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SoundsThe Ambient Humanities$
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John Mowitt

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284623

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284623.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 14 April 2021

Silence

Silence

Chapter:
(p.99) 5. Silence
Source:
Sounds
Author(s):

John Mowitt

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520284623.003.0006

This chapter focuses on silence—the absence or complete suppression of sound. It presents a reading of the encounter between four intellectual figures and traditions: John Cage and his various engagements with silence; Franz Kafka and his parable, “The Silence of the Sirens”; Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's allegorization of the Sirens episode in Homer's Odyssey; and Jean-François Lyotard's clever deployment of Cage against Adorno's championing of Arnold Schönberg in the former's short statement, “Several Silences.” Precisely in multiplying silences, Lyotard brings out the cacophony that attends silence as a discursive or disciplinary object, whether musicological or philosophical. Moreover, the chapter asks: Are all these nonsilences the same, and if not, what do they sound like? Or, just as important, how do these differences bear on what sound sounds like a provocation to thinking?

Keywords:   silence, John Cage, Franz Kafka, Adorno, Horkheimer, Odyssey, Lyotard, Several Silences

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