Noise: the Political Economy of Music

"Noise : The political economy of Music" de Jacques Attali.
Depois de um início destes antevê-se um livro que deixará a sua marca.
Vale a pena transcrever o início. Brilhante!

"For twenty-five centuries, Western knowledge has tried to look upon the world.
It has failed to understand that the world is not for the beholding. It is for hearing.
It is not legible, but audible.
Our science has always desired to monitor, measure, abstract, and castrate
meaning, forgetting that life is full of noise and that death alone is silent: work
noise, noise of man, and noise of beast. Noise bought, sold, or prohibited.
Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise.
Today, our sight has dimmed; it no longer sees our future, having constructed
a present made of abstraction, nonsense, and silence. Now we must learn to
judge a society more by its sounds, by its art, and by its festivals, than by its
statistics. By listening to noise, we can better understand where the folly of men
and their calculations is leading us, and what hopes it is still possible to have.
In these opening pages, I would like to summarize the essential themes of this
book. The supporting argument will follow.
Among sounds, music as an autonomous production is a recent invention.
Even as late as the eighteenth century, it was effectively submerged within a
larger totality. Ambiguous and fragile, ostensibly secondary and of minor importance,
it has invaded our world and daily life. Today, it is unavoidable, as
if, in a world now devoid of meaning, a background noise were increasingly
necessary to give people a sense of security. And today, wherever there is
music, there is money. Looking only at the numbers, in certain countries more
money is spent on music than on reading, drinking, or keeping clean.

Music, an immaterial pleasure turned commodity, now heralds a society of the sign, of the immaterial up for sale, of the social relation unified in money.
It heralds, for it is prophetic. It has always been in its essence a herald of
times to come. Thus, as we shall see, if it is true that the political organization
of the twentieth century is rooted in the political thought of the nineteenth, the
latter is almost entirely present in embryonic fonn in the music of the eighteenth
In the last twenty years, music has undergone yet another transformation.
This mutation forecasts a change in social relations. Already, material production
has been supplanted by the exchange of signs. Show business, the star system,
and the hit parade signal a profound institutional and cultural colonization.
Music makes mutations audible. It obliges us to invent categories and new dynamics to regenerate social theory, which today has become crystallized, entrapped,moribund.
Music, as a mirror of society, calls this truism to our attention: society is
much more than economistic categories, Marxist or otherwise, would have us
Music is more than an object of study: it is a way of perceiving the world.
A tool of understanding. Today, no theorizing accomplished through language
or mathematics can suffice any longer; it is incapable of accounting for what is
essential in time-the qualitative and the fluid, threats and violence. In the face
of the growing ambiguity of the signs being used and exchanged, the most wellestablished concepts are crumbling and every theory is wavering. The available
representations of the economy, trapped within frameworks erected in the seventeenth century or, at latest, toward 1850, can neither predict, describe, nor even express what awaits us.
It is thus necessary to imagine radically new theoretical forms, in order to
speak to new realities. Music, the organization of noise, is one such form. It reflects
the manufacture of society; it constitutes the audible waveband of the vibrations
and signs that make up society. An instrument of understanding, it prompts us to decipher a sound fonn of knowledge.
My intention here is thus not only to theorize about music, but to theorize
through music. The result will be unusual and unacceptable conclusions about
music and society, the past and the future. That is perhaps why music is so rarely
listened to and why-as with every facet of social life for which the rules are
breaking down (sexuality, the family, politics)-it is censored, people refuse to
draw conclusions from it.
In the chapters that follow, music will be presented as originating in ritual
murder, of which it is a simulacrum, a minor form of sacrifice heralding change.
We will see that in that capacity it was an attribute of religious and political
power, that it signified order, but also that it prefigured subversion. Then, after
entering into commodity exchange, it participated in the growth and creation of
capital and the spectacle. Fetishized as a commodity, music is illustrative of the
evolution of our entire society: de ritualize a social form, repress an activity of
the body, specialize its practice, sell it as a spectacle, generalize its consumption,
then see to it that it is stockpiled until it loses its meaning. Today, music
heralds-regardless of what the property mode of capital will be-the establishment
of a society of repetition in which nothing will happen anymore. But at the
same time, it heralds the emergence of a formidable subversion, one leading to
a radically new organization never yet theorized, of which self-management is
but a distant echo.
In this respect, music is not innocent: unquantifiable and unproductive, a pure
sign that is now for sale, it provides a rough sketch of the society under construction,a society in which the informal is mass produced and consumed, in which difference is artificially recreated in the multiplication of semi-identical objects.
No organized society can exist without structuring differences at its core. No
market economy can develop without erasing those differences in mass production.
The self-destruction of capitalism lies in this contradiction, in the fact that
music leads a deafening life: an instrument of differentiation, it has become a
locus of repetition. It itself becomes undifferentiated, goes anonymous in the
commodity, and hides behind the mask of stardom. It makes audible what is essential in the contradictions of the developed societies: an anxiety-ridden quest
for lost difference, following a logic from which difference is banished.
Art bears the mark of its time. Does that mean that it is a clear image? A strategy
for understanding? An instrument of struggle? In the codes that structure
noise and its mutations we glimpse a new theoretical practice and reading: establishing relations between the history of people and the dynamics of the economy on the one hand, and the history of the ordering of noise in codes on the other;predicting the evolution of one by the forms of the other; combining economics and aesthetics; demonstrating that music is prophetic and that social organization echoes it.
This book is not an attempt at a multidisciplinary study, but rather a call to
theoretical indiscipline, with an ear to sound matter as the herald of society. The
risk of wandering off into poetics may appear great, since music has an essential
metaphorical dimension: "For a genuine poet, metaphor is not a rhetorical
figure but a vicarious image that he actually beholds in place of a concept." 1
Yet music is a credible metaphor of the real. It is neither an autonomous activity
nor an automatic indicator of the economic infrastructure. It is a herald,
for change is inscribed in noise faster than it transforms society. Undoubtedly,
music is a play of mirrors in which every activity is reflected, defined, recorded,
and distorted. If we look at one mirror, we see only an image of another. But
at times a complex mirror game yields a vision that is rich, because unexpected
and prophetic. At times it yields nothing but the swirl of the void.
Mozart and Bach reflect the bourgeoisie's dream of harmony better than and
prior to the whole of nineteenth-century political theory. There is in the operas
of Cherubini a revolutionary zeal rarely attained in political debate. Janis Joplin,
Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix say more about the liberatory dream of the
1960s than any theory of crisis. The standardized products of today's variety
shows, hit parades, and show business are pathetic and prophetic caricatures of
future forms of the repressive channeling of desire.
The cardinal importance of music in announcing a vision of the world is
nothing new. For Marx, music is the "mirror of reality"; for Nietzsche, the
"expression oftruth";2 for Freud, a "text to decipher." It is all of that, for it
is one of the sites where mutations first arise and where science is secreted: "If
you close your eyes, you lose the power of abstraction" (Michel Serres). It is
all of that, even if it is only a detour on the way to addressing man about the
works of man, to hearing and making audible his alienation, to sensing the unacceptable immensity of his future silence and the wide expanse of his fallowed
creativity. Listening to music is listening to all noise, realizing that its appropriation
and control is a reflection of power, that it is essentially political


O livro é fenomenal. Conhecendo-se o autor já se sabe o que esperar do livro. Apesar de ter sido escrito, salvo erro, na década de 70 tem uma actualidade e até mesmo um futurismo gritante.

zimk disse…
É verdade.
Não parece um texto da década de 70.
Um outro livro fenomenal do Attali, na área da sociologia política é "1492".
Este "Noise" é realmente fabuloso.