Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous

Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous

Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous

Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

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 (or récit) 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 volume, “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.” The title of this book pays homage, on the one hand, to the performative element involved in all thought about music and emblematized by the act of speaking and, on the other, to the fact that engagement with music returns to speech, a fact betokened in the offhand remark “speaking of music.”

If speaking of music happens all the time, it happens in many ways. Music and language are not constants but rather change with changing times . . .

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