Mark Limacher /dɒtkɔm/

General Music, etc. Philosophy, etc. Politics, etc.

“In hearing, man is held captive.”

Excerpts from Alex Ross’ When Music is Violence1, referencing Pascal Quignard’s “The Hatred of Music”:

accd5b4f7e1a42b203181abdae1f5921Although music has a tremendous ability to create communal feeling, no community can form without excluding outsiders. The sense of oneness that a song fosters in a human herd can seem either a beautiful or a repulsive thing—usually depending on whether you love or hate the song in question. Loudness heightens the tension: blaring music is a hegemonic move, a declaration of disdain for anyone who thinks differently. Whether we are marching or dancing or sitting silently in chairs, we are being molded into a single mass by sound. As Quignard notes in “The Hatred of Music,” the Latin word obaudire, to obey, contains audire, to hear. Music “hypnotizes and causes man to abandon the expressible,” he writes. “In hearing, man is held captive.”


For years, Quignard was active on the French music scene, organizing concerts and working with the Catalan viol player Jordi Savall. Quignard co-wrote the screenplay for the music-drenched 1991 film “Tous les Matins du Monde.” Soon afterward, he retreated from such projects and wrote “The Hatred of Music” as a cri de cœur. Although he does not explain this change of heart, he gestures toward the meaningless ubiquity of music in contemporary life—Mozart in the 7-Eleven. Quignard gives this familiar lament a savage edge. In a chapter on the infernal Muzak of Auschwitz, he quotes Tolstoy: “Where one wants to have slaves, one must have as much music as possible.”

  1. Ross, Alex. “When Music is Violence.” The New Yorker 4 July 2016. Web. 23 July 2016.

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