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i n Bedouin Sociev.

Berkeley: U of Cali-

:y: U of California P, 1992. Englewood Cliffs: Liberal Arts, 1962. k: Oxford UP, 1991. ts: Toward a P.rvchoanalytic I n q u i v of

f California P, 1974. vrpose. 3rd ed. Berkeley: U of California


to Philosophy. Cambridge: Harvard Up, and Rhetoric of the Everyday. Boston: 'dagogy and the Power of Address. New on. Oxford: Clarendon, 2000. list Epistemology." Women, Knowledge, Ed. Ann Garry and Marilyn Pearsall.
f Life. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000. 30. 'ambridge: Harvard UP, 1998. .rd the Politics of Emotion. Cambridge:

Language's Duality and the Rhetorical Problem of Music


Thomas Rickert Purclue University

~ c to the Study of Pathos." Rhetoric Soh


ities Reader. Boston: Houghton, 2003. reatment of Emotion in Contemporary )ale Jacobs and Laura R. Micciche. d Practice in Hellenistic Ethics. Prince-

he Sphere of Ethlcs." A Way to Move. onference on College Composition and 2004. I the Schooling of Emotion." JAC 18.2

My title speaks to a duality in language hinted at in the early work of Nietzsche, a duality that challenges the traditional relation between language and music. Of course, rhetoric and music have often been conjoined. By this, I mean more than that forms of music and language come together, as in poetry, chant, and song. I mean that music and rhetoric inform each other not simply in the generation of such hybrid arts, but in the recursive development of discourses about music and rhetoric, whereby music provides a framework for understanding and practicing rhetoric, and vice versa. This is not to say that they are the same, but it is to suggest that rhetoric has not attended to how intimate they in fact are-and this is crucial-on music's terms, as opposed to rhetoric's orphilosophy's terms. It is an understatement to say that the relations between the two are not equal. Overwhelmingly, the intellectual tradition has considered music suspicious if not dangerous. There have been two interrelated reasons for this: first, music's indeterminacy forestalls the kinds of control we seemingly achieve over language; second, while both music and language induce feelings, sensations, and emotions, music has been considered the more effective in doing so. One sees the problem: music is not only more affectively powerful, but indeterminately so, which opens the door, it is argued, for all manner of impropriety, decadence, and ill-virtue. To the extent that the language of rationality is elevated as the highest universal good and the key to ethical life, music and affect have been held in suspicion and tightly controlled. Intriguingly, much contemporary thought, especially in the sciences, argues that music is not to be considered so much suspicious as unimportant. For example, the well-known evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker has written books about how the mind works and how important language is to human evolution, but when it comes to music, he is less impressed. It communicates "nothing but formless emotion," and as far as biology is concerned, "music is useless" (528-29). Labeling music "auditory cheesecake," Pinker asserts that "[c]ompared with language, vision, social reasoning, and physical know-how, music could vanish from our species and the rest of our lifestyle would be virtually unchanged" (528, 534). While acknowledging the power of its effects on human life and culture, Pinker and

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like-nunded scientists see music as, at best, decorative or palliative and, hence, parasitic on the truly great evolutionary advancements like language. While Pinker shares with the historical tradition the valuation of language as primary, he is at odds with it concerning music's scope and affe~tive~ower.' the ancient Greek world, In music was often integral to a conception of divine order. Representative here are Pythagoras and his followers, who held that the mathematical underpinnings of music "partook of the unity of numbers which were the realities underlying all manifestation" (Epperson 30). Music also concerned Plato and Aristotle. Plato was undoubtedly influenced by the Pythagoreans, but he focused on music's affective power to shape character. Music may reflect divine harmony and the moral order of the universe, but it remains perilous. Thus, one must listen to the right sorts of music. In Laches, he tells us that the true musician "has in his own life a harmony of words and deeds arranged-not in the Ionian, or in the Phrygian mode, nor yet in the Lydian, but in the true Hellenic mode, which is the Dorian. and no other" (188D). Forms of limitation and control are necessary because music's sensuousness, supposedly expressed in certain modes. rhythms, and melodies, creates pernicious effects. In the Republic, we are warned that music enters "the innermost part of the soul and powerfully [seizes] it" (401d).~ Song, in moderation, helps create pliant and useful souls, but in excess, if one becomes spellbound, song ensures that the very sinews of one's soul will be cut out, leaving one discontent, touchy, and feeble (41 lb). Given music's affective power to sway ethical life, Plato argues for the censorship and the abolishment of all but the most proper forms of music. Further. he necessitates that words always be given priority over melody (398d, 400a. 400d). In the Politics, Aristotle devotes a whole section to the problem of music and education. Like Plato, he sees the necessity for keeping the emotions in check, and he too is wary of music's affective potency. Further, he sees music as a leisure activity, tied to pleasure-in this regard. Pinker's conclusions about music as auditory cheesecake are old hat (Aristotle 1338a13).Insofar as one's virtue is tied to "taking pleasure aright and liking and disliking," then learning to judge properly the various forms of music, even if they are not directly useful, is necessary for education; Aristotle even goes so far as to recommend learning to perform when young, although he recommends giving it up when older (1340a14,1340b31). Like Plato, Aristotle is attuned to the way music affects us; thus, the modes are one way of tying music to our emotional states: the Mixed Lydian induces grief and apprehension, the Phrygian enthusiasm, and, also like Plato, he finds the Dorian superior for its settling effects (1340a38). Like Socrates in The Republic, Aristotle is leery of Bacchic excitement and the frenzy of pipes. In short, music endows the soul with character, and one must be educated properly to judge it; musical education thereby serves as the means to mollify music's affective potency. Plato's and Aristotle's cautions about music have been intellectual mainstays. St. Augustine, for example, valued music for its religious utility, but also feared its sensuous elements; he remained anxious that the words always take precedence over the melody, a concern shared by Plato (Epperson 44). Thus, he sees himself as falling into sin when he is deeply moved by a well-sung hymn, and the rhythmic and melodic elements tempt him to move beyond the sense of words (Augustine, Book X, 33). Over the next millennia, Church doctrine reinforced these basic moves of Augustine, seeing, in the Platonic way, each new musical innovation as the road to moral ruination. Thus, we get seminal moments like Pope John XXII's 1324 decree Docta Sanctorum Patrum and the Council of Trent's sixteenth-century pronouncement concerning the necessity of maintaining the intelligibility of the vocals over the affective forces of the music (Dolar 22). Sinularly, Kant was suspicious of music for its

RICKERT lalliative and, hence, parasitic on lation of language as primary, he wer.' In the ancient Greek world, presentative here-arePythagoras nnings of music "partook of the mifestation" (Epperson 30). Mu3ly influenced by the Pythagoreuacter. Music may reflect divine perilous. Thus, one must listen to usician "has in his own life a harthe Phrygian mode, nor yet in the and no other" (188D). Foms of lusness, supposedly expressed in effects. In the Republic, we are I powerfully [seizes] it" (401d).' t in excess, if one becomes spell: out, leaving one discontent, cut o sway ethical Life, Plato argues oper forms of music. Further, he Jy (398d, 400a, 400d). roblem of music and education. in check, and he too is wary of re activity, tied to pleasure-in heesecake are old hat (Anstotle aright and liking and disliking," -ven if they are not directly use; to recommend learning to perhen older (1 340a14,1340b31). thus, the modes are one way of ces grief and apprehension, the ian superior for its settling efis leery of Bacchic excitement character, and one must beed-s as the means to mollify mu:llectunl mainstays. St. Auguso fear&!its sensuous elements; e over the melody, a concern ing into sin when he is deeply ements tempt him to move be:xt millennia, Church doctrine 'nit way, each new musical inrial moments like Pope John 1of Trent's sixteenth-century telligibility of the vocals over 'as suspicious of music for its

17. LANGUAGE'S DUALITY AND MUSIC

in relation to other.fine arts-it produced enjoyment more than culture, feeling more than sense-and judged it as having the least value (328). Thus, Kant preferred vocal music, and so did Hegel, who depr-ecated "wordless music as subjective and indefinite" (Epperson 47). More recently, neoconservativecritiques such as those of Allan Bloom, Robert Bork, and John McWhorter make arguments that contemporary music is culturally degeneralive, thereby upholding an argument at least as old as Plato. Brian Vickers, in his comprehensive essay "Figures of rhetoriciFigures of music?', traces out a more favorable approach to the relations among words, music, and affect in Renaissance rhetoric. Vickers, it should be noted, is nevertheless wary of running music and rhetoric together to the extent that someone like Joachim Burmeister did, who, writing between 1599 and 1606, developed .'the first extended list of specific musical-rhetorical figures"; later writers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries further refined and extended his list of twenty-six to well over a hundred (Vickers 19-20). Vickers argues that the source for such a development was Quintillian, who tirst proposed the afinity between music and rhetoric, arguing in the Institutes that the orator should learn Borll the musician (Vickers 5). During the Renaissance. Quintillian was frequently cited in support of the idea that "music affected the passions" (6). The upshot was the repeatedlesson that the affectivepower of music moves the passions in the same way as rhetoric (9), but as Vickers points out, this was primarily a one-way street involving the "rhetorization of music" (1 5). For example, musical terms like tlzeme, phrase, period, accent,figure, style, composition, and metrics were all actually derived from the language arts (17). Ultimately, Vickers concludes that rhetoric and music can only share so much, but that rhetoric has throughout the centuries nghtly been donunant, thereby falling in line with the general attitude toward music set out by Plato and Aristotle of making music subservient to the word. of In sum, we see here a general trend toward the oven~aluation reason over feeling, of determinate sense over indeterminate affect, and of more controlled aesthetic forms over the more unpredictable. All this may already be well known, especially since rrlodern and postmodern critiques of this trend are commonplace. Another serious problem concerns the assumed mimetic function of music, in which music is thought to solnehow imitate theemotions in order to evoke them. While this is an old and persistent idea, it is mistaken. Contemporary musicologists have argued that there is nothing to suggest that music mimics or reflects moral order, nor that any supposed licentiousness in music will lead to moral decay (Epperson 66; I v y 3-18). Such arguments, however, are relatively recent, and it is important to have this historical background firmly in one's grasp in order to understand fully the radical import of the stance Nietzsche tookwith regard to music in The Birth of Tragedy and his short fragment from 1871, "On Music and Words." Nietzsche is significant for his attempt to counter millennia-old pronouncements about the dangers of music.3 The subtitle of Nietzsche's essay is "Or why great music-Dionysian music-makes us forget to listen to the words," and it is already indicative of his attempt to revalue music. Nietzsche notes that music in its origins begins in association with lyrical poetry and must traverse stages before it becomes absolute music; he then goes on to add that if we consider lyrical poetry to be imitative of the artistry of nature, then "we must find the original model of this association of music and lyrical poetry in the dual& that nature has built into the es~rence oflanguage" (103-04). Nietzsche's meaning is not immediately obvious. Nevertheless, the suggestion seems to be that lyrical poetry can only emerge if language has a musical component. In other words, the dual nature of language is such that we can no longer maintain so rigorous a distinction between the communicative and the melodic.

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Such an assertion is obviously at odds with the tradition inherited from Plato, Aristotle, and the Church; yet it is also different from the Renaissance rhetoricians detailed by Vickers. Certainly these rhetoricians applied techniques from music to rhetoric and back, but they nevertheless maintained differences regarding their essences. One could deploy musical figures to further one's rhetorical purpose of evoking the proper affective response, for example, but this still fell far short of asserting, as Nietzsche appears to, that there is something already musical in language that allows for the emergence of lyrical poetry in the first place. This duality in the nature of language sets up two inversions: first, an emphasis on music over words, and second, affect over reason. Nietzsche offers as evidence a variety of phenomena: that while the musician may cross the bridge into the land of images, the lyric poet may not cross back to the land of the musician; or that Schiller's poem "To Joy" in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is essentially unheard. Note: it is not that we cannot hear the words; rather, it is that the music blinds us in some essential way to their imagery and sense. As Nietzsche puts it, before the sublime wonder of Beethoven's music, all of the noble verve of Schller's poem seems disturbing or distressing, even crude and insulting (1 12). He later claims that music can never become a means for words, and even in its "crudest and simplest stages it still overcomes poetry and reduces it to its reflection" (1 17). These somewhat sketchy arguments were central, in more developed form, to The Birth o Tragedy, which appeared the following year in 1872. There Nietzsche claims that melody f is primary and universal, over and above even poetry, which emerges from folk song ( ~ 3 ) . ~ He also claims that language inevitably falters before the sublime fulsomeness of music, finding in this revelation an argument for music's aesthetic superiority, contra the judgments of the philosophical tradition. Lyric arts, therefore, depend on the spirit of music, while music merely endures images and concepts as accompaniment (55). Nietzsche further holds that the lyric arts can express nothing that "did not already lie hidden in that vast universality and absoluteness in the music that compelled [the lyric artist] to figurative speech (55). Thus, The Birth of Tragedy also traces out a duality, but this time from music's perspective: it is from out of music's "cosmic symbolism"--one of many such locutions Nietzsche devises-that the language arts emerge, meaning that music already bears language within it; it is as if language already rests within music in a nascent or virtual form. Today, despite the claims of Pinker and other scientists that music is of little or no value, a number of empirical studies have emerged that support Nietzsche's arguments. Studies conducted in 1950 by Riesman, in the 1960s by Denzin, and in the 1970s by Robinson and Hirsch, and many more besides, have concluded that the majority of listeners respond vastly more to the sound of music than to the words (Frith 95,105nn.52-55). Even in the case of protest music, listeners are typically unaware of what the words are or what the song is about. Often, when they do take the time to figure out the lyrics, they disagree with them (Frith 95-96). Simon Frith argues that while words may matter in assessing the cultural significance of song, words have at best an oblique relation to audience moods, beliefs, and ideologies (96). This further suggests that music primarily connects with audiences affectively and to such an extent that even disagreeable words may not be an impediment to music's power. It further suggests that the use of borderline nonsensical lyrics, as exemplified by rock artists such as T. Rex, Yes, The Cocteau Wins, Sigur R6s, and many more besides, can only be considered nonsensical from a linguistic perspective; from the perspective of the music, they do offer a kind of sense, and not only because they share in music's fulsome indeterminacy. In addition to sociological and empirical researchers, some neurocognitivist scientists are also making claims that substantiate some of Nietzsche's views. For example, Antonio

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LANGUAGE'S DUALITY AND MUSIC

1 61

istotle, 'ickers. ut they cal figexamlething t place. ;ic over xnena: nay not s Ninth ler, ~t1s he puts s poem t music ; it still r Birth e rnelody g (53).4 music, gments ile mu:r holds ersality 1" (55). ctive: it che dehin it; it value, a les con;on and d vastly case of s about. n (Fnth signifiideoloaly and ower. It k artists be conthey do inacy. lentists intonio

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Damasio argues in The Feeling of What Happens that the emotional tagging of experience is necessary for survival, suggesting that music has a special role to play in such tagging. These ideas concerning music's central role in the organization of our affective lives are given further credence in a recent collection, The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music (Peretz and Zatorre). Some basic claims, made by several researchers, are that music does serve an evolutionary function, that it is not useless or solely pleasurable, and that it should be considered a complex biological adaptation (see, e.g., Trehub, Cross, and Huron in Peretz and Zatorre). Huron, for example, discusses eight possible evolutionary needs for music, including social cohesion, mate selection, group effort, and motor skill development (6l).' Trehub argues that mothers speak and sing to infants in highly idiosyncratic ways (e.g., with elevated pitch, slurred syllables) that infants respond to more favorably than they do to normal song and speech. She states, "Maternal music as a means of optimizing infant mood or arousal parallels adolescents' and adults' use of music for self-regulation" (1 1). Infants, sheconcludes, do not begin life with a "musical blank slate,'' but have a predisposition for sophisticated musical processing that is biological, not cultural (13-14). Other studies show that the brain processes music and language independently of each other and that different parts of the brain are responsible for each. Although language tends to be processed first, one typically drowns out the other (Besson and Schon 281). From the perspective I have been developing here, it is music that tends to drown out words. Thus, a key question has been whether to see this as something positive, as Nietzsche attempts to do, or to seek protections against it, as the Platonic tradition demands. As far as rhetoric is concerned, aside from the adaptation of musical motifs in developing rhythms and figures as described by Vickers, there has by and large been considerably more resisting than embracing of the musical component of language and its ties to the affective regulation or modification of audiences. A notable exception to this general reluctance is the work of Steven Katz, who argues in The Epistemic Music of Rhetoric that we should move beyond a "reliance on formalistic, rationalistic methods of investigating and knowing," not because they are wrong, but because they are limited (1 1). Katz seeks to understand how the dual indeterminacies of music and physical affective responses can be forms of knowledge (12). Katz, I argue, is aligned with Nietzsche in pointing to a kind of duality inherent in language. As Katz puts it, the challenge is to respond to "language as amusical trace of emotion in sound, rather than only as visual ideation, the imaging of meaning" (181-82). My remarks here are necessarily sketchy and open-ended. In part, this open-endedness reflects an essential problem: music and affect lean toward subjective experience and, even in those terms, remain indeterminate. Furthermore, theproblem takes its particular shape because of our dominant epistemological rnindset, which is still heavily indebted to the very tradition that has overprivileged rationality and language at the expense of music and affect. Claiming epistemological status for what is defined as subjective experience is notoriously difficult; superlative efforts like those of Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, where heessays to develop a science of the unique or irreducible, are given short shrift (Barthes 8,71). It is difficult, then, in the face of the dominant will for determinate knowledge to side with indeterminacy and, even more precariously, make claims for it as a form of knowledge worth pursuing, one that is not just useful forrhetoric but already inscribed within all the language arts, rhetoric included. It might be objected that in relying on the young Nietzsche in making my argument, I have fallen prey to the problems of the romantic tradition he was working out of and was indeed highly critical of when he assessed The Birth of Tragedy in a new preface sixteen years later. However, as Katz's work shows, and as some of the work in neurocognitivist

17 science makes plain, one need not remain in the romanticist framework to begin rethinking the importance of indeterminate knowledge for rhetoric. Thus, contra to the long dominant fears of the Platonic tradition, and indeed to the contemporary mindset, we should seek new ways of understanding, theorizing, and working with rhetoric as both an affective and musical art. This will mean, among other things, expanding greatly on our ability to theorize, codify, teach, and perform the musical aspects of language to achieve our goals at the level of affect. Any such project, however, will also face all the barriers established by a tradition that holds such a call in the greatest suspicion. But perhaps we can take heart from recent work that challenges this tradition, showing that the moral grounds upon which it stakes its claims are increasingly flimsy if not simply false. The challenge now is to build on such work and thereby extend rather than delimit the scope of rhetorical knowledge and practice.

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NOTES
1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

The argument that music is useless is actually quite old. For example. Democritus (c. 1 2 0 BC) made this same point; similarly. Aristotle saw music as pleasurable but lacking utility (Freeman 105). The Greek term tnousik, referring to the art of the muses, includes literary and artistic accomplishments generally, and not only music. but it can refer to our sense of music as well. It should be noted that some translators substitute "poctry" for music. but given that music, poetry. and literature formed the basis of Greek education, we should also keep in mind that "music"connotes education in general. While I do not have the space to explore this further here. I should mention Hildegaard of Bingen. a twelfth-century ahhess. who like Nietzsche also argued for music's primacy. For example, one of her works, Ordo virtutum,personifies the virtues in singing roles: the only speaking role-and incidently the only masculine character-is the devil. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 1 117 she ba~ely escaped being condemned as a heretic (Dolar 22-23). 1do not have the space to explicate the romantic underpinnings of such an assertion, which can be seen to harken back to arguments such as those of Rousseau. who held that music was primary and that the first languages were sung not spoken, thus pointing to the importance of the affective prior to valuations of rationalit) (see Rousseau and Herder). Although I cannot pursue the idea here, it would be of great interest to investigate to what extent Nietzsche's claim that Dionysian music achieves the dissolution of the principle of individuation dovetails with Huron's claims concerning music's role in social cohesion, group effort. coilflict reduction, and so on. At this point. however, any such linkage must remain speculative.

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Aristotle. Politics. Trans. Peter L. Phillips Simpson. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1997. Augustine. The Confessions. Trans. Rex Warner. New York: Mentor, 1963. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photograph?. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981. Besson, Mireille, and Daniele Schon. "Comparison between Language and Music." The Cognitive Neuroscience ofMusic. Ed. Isabelle Peretz and Robert Zatorre. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.
269-93.

Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in rhe Making of Consciousness. San Diego: Harcourt, 1999. Dolar, Mladen. "The Object Voice." Gaze and Voice as Love Objects. Ed. Renata Salecl and Slavoj i ek. Durham: Duk e UP, 1996.7-3 1. Epperson, Gordon. The Musical Symbol: A Study ofthe Philosophic Theory ofMusic. Ames: Iowa State UP, 1967.

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RICKERT work to begin rethinking ltra to the long dominant dset, we should seek new lth an affective and musiIr ability to theorize, codour goals at the level of 3lished by a tradition that :heart from recent work which it stakes its claims build on such work and ge and practice.
1

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163

-. Democritus (c. 420 BC)

r~t lacking utility (Freeman terary and artistic accomof music as well. It should that music, poetry, and litind that "music" connotes Ion Hildegaard of Bingen, ximacy. For example, one e only speaking role-and kingly. in 1147 she barely an assertion, which can be d that music was primary nportance of the affective investigate to what extent principle of individuation ion, group effort. conflict main speculative.

Freeman, Kathleen. Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983. Frith, Simon. "Why Do Songs Have Words?%st in Music: Culture, Style and the Musical Event. Ed. Avron Levine White. New York: Routledge, 1987.77-106. Huron, David. "Is Music an Evolutionary Adaptation?" The Cognitive Neuroscience ofMuric. Ed. Isabelle Peretz and Robert Zatorre. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. 57-75. Kant, Immanuel. Critique ofJudgment. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. Katz, Steven B. The Epistemic Music ofRhetoric. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1996. I v y , Peter. Sound and Semblance: Reflections on Musical Representation. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1984. Nietzsche,Friedrich. The Birth ofTragedy. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage. 1967. -. "On Music and Words." Trans. Walter Kaufmann. Between Romanticism and Modernism: Four Studies in the Music ofthe Later Nineteenth Century. Ed. Carl Dahlhaus. Berkeley: U of California P, 1980. 103-20. Peretz, Isabelle, and Robert Zatorre, eds. The Cognitive Neuroscience ofMusic. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works. New York: Norton, 1997. Plato. Laches. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. New York: Modem Library (n.d.). -. The Republic. Trans. Raymond Larson. Arlington Heights:-AHM, 1979. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and Johann Gottfried Herder. On the Origin oflanguage: Two Essays. Trans. John H. Moran and Alexander Code. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1966. Trehub, Sandra E. "Musical Predispositions in Infancy: An Update." The Cognitive Neuroscience ofMusic. Ed. Isabelle Peretz and Robert Zatorre. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. 3-20. Vickers, Brian. "Figures of rhetoric/Figures of music?" Rhetorica 2.1 (Spring 1984): 1 4 4 .

lorth Carolina P, 1997. 63. &chard Howard. New


1 Music." The Cognitive 'ord: Oxford UP. 2003. e Making ofConscious-

Lenata Salecl and Slavoj


y ofM~isic. Ames: Iowa