B. Strong

    While Rousseau’s cultivation of music is well known, as is the importance he gave the relationship between music and language, there is still much that can be learned about what it is to communicate with others and what it is to be in a community. Rousseau took as his point of departure a debate in which music criticism and music theory often stood for moral and political criticism. In this chapter, I examine how Rousseau sharpened the terms of this debate through a radical insistence that music represents what is at the core of being human, that is, what is...

  11. Listening to Music
    (pp. 101-119)
    Lawrence M. Zbikowski

    Amid the clatter and din of contemporary philosophy—a cacophony that winds in and around and through language—Jean-Luc Nancy pauses to ask if philosophy is capable of listening. Listening, of course, takes as its object sound, and sound, as the material vehicle for arbitrary symbolic tokens, is basic to the process of signification on which language and philosophy are based. Nancy, however, is interested in sound not as object but as sense, and in listening not as the first step in a process of signification but as an activitypriorto signification. For philosophy to be capable of listening,...

  12. Mi manca la voce: How Balzac Talks Music—or How Music Takes Place—in Massimilla Doni
    (pp. 120-137)
    John T. Hamilton

    In a letter to Madame Hanska, dated 2 November 1833, Honoré de Balzac barely conceals envy with skepticism when he writes, “I have read all of Hoffmann, he is below his reputation; there is something there, but nothing great;il parle bien musique.”¹ The tone of the professional writer comes across fairly clearly. One craftsman judges the workmanship of another; popular opinion needs to be checked; yet, all the same, credit must be given where credit is due: E. T. A. Hoffmann “parle bien musique.” Balzac does not say that Hoffmann talksaboutmusic (“il parledemusique”); rather “il...

  13. Speaking of Music in the Romantic Era: Dynamic and Resistant Aspects of Musical Genre
    (pp. 138-158)
    Matthew Gelbart

    I start from the position that it is impossible to “speak of music” in more than the most vague and abstract terms without broaching the issue of genre. I mean genre broadly conceived as the place where music as text meets music as social act or communication: the place where expectations are met or defied, where individual performative utterances fit into cultural contexts and habitus—in short, the place where music makes its meaning.² Of course, genre in this broad sense is a huge and messy conglomeration of ideas and rules of engagement. It operates not only on several levels...

  14. Weather Reports: Discourse and Musical Cognition
    (pp. 159-168)
    Per Aage Brandt

    The concert referred to in the first epigraph comprised meteorological works such as Richard Strauss’sAlpine Symphony, György Ligeti’sAtmosphères, and Claude Debussy’sNuages, before the Bartók concerto. In the history of written music, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern manners of composition, exemplified paradigmatically by Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Sixth Symphony, has allowed rather explicit references to aspects of meteorology as constitutive elements of the meaning of music, of musical semantics.¹ Composers, critics, lay listeners, and remarkably also musicians find it meaningful to describe what music is “about” in terms of such visionary experiences of nature and its elements and thus find...

  15. Messiaen, Deleuze, and the Birds of Proclamation
    (pp. 169-185)
    Sander van Maas

    Olivier Messiaen is one composer of the twentieth century who has explored the connection between music and nature. The majority of his works include references to the songs of birds, and many refer to inorganic natural phenomena such as galaxies, high mountains, American canyons, precious stones, and so on. Messiaen belongs to a generation of musicians whose awareness of nature as a musical resource anticipated the rise of the ecological composition practices in the 1970s.³ In his long career as a teacher at the Paris Conservatory Messiaen had witnessed the development of ecological approaches to composition. His own music, however,...

  16. Parole, parole: Tautegory and the Musicology of the (Pop) Song
    (pp. 186-192)
    Peter Szendy

    You might know this song. You might know it in its instrumental version, without words, as it haunts Marguerite Duras’s filmIndia Song, released in 1975. The film was adapted by Duras herself, from her stage play of the same name written in 1972. In her stage directions at the beginning of the play, Duras wrote,

    A tune from between the two wars,India Song, is played slowly on the piano. It is played right through, to cover the time—always long—that it takes the audience, or the reader, to emerge from the ordinary world they are in when...

  17. Speaking of Microsound: The Bodies of Henri Chopin
    (pp. 193-211)
    Kiene Brillenburg Wurth

    Between 1983 and 1992, at the San Francisco Exploratorium, Charles Amirkhanian and KPFA radio copresented the celebratedSpeaking of Musicseries.¹ Amirkhanian, the well-known composer, sound artist, and percussionist, produced the show, which featured John Cage, Astor Piazolla, Pamela Z, Laurie Anderson, Steve Reich, Sarah Hopkins, Meredith Monk, and many other leading music makers. Typically, the series would involve a conversation, a performance, and audience questions. Appearing onSpeakingin 1987, Cage answered a final question enigmatically: “there’s no reason,” he said, “to listen to music rather than to sounds around us.” He did not object to people making records,...

  18. On the Ethics of the Unspeakable
    (pp. 212-241)
    Jairo Moreno

    Among the many things language addresses, one elicits singular qualification: music. Examples abound in the history of language and music relations. Prompted to speakofthe meaning of a particular composition, Robert Schumann, an otherwise loquacious writeraboutmusic, would respond by playing the piece once again: music, like the sovereign, accounts for itself and does so in deed, not word. Martin Heidegger, whose philosophical thought is rich in linguistic allusions to listening and hearing, is said to have exclaimed after a performance of Schubert, “That we cannot do with philosophy”: music is a being-in-the-world that differs from philosophical language.¹...

  19. Récit Recitation Recitative
    (pp. 242-256)
    Jean-Luc Nancy

    The narrative [récit]³ puts to work and brings into play its narrator [récitant]: there is no narrative without narration and no narration without narrator. The narrator always presents himself as distinct from the narrative, even when he is the subject of it, as he is supposed to be in an autobiography or in a novel whose narrator refers to himself in the first person, as inIn Search of Lost Time or Tristram Shandy, which are not accidentally such specialexemplain the history of the modern narrative. The “I,” by itself and by its nature as well as by...

  20. NOTES
    (pp. 257-318)
  21. List of Contributors
    (pp. 319-322)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 323-332)