de la Fuente, E, Music As Negative Theology, Thesis Eleven, 56, (1) pp. 57-79. ISSN 0725-5136 (1999) [Refereed Article]
Jean-Francois Lyotard's essay 'Adorno as the Devil' had argued that Theodor Adorno's Philosophy of Modern Music was a 'diabolic' work of 'negative theology' which attributed to Schoenberg's music a secret redemptive power. However, in his later writings, such as the essays in The Inhuman, Lyotard has himself moved close to a 'negative theological' position with respect to modernity, time, aesthetics and music. The paper uses the occasion of Lyotard's own theologically inspired essays on music, 'God and Puppet' and 'Obedience', to re-evaluate the following: Adorno's claims that music transcends mere language and 'reaches' for the theological; and more general claims within modern western culture on behalf of music's ability to express the inexpressible. The argument is that the music as negative theology position is not inherently metaphysical but rather that it reflects the importance of the 'unsayable' to modern conceptions of reason. In resisting the 'closure' of the modern narrative of reason, music, as a temporal art, has often given expression to the more radical forms of alterity present within modern forms of time. In other words, negative theology is not the discourse of the devil; it is the impossible discourse of western reason and its internal fracturing. Copyright © 1999 SAGE Publications and Thesis Eleven Pty Ltd.
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