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IMAGINARY MUSIC

IMAGINARY MUSIC is the first weapon Romantic writing deploys in its war against time. Immanuel Kant, John Keats, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, and Marcel Proust all imagine musical forms that resist neurobiological time’s erosive force. But why imaginary music? Time is a great enemy. One wouldn’t bring an imaginary knife to a gunfight. These writers’ interest in virtual forms thus immediately raises a fundamental question. Does the imagination of timeresistant music represent some kind of victory or an admission of complete defeat? Can the creation of imaginary music really count as an achievement?

A simple experiment will decide the issue. Close your eyes. Pick a familiar song, one that once gave you intense joy, and that now gives you a milder pleasure or none. Try to remember what the song sounded like when you first heard it. Recall what it sounded like the last time you heard it. Now imagine a different kind of song. This song will sound just as fresh after several hundred listenings as it did on first hearing. Imagine listening to this song. How do you feel? What is the song like? Describe the features that imbue it with unfading freshness.

My intuition is that the mental operations this experiment elicits will provoke little resistance until the subject is asked to imagine the different song. At that point, I suspect, most people will find it very difficult to imagine this new, habit-resistant music in anything but the most general terms. If my intuition is justified, then a piece of writing that makes it possible to imagine what such music is like with any detail will have achieved something significant.

-23-

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Writing against Time
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction - Writing against Time 1
  • 1 - Imaginary Music 23
  • 2 - The Addictive Image 57
  • 3 - Big Brother Stops Time 87
  • 4 - The Cultured Image 115
  • Conclusion - From Representation to Creation 139
  • Reference Matter 149
  • Notes 151
  • Bibliography 171
  • Index 185
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