aural flâneur
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Music & Belonging between Revolution & Restoration

Oxford University Press, 2017 in the Critical Conjunctures in Music & Sound series, ed. Jairo Moreno and Gavin Steingo

From the jacket: Music’s role in forming communal identity has long been recognised. As resonances and vibration, sound continually shares itself through myriad reappropriations, bringing listeners together through a common experience of musical material. In Music & Belonging between Revolution and Restoration, author Naomi Waltham-Smith presents the Classical period as a special moment in which Western art music had a clear grasp of its material condition and community-building as the sharing of sound became its foremost principle. In a reversal of the traditional history of absolute, she shows how—at the very heart of the Austro-German canonthe instrumental music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven privileged its community of listeners over the composer’s solitary genius.

The book’s theoretical landscape offers a radical update to Adornian-inspired scholarship, working through debates over relationality, community, and friendship between Derrida, Nancy, Agamben, Badiou, and Malabou. Borrowing the deconstructive strategies of closely reading canonical texts to the point of their unravelling, Waltham-Smith teases out a new politics of listening from processes of repetition and liquidation, from harmonic suppressions and even from trills. What emerges is the enduring political significance of listening to this music in an era of heightened social exclusion under neoliberalism. Combining speculative-philosophical argument with music-analytical close readings, Music & Belonging is an impressive theory of music as a politics of communal resistance.