Saturday, April 04, 2009

Sound's Departures

"In resonance the inexhaustible return of eternity is played–and listened to" (Jean-Luc Nancy, "How Music Listens to Itself," in Listening, p. 67). Routinely I would question "inexhaustible," "return" and "eternity," but what thoughts would turn up if I began by putting only one term into question? Can we admit that returns of eternity both exist and are exhaustible? Or can we acknowledge an inexhaustible return of the ephemeral? Aporias. The eternal's manner of coming into existence would require, to be a coming into existence, an incompatibility with the eternal, and likewise mutatis mutandis for the eternal's other.

Attack is followed by decay, to describe sound, yet in accounts of sonorous experience decay is frequently disregarded. "Sound has no hidden face," Nancy tells us (Listening, p. 13), though I'm still not so sure. He emphasizes the attack, the arrival of sound, while ignoring sound's departure. To me the departure of sound does suggest another facet of sound, a silence looming behind every sound. Of course behind the departure of sound is the arrival of sound–am I confusing conceptual faces with phenomenal faces here? I don't quite think so. I'd like to be talking about an eidos of sonorous experience, or an eidos of resonance, all the while pointing to an eidos of phenomenality in general. Sound is inside-out in relation to phenomenality, Nancy says (ibid.) This of course implies that sound does have faces. However, if what Nancy objects to is the idea of the hiddenness of any of sound's faces, then how should we interpret the disappearance of sound's departure behind phrases such as "the inexhaustible return of eternity"? Is this disappearance the sense of body that Nancy calls "soul" (p. 43)? (It is true, I'm excerpting from different essays ("Listening," "How Music Listens to Itself"); they are linked by common themes, such as resonance.) Could it be that the behind of sound is precisely animated? Perhaps only in order to be imagined. Just perhaps. So what makes it so difficult to imagine, for instance, the exhaustible return of eternity? Is it simply contradiction, or could it be de-animation, the flight of the soul which is at root an attack on the power of the imagination? To imagine the exhaustible would be far more painstaking than to live it. It would mean allowing exhaustion to resonate. Now that the idea's been put forward, can we think otherwise than that exhaustion itself is after all such a resonance of exhaustion? This is but one side of an equation. It should lead us to question whether or how the inexhaustible resonates. It is patently not clear that inexhaustion itself is the resonance of inexhaustion–but one wonders. If resonance is exhausting–in the manner it allows the eternal to come into existence, as return, or else more simply exhausting in the way it takes the air out of sound, slowly, one vibration after another–then listening to the inexhaustible can only go so far, and certainly not as far as the inexhaustible itself, whether or not it's its own resonance. But I'm puzzled. If resonance requires a distance from inexhaustion does it not also by the same token require a distance from exhaustion? Resonance is a phenomenon of distances–and passions. The sympathetic vibration clues us in to the essence of all resonance, which is not merely the antrum at the heart of the material, the chora, but the intensity of a feeling with (which points meontically to distances)–or do the antral and the distal measure the same space, a space that would exist in the absence of sympathies? Resonance would admonish us to be cautious about drawing too sharp a distinction between auditory and visual modes of phenomenality. Our responses to phenomena are imbricated with their arrivals–this defines their modality of arrival–which we perhaps never allow to occur all at once, despite what some have claimed to be true of listening, but always feel along with a feeling for or about their departures, which may be as good as having an intuition–not a pure intuition but an existential one, if you'll afford some meaning to the distinction–about the behind of sounds.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:34 AM.


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