The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2022

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SEPT 2022 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: Music

19. 1994, France

After achieving best-seller status in his mid 40s, French novelist who comes from a long line of organists and is himself an accomplished cellist, abruptly cancels an international music festival he founded only four years earlier and severs ties with another music festival he co-directs. He also ceases his own public cello performances. The motivation behind these actions becomes clearer two years later when he publishes a book titled La haine de la musique (The Hatred of Music). That he has authored a diatribe against music is all the more shocking to the many readers of his most celebrated novel (also turned into a successful film) that movingly depicts the relationship between two musicians of the Baroque era. Much of his anti-music polemic is concerned with familiar complaints about the “noise” and ubiquity of music in contemporary life, how music, as he puts it, “has become incessant, aggressing night and day, in the commercial streets of city centers, in shopping centers, in arcades, in department stores, in bookstores, in lobbies of foreign banks, even at the beach, in private apartments, in restaurants, in taxis, in the metro, in airports. Even in airplanes during takeoff and landing.” But toward the end of the book, he accuses music of complicity with the worst of crimes: “Of all the arts, music is the only one to have collaborated in the extermination of Jews organized by the Germans between 1933 and 1945. It was the only form of art to be specifically requested by the administration of the Konzentrationlager.” The title of his book, he explains in words that sound like those of a betrayed lover, “is meant to convey to what point music can become an object of hatred to someone who once adored it beyond measure.”

(Pascal Quignard)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2022

All Issues