Hermeneutics and anti-hermeneutics of music: The question of listening in Jean-Luc Nancy and Lawrence Kramer

Erik Wallrup


When Jean-Luc Nancy’s À l’écoute was translated into English under the title Listening (2007), two texts were added to the original book, one of them discussing the Nazi exploitation of music, the other one elaborating Nancy’s own notion of musical listening as a listening that allows music to listen to itself. It resulted in a book where music now played a more important role. The response from the hermeneutic camp of North American musicology was harsh, with Lawrence Kramer’s recent treatment of Nancy as principle example. In the present article, Nancy’s and Kramer’s positions are discussed in terms of musical anti-hermeneutics and hermeneutics respectively – where both the ideological and the historical backgrounds are of importance. Even if Kramer most often is correct in his description of Nancy, the negative judgment is not necessary. It is, however, suggested that the closed circle of the musical work (and listening) should be opened up: a world emerges in the musical work of art, and this world works outside the work, too.


Jean-Luc Nancy, Lawrence Kramer, philosophy of music, hermeneutics of music, listening

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ISSN: 2281-3209                DOI Prefix: 10.7408

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