Attali: “Noise: The Political Economy of Music” (1977)

Attali’s wide-ranging exploration of music’s role in society and history has many applications to the study (& performance!) of 19th century music:

1977-Attali-NOISE-CoverNoise: The Political Economy of Music
by Jacques Attali (1977)


Our sicence has always desired to monitor, measure, abstract, and castrate meaning, forgetting that life is full of noise and that death alone is silent: work noise, noise of man, and noise of beast.  Noise bought, sold, or prohibited.  Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise.

Today, our sight has dimmed; it no longer sees our future, having constructed a present made of abstraction, nonsense, and silence.  Now we must learn to judge a society more by its sounds, by its art, and by its festivals, than by its statistics.  [p.3]


Music is prophecy.  Its styles and economic organization are ahead of the rest of society because it explores, much faster than material reality can, the entire range of possibilities in a given code.  It makes audible the new world that will gradually become visible, that will impose itself and regulate the order of things; it is not only the image of things, but the transcending of the everyday, the herald of the future.  For this reason musicians, even when officially recognized, are dangerous, disturbing, and subversive; for this reason it is impossible to separate their history from that of repression and surveillance. [p.11]


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