Scelsi, Sense, and the Musical Matter

Exarchos, Dimitris. 2019. 'Scelsi, Sense, and the Musical Matter'. In: Music and Materialisms: A Free One-day Conference. Visconti Studio, Kingston University, United Kingdom 23rd February 2019. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Giacinto Scelsi’s first writing on music aesthetics, ‘Sens de la musique’ (1942/44) provides a comprehensive account of (the sense of) music as a complex equilibrium between the human elements (rhythm, emotion, cosmic, intellect, psychic) and those of music (rhythm, melody, harmony, construction). The complexity of that equilibrium indexes a highly intricate mode of relating to musical sound, hence Scelsi’s notion of klang—a complex sonic entity, more than just sound, chord, etc; klangis the material of music, the ‘sonorous matter’ on which listening projects ‘images’ created by the aforementioned elements. Music relates to language; however, its material does not necessitate discreet elements (such as words). Scelsi’s landmark Four Pieces on a single note (1959) is a perfect example of music’s materiality and its mode of existence in time/space. The notion of sonorous matter was developed decades later by philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, who also focused on a notion of sense: listening (sensing) is in search of meaning, while at the same time touches on the materiality of sound. Sense is taken in its multiple meanings: sensibility, sensation, intelligibility, orientation, and is always in excess of meaning. Nancy's philosophy thus treats the relationship between matter, language, writing, and art, as one that operates on the limits; such thinking is enabled both by a materialist ontology and the excessive nature of sense (hence for Nancy the metonymy for all sense is touch). This paper will explore the links between the two approaches.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Giacinto Scelsi, Jean-Luc Nancy, Henri Bergson, materialism

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Contemporary Music Research Unit


23 February 2019Completed

Event Location:

Visconti Studio, Kingston University, United Kingdom

Date range:

23rd February 2019

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Date Deposited:

27 Feb 2019 10:21

Last Modified:

27 Feb 2019 10:22


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