4/21: Final Session. Noise Revisited

Hearing Modernity, Final Session

Jacques Attali, “Music as Predictive Social Science

Monday, April 21

5:15 pm, Paine Hall

Harvard University

(Please note time/location change from previous sessions)

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Image from cover of Jacques Attali's Noise

Image from cover of Jacques Attali’s Noise

“More than colors and forms, it is sounds and their arrangements that fashion societies. With noise is born disorder and its opposite: the world. With music is born power and its opposite: subversion. In noise can be read the codes of life, the relations among men. Clamor, Melody, Dissonance, Harmony; when it is fashioned by man with specific tools, when it invades man’s time, when it becomes sound, noise is the source of purpose and power, of the dream–Music. It is at the heart of the progressive rationalization of aesthetics, and it is a refuge for residual irrationality; it is a means of power and a form of entertainment.” (Jacques Attali, Noise, p. 6)

One of the most complex questions in emerging discussions of sound and hearing is the place of music within those discussions. Some argue that music is a particularly controlled instance of sound, while others find it too narrowly bound up in particular histories and repertoires to have broad relevance. Jacques Attali’s 1977 book, Noise, makes a compelling case for the inextricability of these two fields. Despite (or perhaps because of) his training as an economist and social theorist, his writing on music traces different paths through music than those traversed by musicology. In so doing, Noise has become an integral part of discussions on sound, even if it primarily focuses on acts of sound-making and listening that are understood to be music. Attali argues that the relationship of music to noise prefigures broader societal changes–musical conventions are thus prophetic, while maintaining their complex relationships to time, politics, and economies of listening.

In our final session of Hearing Modernity, Jacques Attali will reflect on the legacy of Noise in his talk, “Music as Predictive Social Science.” The talk will be held in Paine Hall at Harvard at 5:15 pm. As with all events in the series, admission is free and open to the public.

In addition, the SMFA Intonarumori series will come to a close the same day with a presentation by Nina Katchadourian.

– Peter McMurray




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