Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 100
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this lyrical meditation on listening, Jean-Luc Nancy examines sound in relation to the human body. How is listening different from hearing? What does listening entail? How does what is heard differ from what is seen? Can philosophy even address listening, ecouter, as opposed to entendre, which means both hearing and understanding? Unlike the visual arts, sound produces effects that persist long after it has stopped. The body, Nancy says, is itself like an echo chamber, responding to music by inner vibrations as well as outer attentiveness. Since "the ear has no eyelid" (Quignard), sound cannot be blocked out or ignored: our whole being is involved in listening, just as it is involved in interpreting what it hears. The mystery of music and of its effects on the listener is subtly examined. Nancy's skill as a philosopher is to bring the reader companionably along with him as he examines these fresh and vital questions; by the end of the book the reader feels as if listening very carefully to a person talking quietly, close to the ear.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5982-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Translator’s Note
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Charlotte Mandell
  4. Listening

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 1-22)

      Assuming that there is still sense in asking questions about the limits, or about some limits, of philosophy (assuming, then, that a fundamental rhythm of illimitation and limitation does not comprise the permanent pace of philosophy itself, with a variable cadence, which might today be accelerated), we will ponder this: Is listening something of which philosophy is capable? Or—we’ll insist a little, despite everything, at the risk of exaggerating the point—hasn’t philosophy superimposed upon listening, beforehand and of necessity, or else substituted for listening, something else that might be more on the order ofunderstanding

      Isn’t the philosopher...

    • Interlude: Mute Music
      (pp. 23-44)

      Taken at its word:mot, “word,” frommutum, an emitted sound deprived of sense, the noise produced by formingmu.

      Mutmut facere: to murmur, to mutter—muzo, to domu,mu, to saym.

      Not saying a word: just m ormu,muttio,mugio, to moo,munjami,mojami.

      Muteness,motus, to become mute [amuir], disappearance of a phoneme [amuissement]: of the t at the end of the wordmot.

      Kindred sound:mormuro,marmarah,murmeti,murmeln, murmur.

      Falsely kindred root:motus, motion, movement of the lips, emotion.

      Mumble, mutter, grumble,mussitare[“to grumble”; in its transitive form, to keep quiet about...

    • Coda
      (pp. 45-46)

      From very far away, in the arts and in time, one can reply to this painting with music by Wagner, the instant that Tristan, to Isolde’s voice, cries out:What, am I hearing light?—before he dies in front of the woman who will survive him only long enough to join him in the song of death that she isalone in hearing, in the breath of death that becomesthe melody that resoundsand that will mingle with, and resolve into,the mass of waves, the thunder of noises, in the All breathing with the breath of the world....

  5. “March in Spirit in Our Ranks”
    (pp. 49-60)

    It would be useful, if not plausible, to imagine that if Nietzsche ended up preferring Bizet to Wagner, even if that was out of ironic provocation, it was because Bizet, inCarmen, put military music to the test of a joyful imitation (not even a parody) with the band of children chanting “avec la garde montante.” Not a parody, and not a satire either, but a simple diversion into liveliness and play, in the bright clarity of children’s voices, of the cadence of the procession, the parade, in a time when it was still possible to perceive the military march...

  6. How Music Listens to Itself
    (pp. 63-68)

    If someone listens to music without knowing anything about it—as we say of those who have no knowledge of musicology—without being capable of interpreting it, is it possible that he is actually listening to it, rather than being reduced to hearing [entendre] it? Or rather, if the termentendre[hear/understand] had to signify only a sonorous perception deprived of form, as soon as signals from everyday life are no longer perceived, is it possible that the listening can go beyond an immediate apprehension of emotional impulses, movements, and resonances confusedly dependent on acquired habits regarding rhythm and tonality...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 69-86)