Lyotard and The Sound of Silence: Film Music and Lament by Reni Celeste

 The Sound of Silence: Film Music and Lament  by Reni Celeste  Originally published in Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 22:113-123 (2005).

quote...'For the cinema, there is no greater resource than the pop song. Behind each melancholic lament, raging riff, drumbeat, and guitar solo is the laughter of Dionysus, the tragic jester of ultimate loss.
Francois Lyotard draws a parallel between music and primordial loss and fear. Music is the site of deep paradoxes. It struggles to leave a trace of something audible that goes beyond the audible. Lyotard speaks of a passage from Pascal Quignard entitled "Language" that describes the sound of a collective fear that renders all language secondary. "All the languages of the world seem secondary with regard to this lament of hunger, distress, loneliness, death, and danger."18 Lyotard finds in music the deepest expression of the bestial lament over immortality. "The breath is a wind of terror: one is going to be no more. We cannot 'hear' it, but it is not mute. It puts 'exactly nothing between your teeth.'" This is not merely certain kinds of music, but music in general. "No matter how clear the phrases of the clearest music might be, they bellow forth fright in secret."19 In this sense, the work of art can never be reduced to its cultural or empirical context. He explains that
If the work of art is, it is because it bears witness to something in excess of what the body can sense, of what is sensible and circumscribed by the (biological, cultural) institutions of the body. [...] This excess is already at the very origins of sensation. Sensation is not only the reception of useful contextual information, it is also in its immediacy the reminder of a threat. The body does not belong to you, it is sensible only insofar as it is exposed to the other thing, deprived of its self-distinction, in danger of annihilation. It is sensible only as lamentable.20
This makes the aesthetic realm a distinction that is only possible through the figure of extinction and its lament. As he describes it, "The body is passible because it has doors and they are open. What enters through the body, sensations, aesthesis, is not just the form of an object, it's the anguish of being full of holes."21 Differences between the various arts, he explains, are only different ways the body has of being threatened with loss. "Aesthetics is phobic, it arises from anesthesia, belonging to it, recovering from it."22 This description of the "breath of lament" puts music at the very core of being. These holes in the body that Lyotard describes as the senses threaten the border between inside and outside. Like a character from an Edgar Allan Poe tale suffereing from a "heightening of the senses,"23 one can imagine being killed by an odor or sound. Music does not fill the lack opened by the visual. It is the lack itself. That we can distinguish ourselves from music is merely a cultural knowledge or function of language.' for more click here

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