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The Hatred of Music

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Throughout Pascal Quignard’s distinguished literary career, music has been a recurring obsession. As a musician he organized the International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theatre at Versailles in the early 1990s, and thus was instrumental in the rediscovery of much forgotten classical music. Yet in 1994 he abruptly renounced all musical activities. The Hatred of Music is Throughout Pascal Quignard’s distinguished literary career, music has been a recurring obsession. As a musician he organized the International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theatre at Versailles in the early 1990s, and thus was instrumental in the rediscovery of much forgotten classical music. Yet in 1994 he abruptly renounced all musical activities. The Hatred of Music is Quignard’s masterful exploration of the power of music and what history reveals about the dangers it poses.   From prehistoric chants to challenging contemporary compositions, Quignard reflects on music of all kinds and eras. He draws on vast cultural knowledge—the Bible, Greek mythology, early modern history, modern philosophy, the Holocaust, and more—to develop ten accessible treatises on music. In each of these small masterpieces the author exposes music’s potential to manipulate, to mesmerize, to domesticate. Especially disturbing is his scrutiny of the role music played in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Quignard’s provocative book takes on particular relevance today, as we find ourselves surrounded by music as never before in history.


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Throughout Pascal Quignard’s distinguished literary career, music has been a recurring obsession. As a musician he organized the International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theatre at Versailles in the early 1990s, and thus was instrumental in the rediscovery of much forgotten classical music. Yet in 1994 he abruptly renounced all musical activities. The Hatred of Music is Throughout Pascal Quignard’s distinguished literary career, music has been a recurring obsession. As a musician he organized the International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theatre at Versailles in the early 1990s, and thus was instrumental in the rediscovery of much forgotten classical music. Yet in 1994 he abruptly renounced all musical activities. The Hatred of Music is Quignard’s masterful exploration of the power of music and what history reveals about the dangers it poses.   From prehistoric chants to challenging contemporary compositions, Quignard reflects on music of all kinds and eras. He draws on vast cultural knowledge—the Bible, Greek mythology, early modern history, modern philosophy, the Holocaust, and more—to develop ten accessible treatises on music. In each of these small masterpieces the author exposes music’s potential to manipulate, to mesmerize, to domesticate. Especially disturbing is his scrutiny of the role music played in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Quignard’s provocative book takes on particular relevance today, as we find ourselves surrounded by music as never before in history.

30 review for The Hatred of Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    “Mousikè – says a verse by Hesiod – pours small libations of oblivion on sorrow. Sorrow is to the soul in which memories build up what dregs are to the amphora filled with wine.” There is music to reduce sorrow and there is music to enhance sorrow… “Shamans were inspired by animals, priests by immolated humans, bards by the muses. Always victims. Works, however modern they pretend to be, are always more untimely than the times that welcome or reject them.” Pascal Quignard compares musical instrumen “Mousikè – says a verse by Hesiod – pours small libations of oblivion on sorrow. Sorrow is to the soul in which memories build up what dregs are to the amphora filled with wine.” There is music to reduce sorrow and there is music to enhance sorrow… “Shamans were inspired by animals, priests by immolated humans, bards by the muses. Always victims. Works, however modern they pretend to be, are always more untimely than the times that welcome or reject them.” Pascal Quignard compares musical instruments with weapons – instruments of death… And sounds of music are similar to the sound of the bowstring… “Gods are not seen but heard: in thunder, in torrents, in clouds, in the sea. They are like voices. The bow is endowed with a form of speech, in distance, invisibility, and air. The voice is initially that of the string that vibrates before the instrument is divided and arranged into music, hunting and war.” Music is inescapable… Music unites us and music makes us obey… “Undelimitable and invisible, music appears to be the voice of everyone. There is perhaps no music that does not group together, because there is no music that does not at once mobilize breath and blood.” The Hatred of Music is somewhere between Imaginary Lives by Marcel Schwob and Reader’s Block by David Markson and following Jorge Luis Borges Pascal Quignard continues to erase borderlines between fiction and fact, between imagination and reality, between actuality and dream. “Being born serves no purpose and knows no end: certainly not death. There is no end because death does not finish. Death does not terminate: it interrupts.” There is music for the beginning and there is music for the end. There is music of joy and there is music of sadness.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    The title is provocative, even disturbing. How can anyone hate music? Some types of music, sure – but music itself? Even the archetypal misanthrope Nietzsche insisted "Without music, life would be a mistake." But Quignard is serious. The confusion coagulates when one discovers that Quignard founded the International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theatre at Versailles; that he's the author of Tous les Matins du Monde, the novel made into a film of the same name with a resplendent soundtrack. But The title is provocative, even disturbing. How can anyone hate music? Some types of music, sure – but music itself? Even the archetypal misanthrope Nietzsche insisted "Without music, life would be a mistake." But Quignard is serious. The confusion coagulates when one discovers that Quignard founded the International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theatre at Versailles; that he's the author of Tous les Matins du Monde, the novel made into a film of the same name with a resplendent soundtrack. But then, in 1994 according to the translators' afterward, he "abruptly decided to renounce all his professional activities" – and two years later published this stringent, enraged little book, now beautifully translated by Matthew Amos and Fredrik Rönnbäck. I read The Hatred of Music two months ago. I'm still not sure what to make of it, only that it's the most opaque, most fascinating book I've ever read on music. I'm tempted to call it a mystical text because it demands (or did of me) an intense participation on the part of its reader, who must allow its apophatic logic to emerge behind the words, at some cost. Call it Orphic initiation. Each chapter offers a "treatise" on some aspect of music. The third treatise- "On my death" – is very short. It begins: "No music before, during, or after the cremation." Yes, he's serious. He hates music. But this doesn't mean what it seems to mean. There is something ascetic and terrifying behind this passion. I refuse to summarize or quote further. Alex Ross wrote a fine review for The New Yorker, but if you mean to read this book, I suggest you read the review after. Translating Quignard's meditation into a streamlined argument risks eliminating its texture and the hard insights that emerge page by recalcitrant page. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ignacio Irulegui

    ¿Qué puede la música? Bajo su halo seductor, desde el inicio de los tiempos, el sonido se ha mostrado como un fenómeno de atracción: no podemos renunciar a él porque su insistencia invasiva es irrenunciable. Pascal Quignard aprovecha este motivo argumental y lo traslada hacia sus diez 'tratados': breves ensayos que analizan los matices, las variaciones del oír en la tiranía de la música; cómo nos conquista, qué efectos produce en nuestras psiquis, qué usos se le ha dado y se le dan aún: tal es e ¿Qué puede la música? Bajo su halo seductor, desde el inicio de los tiempos, el sonido se ha mostrado como un fenómeno de atracción: no podemos renunciar a él porque su insistencia invasiva es irrenunciable. Pascal Quignard aprovecha este motivo argumental y lo traslada hacia sus diez 'tratados': breves ensayos que analizan los matices, las variaciones del oír en la tiranía de la música; cómo nos conquista, qué efectos produce en nuestras psiquis, qué usos se le ha dado y se le dan aún: tal es el interés exploratorio del autor francés. Sus armas son una profunda erudición de la tradición clásica y el trabajo delicadamente poético de su prosa. Quizá una de las características más destacables de este libro (hay varias) sea el método de pensamiento de Quignard, cuya gracia intelectual se luce por la calidad de las conexiones inesperadas que crea, relacionando conceptos en base a su origen etimológico para componer, así, el trazado de una significación peculiar donde las palabras se emparentan unas con otras y engendran el vigor semántico del des/ocultamiento. Ensayo de intensa vocación creativa, articulado en múltiples referencias a la cultura grecolatina, El odio a la música es un tejido de voces que, convocadas por la poética intelectual de Quignard, logran provocar una iluminación sagaz y novedosa sobre el fenómeno que aborda.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro Teruel

    I first came across the seventh treatise of this book, the treatise whose title shares the title of the book, and which is about the (ab)use of music in Nazi concentration camps. I was absolutely stunned by Quignard's apothegmatical and poetic style, and his bleak, somber and relentless tapestry of nightmarish arguments: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. In a sense the treatise transposes Goya's I first came across the seventh treatise of this book, the treatise whose title shares the title of the book, and which is about the (ab)use of music in Nazi concentration camps. I was absolutely stunned by Quignard's apothegmatical and poetic style, and his bleak, somber and relentless tapestry of nightmarish arguments: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. In a sense the treatise transposes Goya's The horrors of war into sound. In the concentration camps, Jewish musicians were organized them into orchestras that played classical music to march Jews back from forced labor, and to march them into the gas chambers. One of these orchestras, whose conductor, Simon Laks, survived Auschwitz recalls playing at the women's "hospital":At first, all the women were overcome by tears, in particular the Polish women, to the point where their sobbing drowned out the music. Later, cries replaced the tears. The sick cried: "Stop! Stop! Get out! Leave! Let us die in peace!" It happened that Simon Laks was the only musician who who understood the meaning of the Polish words that the sick women shrieked. The musicians looked at Simon Laks, who gestured at them. And they withdrew. Simon Laks said that he never thought until then that music could do such harm.Having been shocked by the seventh treatise, I searched for the book to find out how Quignard had built up to such a grisly and repulsive indictment of music. The first treatises are an erudite ramble through forgotten etymologies, cruel Classical myths about the origins of music inexorably linking linking music and violence, and shamanism, all reminiscent of James Frazer's archaizing The Golden Bough anthropology:To hear is to obey. To listen in Latin is obaudire. Obaudire has survived in French as obéir. Hearing, audentia, is an obaudire, is an obedience. [...] The musician Marsyas, having picked up the flute thrown away by Athena, was bound to a pine and emasculated, then flayed [...] Orpheus is emasculated and torn apart. Music and the marvelous voice, the domesticated voice, castration, are bound together.Tantalizing but elusive tidbits are flushed out from Quignard's dense allusive forest of knowledge, but it is heavy going -this is that very French conflation of philosophy and classical studies wrapped up in prose so rich in metaphors that it is more akin to poetry, hinting at meanings and logics beyond those of strict reason. I do not claim to understand such conflations but I confess to finding them strangely bewitching. I would recommend reading two treatises first, the seventh (The hatred of music) and the ninth(To disenchant), which is a splendid fulmination against the overblown pervasiveness of music in contemporary life:Humans have become assailed by music, besieged by music. [...] Fascism is related to the loudspeaker. It grew thanks to "radio-phony". Then it was relayed by "tele-vision". In the course of the twentieth century, a historical, fascist, industrial, electric logic -whatever epithet one chooses to apply- took hold of the menacing sounds. Music, through the increase of [...] its reproduction and its audience, from then on crossed the limit that separated it from noise,In my opinion, these two treatises are the heart, crux and culmination of the book and only if you find them interesting should you venture into the rest of the book -and then reread these two treatises duly armed with whatever spoils you have been able to wrest from the rambling introitos and excursus.

  5. 5 out of 5

    L'aura

    Granted, you won't be spared some weird shit at first. But if you can get through the first contemptous, erudite, obscure and overlong essay, which I honestly can't promise you will, the rest of it is worth the struggle. The book's concept is fairly simple, so simple in fact that most of us barely ever thought about it: ears don't have eyelids, so music just sort of happens to us. It's aggressive and inherently inegalitarian, which means it has a power that men (and other animals) can't resist n Granted, you won't be spared some weird shit at first. But if you can get through the first contemptous, erudite, obscure and overlong essay, which I honestly can't promise you will, the rest of it is worth the struggle. The book's concept is fairly simple, so simple in fact that most of us barely ever thought about it: ears don't have eyelids, so music just sort of happens to us. It's aggressive and inherently inegalitarian, which means it has a power that men (and other animals) can't resist nor protect themselves from. Some very bad people have known and taken advantage of this since the beginning of time: A few fairly disturbing essays deal with the use of music concentration camps made, and those are definitely the mostr striking pages this book has to offer. Ultimately, you won't have to agree with Quignard. But he'll sure make you think for a while.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Imelda

    Este es otro de los libros a los que he llegado gracias a que me gusta leer los artículos de una Revista. Es un libro fabuloso. El tema a tratar (nada más y nada menos que la amada música), invita a la curiosidad, desde el título ¿"El Odio a la Música"? ¿cómo alguien podría odiarla? es sin duda como un pellizco que nos dice no debemos dejarlo pasar. La música, nuestra amada música, nos la muestra desde varias perspectivas, algunas que ni siquiera se nos hubiese ocurrido porque ¿cómo se puede odiar Este es otro de los libros a los que he llegado gracias a que me gusta leer los artículos de una Revista. Es un libro fabuloso. El tema a tratar (nada más y nada menos que la amada música), invita a la curiosidad, desde el título ¿"El Odio a la Música"? ¿cómo alguien podría odiarla? es sin duda como un pellizco que nos dice no debemos dejarlo pasar. La música, nuestra amada música, nos la muestra desde varias perspectivas, algunas que ni siquiera se nos hubiese ocurrido porque ¿cómo se puede odiar a la´música? Algunos no soportamos ciertos géneros, pero de ahí a odiar la música en general nos parece descabellado, bueno, este libro nos abre un panorama que quizá jamás pensamos podría existir. Una gran obra.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Quignard's ten treatises on his hatred of music, after a lifetime of loving it. It consists of stories, legends, aphorisms, and thoughts on society and culture. Though not entirely, the author expresses often that, given the ubiquity of music, everywhere in our lives, it has become meaningless. Reading many of these treatises, I thought of my reading of Kundera, who, like Quidnard, will state a condition that has occurred occasionally as if it is an absolute and then, expound on the philosophy eng Quignard's ten treatises on his hatred of music, after a lifetime of loving it. It consists of stories, legends, aphorisms, and thoughts on society and culture. Though not entirely, the author expresses often that, given the ubiquity of music, everywhere in our lives, it has become meaningless. Reading many of these treatises, I thought of my reading of Kundera, who, like Quidnard, will state a condition that has occurred occasionally as if it is an absolute and then, expound on the philosophy engendered by that now absolute state. There is a lot of interesting comments on music, listening to music and playing music in this book. I read the first two treatises and was totally baffled as to the authors purpose or approach before I skipped ahead to the Afterword which put the author's life and language in sharper focus. It was much easier to comprehend after reading the afterword.

  8. 4 out of 5

    julieta

    Tengo la impresión de que Quignard tuvo algún tipo de crisis con la música, algo que llega a mencionar en uno de sus "tratados" (sigo sin entender por qué los llama así), y desde el título pone la luz desde un lugar muy poco halagador para la música en general. En realidad se trata de fragmentos, menciones a distintos personajes, libros, historias, anécdotas, en donde llega al punto: la música es un ataque a los oídos, de la cual no nos podemos defender, porque nuestros oídos están abiertos. En Tengo la impresión de que Quignard tuvo algún tipo de crisis con la música, algo que llega a mencionar en uno de sus "tratados" (sigo sin entender por qué los llama así), y desde el título pone la luz desde un lugar muy poco halagador para la música en general. En realidad se trata de fragmentos, menciones a distintos personajes, libros, historias, anécdotas, en donde llega al punto: la música es un ataque a los oídos, de la cual no nos podemos defender, porque nuestros oídos están abiertos. En lo personal, siempre he visto la música con mejores ojos, por lo cual a momentos me parecía pretencioso y exagerado, pero tiene algo entretenido, sus referencias a Homero, sus anécdotas sacadas de aquí y de allá. Un poco fragmentado, pero al final tiene onda.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dolores

    The date listed is not when I finished reading this book…rather it is the date I gave up on it. I was intrigued by the title, “The Hatred of Music”, and thought the description sounded very interesting, especially when it mentioned the role of music in the Nazi concentration camps. However I’m afraid I overestimated my intellectual capacity. After reading a few pages, I sadly realized the content was incomprehensible to me. I received my copy from Goodreads First Reads program at no cost….and I’ The date listed is not when I finished reading this book…rather it is the date I gave up on it. I was intrigued by the title, “The Hatred of Music”, and thought the description sounded very interesting, especially when it mentioned the role of music in the Nazi concentration camps. However I’m afraid I overestimated my intellectual capacity. After reading a few pages, I sadly realized the content was incomprehensible to me. I received my copy from Goodreads First Reads program at no cost….and I’m sorry I let them down.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    He's serious, but this is a difficult read. The ten treatises are made up a various quotations and assertions. Many can give rise to worthwhile thinking, but the book is not, and apparently not, intended to make a smooth whole. The style or format seems to be what the author and translator call "speculative rhetoric"--an intriguing notion which upon looking it up seems deeply lost in lit major rhetoric itself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Increibles reflexiones sobre la musica, el mundo sonoro, el silencio y todo lo vincular que lo rodea. Diez ensayos alucinantes... me lo lei en un solo dia, porque no podia soltarlo.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rand

    Perhaps.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

  14. 5 out of 5

    Simon

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bieiris

  16. 5 out of 5

    daemon meridianus

  17. 5 out of 5

    daemon meridianus

  18. 4 out of 5

    Я.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hyeon Kim

  21. 4 out of 5

    Edilberto

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pablo

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lika_k

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nyi Nyi Ohn Myint

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gcv85

  26. 5 out of 5

    José Loza

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ariane

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara Odalys

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Schiffman

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leno

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