In reality no one has the right to speak any more

The Bowery (A Theory Of The Localization Of Noise) ©MAIERMOUL
The Bowery (A Theory Of The Localization Of Noise) ©MAIERMOUL

Music is more than an object of study: it is a way of perceiving the world. A tool of understanding.

Today, no theorizing accomplished through language or mathematics can suffice any longer; it is incapable of accounting for what is essential in time—the qualitative and the fluid, threats and violence. It is thus necessary to imagine radically new theoretical forms, in order to speak to new realities.

Music, the organization of noise, is one such form. It reflects the manufacture of society; it constitutes the audible waveband of the vibrations and signs that make up society. Listening to music is listening to all noise, realizing that its appropriation and control is a reflection of power, that it is essentially political.

With noise is born disorder and its opposite: the world. With music is born power and its opposite: subversion. In noise can be read the codes of life, the relations among men. Everywhere codes analyze, mark, restrain, train, repress, and channel the primitive sounds of language, of the body, of tools, of objects, of the relations to self and others.

All music, any organization of sounds is then a tool for the creation or consolidation of a community, of a totality. It is what links power to its subjects, and thus, more generally, it is an attribute of power in all its forms. Therefore, any theory of power today must include and its endowment with form.

Eavesdropping, censorship, recording, and surveillance are weapons of power. The technology of listening in on, ordering, transmitting, and recording noise is at the heart of this apparatus. These are the dreams of political scientists and the fantasies of men in power: to listen, to memorize– this is the ability to interpret and control history, to manipulate the culture of a people, to channel its violence and hopes.

The monologue of standardized, stereotyped music accompanies and hems in a daily life in which in reality no one has the right to speak any more.

– Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music; also in The Sound Studies Reader, ed. Sterne