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Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox

Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox

Translated by Will Bishop
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox
    Book Description:

    Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox is an extraordinary foray into what Apple has convinced us is the soundtrack of our lives.How does music come to inhabit us, to possess and haunt us? What does it mean that a piece of music can insert itself-Szendy's term for this, borrowed from German, is the earworm-into our ears and minds? In this book, Peter Szendy probes the ever-growing and ever more global phenomenon of the hit song. Hits is the culmination of years of singular attentiveness to the unheard, the unheard-of, and the overheard, as well as of listening as it occurs when one pays anything but attention. Szendy takes us through our musical bodies, by way of members and instruments, playing and governing apparatuses, psychic and cinematic doublings, political and economic musings. The hit song, Szendy concludes, functions like a myth, a force of repetition that grows by force of repetition. In the repetition generated by the song's relation to itself, Szendy locates its production as a fetishized commodity, a self-producing structure, and a self-desiring machine. Like a Deleuzian machine, then, the hit song is a technology of the self, or better, a technology of rule, a bio-melo-technology. After reading this book, one can no longer avoid realizing that music is more thana soundtrack: It is the condition of our lives. We are all melomaniacs, Szendy tells us in his unique style of writing and of thought. We are melo-obsessive subjects, not so much driven to a frenzy by a music we hardly have time to listen to as governed and ruled by it.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6903-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE Especially for the English-language Reader
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Earworms: Life’s Soundtrack
    (pp. 1-4)

    Like me, I am sure, you have all been haunted, obsessed to the point of queasiness, possessed until you just can’t take it any more by one of those tunes that come to youjust like that, one of those songs you hear by chance (which means, of course, by necessity) on the radio, in a café, or at the supermarket: one of thosehitsthat, from that moment on, refuses to let you go. It is there on your lips when you wake up, it gives a beat to your steps in the street or else it comes to...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Banal and the Singular
    (pp. 5-30)

    In 1958, a year before his death, Boris Vian wrote the following lyrics for a song Henri Salvador would later record (in 1979 ):

    Out onto the sidewalk she sends/A tune just like that/doo da da doo dah/Doo da da doodaia . . . —He came along whistling/A tune just like that/(whistles. . . )—They looked at each other with surprise./She asked:/“ How is it that you know it, I’m all agog . . .” /He answered:/(spoken) “Well, ah, I, ah, I actually don’t know it,”/(sung) “It came just like that . . .”/Doo da da doo dah/Doo...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Filmography of Hits
    (pp. 31-56)

    Having followed Kierkegaard to a popular theater, we must now go to the movies.

    Not only because, as we have seen, hits are quite their own kind of production,¹ with their love scenes and selfdesiring scenes; not only because, listening to them, we project all kinds of scenarios onto the girl and the guy and the infinite variations of their encounters and separations. But in particular because at some of its best moments, film allows us to think about the logic of hits we are investigating. It shows it to us, literally, at work. And it does so by articulating...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Capital’s Intimate Hymn
    (pp. 57-78)

    On the 1978 albumEx-Fan des Sixties, Jane Birkin sang a great song by Serge Gainsbourg. It was called “Mélodie interdite” (“Forbidden Melody”):

    It is forbidden to pass/Through this melody/It is forbidden to go/Through that tune/This melody is private/Strictly forbidden danger . . ./What this melody recalls to me/Is strictly confidential.¹

    What did Birkin and Gainsbourg want to tell us, or not to tell us? What song were they singing for us by speaking of a forbidden melody?

    Of course, hearing their words (“what this melody recalls to me/Is strictly confidential”), we are ready, all too ready even, to understand...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Around the World: Around Oneself
    (pp. 79-82)

    Hits now go all around the world. They accompany the very movement of globalization and the expansion of the market. From the outside—toward new markets to be conquered—and from the inside—in the commodification of the psyche.

    This is what the duo Daft Punk was singing about in 1997 in “Around the World”: a hundred and forty times, if I’ve counted correctly, the pure and simple repetition of this phrase, “around the world,” which will have thereby made its way through the world by constantly turning around itself.

    How many times have I walked, in the street, in...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Blood of the Cut and the Promise of the Breakthrough
    (pp. 83-100)

    Esteban Buch’s study of the “political history” of Beethoven’s Ninth¹ is one of the very rare major attempts to address an ancient question: that of the relation between music and politics. Buch’s approach is a historical one: After sketching out the “birth of modern political music” (the English “God Save the Queen’’ and the French “Marseillaise”), he follows the history of the reception of the “Ode to Joy” step by step, from its creation to the ups and downs of its fate in the twentieth century.

    The transformations of this musical “object,” however unique its extreme political appropriations may have...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Da Capo: Follow the Notes
    (pp. 101-118)

    Do you remember the end and those last images?¹

    After the tragic events that shook the orchestra, the concert hall is in ruins. Surrounded by a cloud of dust, amid the rubble from which the inert body of the harpist has been removed, the conductor gets up and slowly speaks, his words interrupted by long pauses; in his poor Italian with its German accent, he quietly says:

    You are here, I am here. . . . We must each pay attention to our instrument. This is all we can do, now.²

    In a low voice, he tells the percussionist who...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Kafka at the Star Academy: Nothing’s Anthem
    (pp. 119-130)

    I had a dream during a recent trip to Rome.¹

    I had to sing on a stage like theStar Academy’s, and my vocal performance was going to be judged. I was told that I was below a first quantifiable cut-off point because my voice didn’t carry. This actually came as no surprise.

    But, I was further told and this time to my great surprise, I was also beneath a second cut-off point: the one needed in order tofeel oneselfsing or speak, in other words tohear oneselfspeak or sing. I was told that I would not...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Musicology and Melology: Prince, Eros, and Copyright
    (pp. 131-140)

    Kafka and hisJosephinewhispered a sort of open secret into our ears: The hit speaks of nothing other than itself. In other words it speaks about nothing, quite literally, since it is ananthem to nothing

    Yet let us not forget that this was already what that urhit “Parole, parole, parole” was saying in its own way, whether sung by Mina and Alberto Lupo or by Dalida and Alain Delon in the French cover of it. Listening to the words (“words, words, nothing but words”) exchanged between the Spoken and the Sung, the hit did indeed appear to be...

  13. CHAPTER 10 This Is It: The King of Pop
    (pp. 141-158)

    This is it: That’s right, yes, this is really it; it’s the Thing itself.¹

    It is happening here and now; it is coming; it announces itself. Here I am, it says and proclaims in speaking about itself. Here I am like the Thing in person, like the effective Thing, effectively.

    “This is it,” sings Michael Jackson in his last song, which is also the first of a long series of posthumous titles no doubt yet to come. We first hear the King of Pop’s voice² asking if everyone is “ready,” before it then counts to four, “one two three four.”...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 159-180)