Journées Alain Badiou

(Paris, 22-24 October 2010)


[ in French ]

François Nicolas (trans. Liam Flenady)


"Badiou and music": this obliged theme, which has been amicably assigned to me, proves itself singularly difficult for a musician.

It would have been easier to vary the theme retrograde: music and Badiou. I have already had the opportunity to do so, and to indicate how a musician seeking to understand his art in common language can take support from the philosophy of Badiou[a].

Let us summarize this properly musicianly aspect of things.


Let us recall foremost that for music properly speaking, philosophy has no use and can have no use: music is an autonomous thinking [trans: the noun ‘thinking’ will henceforth translate Nicolas’ ‘pensée’], put to work in pieces of music; this musical thought, which is not linguistic, is deployed in a specific world, the world-Music formed logically around a singular dialectic between sound and notes, between sound material and literal terms (made of this specifically musical writing called solfege). No place here, of course, for philosophical discourse![b]

By contrast, philosophy can be of use to the musician, this dividual [trans: Nicolas’ ‘dividu’ is henceforth translated as ‘dividual’ – which is opposed to an ‘individual’ or, in French, ‘individu’] in constant split between the world-Music and those other worlds that are of the ordinary life of humans. It is for this reason that the musician can lean on a philosophy to find a cartography clarifying the orientation of thought available to him, a geology illuminating the conditions of possibility of a musicianly discourse, a meteorology delineating [dégageant] the general time of thought and thus what ‘Contemporary’ can mean in a particular time for the musician.

The musician is thus able to deploy his own intellectual nature in the shadow of a given philosophy, just as it can do in the light of such or such other procedure of non-musical thought; I will say in my case: in the light of mathematics[c] and the shadow of the philosophy of Badiou.

This philosophy, in fact, especially since Logics of Worlds (that is to say, since this philosophy has touched upon the shores of logic and phenomenology), can help the musician to deploy a materialist conception of his art which can be a counterweight to phenomenological idealism (the spontaneous philosophy of the musician in the post-war period) and, especially since the ‘70s, to this crass materialism of the human sciences which focuses on systematically liquidating the very idea of a possible artistic autonomy.


Musicians interested in these different capacities of a given philosophy will then find themselves inscribed under this statement of Deleuze: “philosophy can be of use to musicians even and especially when it does not talk about music.[1]

Let’s radicalise the proposition: a musician’s interest in a given philosophy will be most effective if he is above all interested in the part of the philosophy which does not deal with music. Conversely, a musician who is interested in a philosophy essentially for what it says about music would be interested in this philosophy narcissistically, as a mirror of his art, in other words he would miss this philosophy as philosophy.[d]


If the musician is forewarned not to select in Badiou's philosophy those good passages [bons morceaux] that concern him directly, this is also – more prosaically – because, until quite recently, this philosophy did not say anything about music! Thus the musician, who would have been tempted to flip through books of Badiou to lift out musically crispy passages, has had up until now scarcely any pages to sink his teeth into.

Let’s face it: this situation was particularly welcome for the musician, for it is true that latter is hindered when, reading a book of philosophy, he discovers passages about music: in general, the musician does not recognize – can not recognize – “his”             music. A musician reading what a philosopher says about music is immediately tempted… by anti-philosophy: in fact, the musician, upon finding nothing of his practices, his passions, in short what music means to him, is immediately tempted to see nothing but sophistry and declare that philosophy and sophistry are one and the same, since statements about music by this thinker are not backed by a musicianly utterance.[e]

For a long time, Badiou’s philosophy has spared musicians this risk. Today, the situation has radically changed and it is from this new state of Badiou’s philosophy that I need to set out again to engage my musicianly investigation on Badiou and music.




In this obliged theme, I hear under the proper name Badiou the philosophy of Badiou, more broadly Badiou’s work and, more specifically, Badiou’s writings. I will leave here in the shadow, the personal figure Alain Badiou, the dividual I index here by his first name only: Alain (B.).

Yet I have had various opportunities to experience the very personal relationship Alain B. maintains with music, beginning in the heart of the ‘70s, at some musical sessions organised around the flute and keyboard sonatas of Johann Sebastian Bach, at the very moment when the backward direction of political prospects incited us to hang our instruments back up, a time neglected in favour of the work of a passionate militancy.

It was also in this singular between-time[f] [entre-temps] that Alain B. drew my attention to an article by Henri Pousseur – Esquisse pour une rhapsodie pathétique [g] – the reading of which triggered my determination to relate my practical return to music to a new project of a “saying music [dire la musique]”.[h]

But here let us leave this part of the theme “Badiou and music” to his future biographers – the anti-philosophical axiom of Nietzsche positing that all philosophy is the autobiography of its author is not at all mine – and stick to the connections of Badiou’s writings to music.




Strictly speaking, music does not constitute a condition for Badiou’s philosophy[i]. Some evidence of this, if it were required, would be the dedication with which Alain had adorned the copy of the book The Century he kindly sent me on its release: “This Century without music...” Of course, ‘Century’ here named his book rather than the 20th Century that was at issue. But finally, the diagnosis was suggested.

In Badiou’s philosophy, music is certainly recognized as a thinking, and therefore a generic procedure, the equal of the other arts. Better still, music is thematized as thinking the thinking that it is [la musique y est thématisée comme pensée de la pensée qu’elle est] (that is, this time, a privilege that Badiou’s philosophy gives to the arts and to politics, unlike science and love). Ipso facto, musical events and their intramusical consequences then become real candidates to condition a philosophy. But again it must be noted that Badiou’s philosophy is not specifically conditioned by a singular musical event.


There are many examples of particular philosophies declaring themselves conditioned by a specific musical event: there is of course Adorno’s philosophy which assumes itself under the condition of the event “second Viennese School”[j]; there is equally the philosophy of Schopenhauer[k] but also – and this is less well known – the philosophy of Descartes (I will indicate very soon in what sense one can understand this proposition), not counting of course the enterprises of Rousseau, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (Badiou speaks here of antiphilosophies) focussing on capturing what has musically played out under the names of “Italian Music”, Mozart, and Wagner, respectively. For its part, Badiou’s philosophy does not advance itself as conditioned by this type of musical event.


This absence poses few problems for the musician: any event is not ipso facto a condition for all philosophy, and a musician cannot judge the evental quality of what happens in his world-Music according to the measure that it would be given in such or such philosophy; it must proceed according to its own proper understanding – an understanding autonomous because musically constituted.[l]

For its part, a given philosophy selects the events – not philosophical – that will condition its proper existence, and does not take into account everything that happens.[m]

That there isn’t in Badiou’s philosophy a conditioning by any musical event – no more, moreover, than there is from painting or from within the physical sciences – is not in itself a philosophical problem, much less a musical or musicianly problem. Entirely on the contrary: the lack of a conditioning musical event allows the musician to approach this philosophy of Badiou’s in complete freedom.

Indeed, that a musical event or condition comes to be taken as a condition for a given philosophy does not constitute much of an advantage for the musician, but, entirely on the contrary, obstructs his thought proper.

To give but one example, Schoenberg never ceased to criticize Adorno for doing philosophy (rather than music) on the back of his music! Faced with the tangled texts of the young Adorno[n], Schoenberg thundered and belched that he could in no way recognise his musical project in those Adornian reflections, for him as abstruse as they were sterile.

Should the philosophy of Badiou have deployed itself thus under the condition of a musical event – let’s say an event “serialism”[o] – then my musicianly connection to this philosophy may certainly have been obscured rather than clarified.


From The Concept of Model[p] to The Century[q] – music hardly appeared in Badiou’s philosophy and it took until Logics of Worlds[r] before he devoted significant passages to this subject.

Such passages appeared here under the name of philosophical example: music – whether explicitly of the artistic configuration “second Viennese School” or that of the work Ariadne and Bluebeard by Paul Dukas – has provided privileged examples of the process-subject. In doing so, music plays the same role as Hubert Robert's painting or the architecture of Lucio Costa – no, I think no one would infer from this last example that a Brasilia event conditions Badiou’s philosophy…


It is true, nonetheless, that music plays the role of a privileged example in Logics of Worlds. The fact that, of all, art music has become the most exemplary is not insignificant:

Logics of Worlds is devoted to the logic of appearance, the phenomenological dimension of being-there, so this volume gives a crucial place in this sensible dimension to things that a worldly logic configures transcendentally. Hence the examples mobilised by this book are examples taken from the sensible: it must be sensed how the cohesion of a world gives itself in the order of phenomena, how the sensible is given a world’s consistency (when, in Being and Event, it was rather to understand how the ontological law of the multiple is rationally appropriable). Examples in one and another volumes could therefore only raise different types, and it is natural (in the sense that mathematicians speak of natural transformation) that Logics of Worlds most immediately gives right to the sensitivity of the author, that of the dividual Alain B.


If one were to stop there – if for example these days [trans: the conference Journées Alain Badiou] had taken place some years ago – one would have been able to say with finality: Badiou and music, this is not a matter of condition, but solely of examples for a philosophy that, in approaching the shore of its own phenomenology, privileges sensory experience of the philosophical dividual as the principle of this philosophy. We would then examine what this example means for a properly philosophical discourse, what this philosophical example properly signifies: What is the specific status of the example in philosophical discourse? Example of what, example in what capacity, example for what discursive purpose, etc.?


I do not want to head in this direction here, for a new element now prohibits limiting the relationship Badiou and music to the sole status of philosophical examples. This element is of course the most recent book by Badiou, devoted precisely, under the proper name Wagner, to music as such [2]. This time music clearly occupies the entire scene and it is therefore this book that we must now include in our investigation.




Something strange is immediately apparent: Badiou tells us, from the first pages, that this book has not been written by him but by three different hands and has been through a foreign language[s] before arriving to us in French so that not only was this book of Badiou in its totality written by three people, none of whom is called Badiou, but it comes to us in English even though Badiou never thought in that language.


Thus, to write philosophically about music, it is clear that Badiou made a spoken presentation, followed by a transcription (my name appears at this stage), then by a transposition into English (which mobilizes the name of Susan Spitzer), and finally, by an arrangement (the return to the French language convokes the name of Isabella Vodoz).

I am intentionally using a musical vocabulary: Alain Badiou, who – everyone will agree – is hardly in trouble when it comes to writing[t], engaged himself in a sort of orally composed improvisation; whereupon this improvisation was transcribed (according to the solfege of ordinary letters) and then transposed onto a different linguistic instrument before being in fine rearranged in written French.

Why does my theme Badiou and music here take the much less surprising form of Badiou-Vodoz-Spitzer-Nicolas and music? Of what would such a symptom be an admission?


I propose to you, at this point of my investigation, a long flash-back of nearly fifty years, dating back to Badiou’s first complete work of prose: his novel Almagetes[u]. In this first book music indeed plays a significant role.

Three quotes, to reconstruct the flavour of this relationship to music, and the inscription of this relationship
under the a priori
unexpected theme of prayer:

Go back little by little until the decisive moment when the first man refused the prayer for enjoying, alone and mortal, his power of nomination and of lying, of error, and of music.”[3]

All true language dedicates man to the prayer of things.”[4]

Music, this perfect language that can name all, not being a sign, one might say, but the secret of things, their prayer.”[5]

Three other extracts, to try to understand the dimension of a nomination that we will soon remember:

The philosopher is the specialist of words.”[6]

How to give a name to things, which they agree to [accorde]?[7]

What makes you desire the thing, that is its name.”[8]

Nomination, secret, prayer: these must compose the new motif of my investigation.


Let’s posit this provisionally: the philosopher is concerned with the singular power of nomination of which music is capable, a power which permits us to conceive of music as a secret prayer of things.


Note in passing that the musical text in its proper writing – solfegic [solfégique] – comes to surface on different occasions even in the literary discourse, as the equal of mathematical writing.

This dual surfacing presents itself thus (I took the liberty of associating it with a third type of writing which is close to me: that of the Arabic language, a language indirectly mobilized by the title of the novel):


‘al-mi-jis-Tî [v]



“at the recital of the phrases of the world: fragments of score, mathematical formulae”[9]:



“I love mathematical writing”[10]:



Note that the musical quotation[y] comes from Parsifal, which precisely concludes the latest work by Badiou.

I take this opportunity to indicate that the fourth (Eb – Ab – Eb), which structures this motif, plays a strategic role throughout the whole opera (of which a constitutive polarity is the dialectic between musical chromaticism – brought to a climax in Tristan – and diatonicism). Now this fourth contributes, under the form of its traditional cycle (moreover one that Schoenberg will adorn the beginning of his second Chamber Symphony as a sort of declaration of modernity) to differentiate, in Parsifal, the second ceremony – in its conclusion[z] – from the first. As such, it is not entirely accurate to say that the two events differ only because of their officiator[11], since the music, it is true here as a slight touch rather than a large eruption, differentiates their end.


At the moment when the music appears for the first time in its solfegic strangeness, the novel recounts to us:

“I wonder about the fate of the fidelity of he who amputated his memorable flesh. […] Fidelity gives a body to promises. […] I give to this Faith of the world my buried darkness. Thus Wagner restored […] the Faith of Parsifal in a melodious gift.”[12]


We can observe that solfege will then disappear entirely from the work of Badiou, even while mathematical writing will by contrast continue along the course that we know.

It strikes me in this passage that this continued silence makes the musical text very well into quasi-general trait of philosophical discourse: just as the mathematical letter can here create eruption, so the musical letter is held in the gap of the philosophical text – this is well the case that defines the work of Adorno in his properly philosophical texts.[aa]

There is, it seems to me, a significant point that I should add provisionally to my enquiry: if philosophical discourse knows how to take part in mathematical discourse in its proper literality, it does not know by contrast how to do so with musical discourse displayed according to the proper materiality of its writing.

I would willingly say: on the one hand, Badiou’s philosophical discourse knows departing from the mathematical letter, not from the musical letter; and on the other it knows leading to the musical text (without, strictly speaking, anchoring itself[bb]). The difference, in the end, is considerable.

I will try further to advance a hypothesis about the possible philosophical meaning of such an absence, of such a secret. The idea will be the following: philosophy, since Wagner, is committed to music as secret, a secret that philosophy then proceeds to avow, precisely as secret, thus maintaining the secrecy of the transparency of musical writing, thus repressing the musical unfolding whose score is the specific location.


This detour by Almagestes thus suggests to me the following idea: what if music, more specifically that which of the music advances itself under the name of Wagner, constitutes a latent motif of the philosophy of Badiou, a leitmotif snaking its way through Badiou’s oeuvre?


Note a famous precedent in the field of philosophy secretly traversed from one end to the other by a concern of musical origin: none other than that of Descartes.

In a nutshell, one can read his Compendium Musicae[cc], a seemingly technical book on music, as a launching pad for his entire philosophical project.

Descartes in fact finds himself here confronted[dd] by a music that has become autonomous, since the interval of the third has become more consonant than that of the fourth – the reverse of that which was imposed by the Pythagorean rationality of antiquity.

How to account for this musical torsion operating on the arithmetical order of natural numbers? Descartes incorporates this new musical thinking to the rationality of his time in deploying an astute construction of the monochord that, through its division into two halves, figures a split of consciousness between light and shadow[ee]. Descartes thus includes the nascent tonal harmony (based on the pre-eminence of the third in the order of consonances) in the field of a new rationality at the price of creating a new subject, split between the clarity of certainty and the obscurity of doubt.

We know the role that this duality eventually plays in the constitution of his new “subject of science”, a duality that Descartes, as we know, will complement by that of the soul and the body, it itself approached by the Compendium, since the latter, in fine, refers to the other works in its consideration of the movements of the soul and of the passions that music is likely to incite.

If the following writings of Descartes will no longer make explicit reference to music, the philosopher will, however, devote his entire final work – The Passions of the Soul[ff] – to finish the enterprise opened, thirty years previously, by his Compendium so as to complete his theory of musical rationality with a theory of the affects of which it is capable.

Thus, the philosophical questions that music of his time had brought out in the young Descartes worked themselves secretly to frame and weave [encadrer et faufiler] the totality of his oeuvre.


My thesis is then: would there not be, in the philosophy of Badiou, a somewhat equivalent guiding thread, a latent thread of this music for which Wagner names for him the singular power?

For this we must read his latest book.




Five lessons on Wagner tells us precisely that, for philosophy in general, Wagner has become the name of music as a fundamental operator of contemporary ideology[13], thereby the name of a new situation in the relationship between philosophy and music.[14]

From there, different philosophies diverge. For the philosophy of Lacoue-Labarthe[15], Wagner is the name of a proto-fascist aestheticisation of the political in which the music of the total artwork plays a central role. For Adorno’s philosophy[16], Wagner is rather the name of a totalising identification, the project of which has run aground on a musical ennui of a waiting in vain.
For Badiou’s philosophy, this presents itself quite differently, and the musician can only be grateful. Wagner becomes the name of a music invested with at least four proper intensions[gg] [trans.: in English in original]:

1.   first, a music which, having aspired to great art, prefigures the possibility of an artistic grandeur of a new type[17]: a grandeur which no longer proceeds to a completeness of an art supposed total, but which affirms itself locally as well as globally, a grandeur which affirms itself at all times rather than in the conclusive apotheosis;

2.   next, a music which, implementing a tragically divided subject[18], gives rise to a new type of development: a development that which no longer orders itself toward a resolute end, toward a synthetic conclusion, but deploys itself as the law of the multiple that invents for example a network of leitmotifs conceived not as fixed list of signifiers but as a collective capacity of metamorphoses;

3.   a music which equally tackles the issue of a new ceremonial capable of the self-representation of the collective as such[19], and therefore announces these ceremonies of a new type which generic humanity needs in its long Communist march;

4.   finally, a music of a beyond of Christianity, which it overcomes (rather than deconstructs) in affirming the fidelities of a new type of which this time Wagner had only a presentiment of the necessity[20] – it is appropriate, it is true, to argue that great Christian art was music even more so than painting, and that the issue of an affirmative beyond of Christianity according to atheism – itself of a new type[hh] – primarily concerns music.


Let us note this: for Badiou’s philosophy, these four musical dimensions[ii] are constitutive of ongoing projects much more than effectuating closures. Wagner becomes here the name of a work and a future much more than a closure and an occurrence. Of course, there is just as much within Wagner of completion and saturation, but what interests this philosophy under the name of Wagner is what advances itself under this signification of a possibility, as a continuing motif, secret but still there, as a promise of a future-anterior, as an annunciation of a moment where the possibility-Wagner will have come to pass [aura été advenue].[jj]


It seems to me that at this point, music appears for Badiou’s philosophy a condition of a specific type, differing not only from the conditions scientific, political and amorous, but equally from the other artistic conditions. And it is this specific difference that gives to music its particular stature of a red thread, latent and secret, avowed at the beginning of Badiou’s oeuvre in Almagestes.

It is to this rather difficult point that I would like to commit the rest of this enquiry.


I would like to engage in the illumination of two supplementary hypotheses.

1.     When music acts upon philosophy (I speak here of action to broaden the strict field of condition which we have seen has been rare and in all cases inexistent for Badiou’s philosophy), the latter then exercises a retroaction on the former: philosophy retroacts on the music susceptible to conditioning it.

2.     In the philosophy of Badiou, this retroaction takes the form of a prophetic avowal of the musical secret for which Wagner is the name.

To successively detail these two points, the simplest way is – Badiou prompts us here – to start from the philosophy of Adorno.


If the philosophy of Adorno deploys itself under the condition of the event ‘Second Viennese School’, this is while working this event from the interior, so ultimately – I am simplifying in broad strokes – to oppose the atonal first sequence to the constructivist later sequence (twelve-tone and serial). This philosophical intervention (on behalf of his Negative Dialectics) in the heart of the music will lead to the invention, by Adorno’s philosophy, of a non-existent music – musique informelle – specifically destined to serve as an ideal musical condition for the philosophy. Far from composing as a musician this musique informelle, which he considered lacking in his time, Adorno delimited in philosophy a music which may be appropriate to conditioning… his Negative dialectic and which has been called musique informelle. This music, which no musician has ever read or heard – Adorno had failed in his own attempts as a composer – depends on a pure and simple mytho-logy[kk].

In advocating musique informelle as a supposedly musical solution to the impasses[ll] of a philosophy revealed in the music inherent in the Viennese School, Adorno draws a retroactive gesture shown in this diagram:

The music issuing from the Viennese School that becomes susceptible to conditioning the negative dialectic becomes… the musique informelle that Adorno did not compose!


The philosophy of Badiou raises an entirely different dynamic than this mythological activity at the heart of Adorno’s philosophy[mm] but it seems to me that one can detect here a philosophical gesture having this same retroactive form:

Let’s go back to the way in which Badiou speaks of this Adornian retroaction. He indicates that Adorno philosophically constructs a place for music[21], a place where the latter might be able to condition the former, this place operating here as “condition in absentia[22], since no music is present to occupy it – where one then finds the philosophical precondition of a musical condition stuck in the mire…


The retroaction of Badiou thematises itself completely differently: I would say that it gives itself as a (philosophical) avowal of a (musical) secret, an avowal which strives to designate, under the (philosophical) name Wagner, an unnoticed musical capacity.


That is: Wagner has become the philosophical name of a capacity proper to music, a capacity hitherto secret rather than musically carried out in broad daylight, a capacity which the philosophy of Badiou proceeds to avow for lack of power it itself has to unfold its secret in sensible appearances.


I position, in so doing, the secret under the Lacanian maxim:

            “It is not because we avow that a secret ceases to be a secret.”[23]

Indeed, that which constitutes the secret as secret does not so much hold to an exterior connection, for example in the fact of dissimulation, but instead to its immanent constitution, to its own mode of withdrawal into itself, a withdrawal which can thus see itself avowed without then seeing itself undone.

The Badiousian retroaction on the musical condition would therefore be due to the fact that philosophy would avow the secrets of music, the musical powers already there but buried rather than manifest. In other words: the Badiousian retroaction would take the form of a prophecy which concerns less the music as such but the music thematised as a possible condition for philosophy. It is in this point this that the retroaction that I call the prophetic avowal takes place.


As we know, the prophecy is the tonality proper of the bird of Minerva, since the owl avows the secrets of the day that has concluded. This type of prophecy[nn] establishes itself in an affirmation of the present which aims at a future anterior: it speaks of that which is already there but only secretly continues, and it announces – it is in this sense in which it is prophetic – that it is really this which of the day truly counts, for it is properly this which of the day will have counted when the new days will have affirmed their proper time.


Thus Badiou’s philosophy prophesises that which, under the name-Wagner, will have truly counted (the initiation of an artistic grandeur of a new type, of a communist ceremony in the beyond of the Christian mass) and will have specifically counted for philosophy.


In thus philosophically avowing the secrets of a possible musical conditioning, the philosophy of Badiou retroacts on the potential musical condition, it takes place in the source of its own source [intervient en amont de son propre amont]. It no longer acts here to construct a place in the future for the musical condition, of mythologically reducing the abyss between effective conditioning (of which existent music is capable) and imaginary conditioning (which philosophy solicits) but rather, of prophesying that of which music is already capable (under the name Wagner) for philosophy and which, being not yet implemented by music, remains secretly confined in its folds.


In short, it acts to build a philosophical Idea of music capable of sustaining the confidence of the philosopher in a music that does not condition his philosophy.


Hence a second line of retroactive connection from Badiou’s philosophy to music, which seems to me indexible as empathic envelopment. I will explain.

The philosophy of Badiou seems to recognise in music a pre-eminence in differing capacities that it would share with philosophy:

-       in regarding the power of nomination: music may nominate things in their specific mode of time[24]; thus the music of Wagner names the disparity of worlds according to the time proper to transitions[25], it names the same uncertainty of periods[26] or the tragedy of a paradoxical appearance of things[27] according to a time of equivocation or an unfillable lack.

-       next, regarding avowal: music, knowingly exposing the appearance of things entirely in preserving their nourishing subjacent layers and the interweaving proper to their temporality, would know more than any other discourse how to avow the secret of things without squandering it.

-       finally, regarding address: music would have a power of singular address, that which precisely has made it into a privileged ideological operator today: music would be the prayer of things in that which the things musically named according to their own time would address themselves ipso facto to everyone in a generically addressed prayer – let’s understand here by “prayer” not a religious act but this lay act [laïc: layman, non-religious] by which a subject requests [prie: requests, prays] all who hear to agree to listen to it (that is, the prayer as generic address).

Wagner thus names, in the philosophy of Badiou, this properly musical pre-eminence regarding nomination according to the mode of time, avowal according to the preserved secret, generic address according to the prayer. Music would be endowed with this singular power of nomination, which, in holding itself at a distance from language, would authorise the avowal of the secret of things under the form of a generic address.


And yet, of these different traits, philosophy attempts to be equally the agent: it engages itself also to naming the contemporary, thus to naming according to the mode of time; it prophesies itself also in avowing the secrets of the day; it engages itself also to addressing generically this nomination – for this it makes use of everything, mixing at leisure various regimes of discursivity.

Thus Badiou’s philosophy sends itself to the school of music while enveloping it according to its source [amont]. It promotes what music is capable of (without this latter being able to know) and moreover it encourages a discrete push in the back of this music that it hears to face these possible lessons.

Or further: the formal connection – not on the level of content – between the prophetic gesture of philosophy and that which this philosophy attributes to music as its own power drives philosophy to decipher its own gestures in the music itself which is susceptible to conditioning. That is: the philosophical Idea of music itself sustains the confidence of the philosopher in its own (philosophical) comprehension of music.


Let us resume, before the conclusion.

Since Wagner, philosophy strives to avow the secrets of music – without doubt since Wagner because Wagner was the one who had refuted the Hegelian diagnosis of the death of art… Since Wagner, the philosophical prophecy regarding music tends toward giving itself as an avowal of a secret that music preserves much better, as this secret is perhaps only one for philosophy and that it is not, properly speaking, musical.

From the point of view of the musician, Wagner is only a secret in the interweaving proper to his music and his text (that which of course is nothing); by contrast it is hardly (at least no more than others, Schoenberg for example, or even Bach) in his properly musical operations.

The Wagner-secret which philosophy seeks to better avow, the musician sights this on his shore as this capacity of music not solely of being impregnated by the poem which it enfolds [enlace] but, more still, of impregnating in return this poem with a kind of musical significance (oxymoron![oo]) which comes to widen as much the musical listening as it does the poetic listening.

That is, the following musicianly idea: the eminently local grandeur of the music in Wagner values an aura that music, impregnated by the poem, is capable in return of composing in each point of its own development. Thus, music impregnates the impregnator in returning to the poem an aura of musical significance. In this point, the singularity-Wagner renders properly undecidable the impregnation and the impregnator in music and the clef of his grandeur in every moment plays itself precisely around this point.


It seems to me, and this will be my conclusion, that there is here the properly musical matrix of a seeming undecidability between musical conditioning for philosophy and preconditioning of music by philosophy: just as in Wagner the music-poetry connections are undecidable active/passive, we see in Badiou that the philosophy-music connections, for at least as much as they deploys themselves under the name Wagner, become undecidably conditioner/conditioned.

For the philosophy of Badiou, Wagner would be thus the name of an indiscernability between the possibility of a musical conditioning and the necessity of philosophical prophesy on this same possibility.

In this sense, Wagner would be the name[pp] of a sort of pre-condition[qq] so that something like philosophy can even exist.


Hence the following conclusion, of course provisional, of this rough investigation: Badiou and music, or the prophetic avowal of a secret undecidability connecting this philosophy and music…



[a] See the session of 12 May 2007 (seminar mamuphi, Ens): “En quoi la philosophie de Logique des mondes peut servir au musicien” ( and the chapter B.VII of my book “Le monde-Musique” (forthcoming)

[b] Musical works are radically indifferent to philosophy, just as they are, more broadly, to linguistic discourses (we may note that the poem is a relative exception in this matter), and equally – it is an incidence – to sexual difference: if it is a question of love in music, this is played out between music and text (see the writings of Wagner…) rather than totally internally to music.

[c] singularly: of contemporary algebraic geometry

[d] It is true that the musician, turning himself toward the philosophy of Badiou, will find it requires more effort to pick up than he would have with that of Deleuze: as easy as it is to use one of Deleuze’s words (rhizome, refrain, deterritorialisation, space-time block, body without organ...) – that poses his man to you (his artist Prud’homme) without drawing much of consequence – so is it perilous to do with Badiou – all reference to his philosophy engages a discipline of thinking, a logical regime of consequences that quite few musicians are interested to initiate.

[e] That the musician here should maintain this or not does not alter the question: this holds by way of the fact that the words of philosophy are not the words of his tribe, that the homonyms lead to confusion, that the categories circulate only at the price of these mistakes proper to philosophemes, in short that the proper stakes of philosophical discourse are not those of the musician.

[f] The between-time of the second half of the ‘70s (1976-1979): after the end of the Cultural Revolution and the failure of Portugese Carnation Revolution, before the Iranian Revolution and the emergence of the Poland of Solidarity…

[g] This was in the special edition of the revue L’Arc (no. 40, 1970) devoted to Beethoven on the occasion of the double centenary of his birth.

[h] This idea of a possible musical intellectuality, contributing to unfettering musical practice from this compensatory sphere in which it had been circumscribed by my inherited education (musical practice as supplement to affects for service to the State, exhausted by technique), this opening has been so determining that I have kept the date in my memory: 12 December 1976, which is now close to 35 years ago…

[i] in the precise sense which philosophy gives to the concept of condition

[j] Schoenberg-Berg-Webern

[k] Let us suggest, for short, that the musical event which conditions this philosophy could be said to be: the auto-affirmation of a musical representing itself as “absolute”…

[l] Like all the others, the musician is capable of thinking by himself, in a consequent and widened way (to take back the three Kantian characteristics of what to think means). That philosophy has the ability here to encourage it is one thing; that the musician positions his thinking under the tutelage of philosophy would be something else entirely.

[m] One might as such typologise the different philosophies according to the different types of events which conditioned them. Thus, for Badiou’s philosophy, the determining conditions take from amongst others a poetic event named Mallarmé or Beckett, a political event named ’68 or Mao, or an event relative to the thinking of love named Lacan.

[n] What is more, then set by Berg in musical composition

[o] I have more trouble imagining an event Messiaen or Dutilleux

[p] 1969

[q] 2005

[r] 2006

[s] English

[t] He ironically admits to writing faster than it takes one to read…

[u] 1964

[v] Almegeste (by Arabisation of the Greek title of the work of Ptolemy)

[w] Parsifal (half-cadence composing the leitmotif L3 speaking for Faith) – p. 96

[x] integral of the limit of sums = limit of the integral of sums = limit of the sum of integrals [intégrale de la limite des sommes = limite de l’intégrale des sommes = limite de la somme des intégrales] (p. 103)

[y] the first of three which on finds in the novel and, by doing so, in all of Badiou’s writings…

[z] bars III.1106-1127: “Höchsten Heiles Wunder!...”

[aa] Descartes is here the only exception and this is because of precise reasons: as one can remember, the musical conditioning of his philosophy comes not from an oeuvre but to the transformation of music in the autonomous world, standardised by its new solfegic writing, which authorises henceforth that music orders its consequences according to a relatively independent rationality from the arithmetical order historically advocated by Pythagoras.

[bb] The philosophy of Badiou produces its own mathemes, but, no more than others, it does not generate “musemes”…

[cc] 1618 (Descartes was then 22 years old)

[dd] by way of his new friend Beeckman

[ee] See chapter C.III of the forthcoming book “The world-Music

[ff] 1649

[gg] instress

[hh] affirmative rather than anti-Christian…

[ii] Which I have renamed great art, tragic subject, the communist auto-ceremony of generic humanity, the affirmative beyond of Christianity

[jj] I give myself to these four orientations, provided at least that I adopt here the perspective [lunettes] of philosophy rather than that of the musician, or still from a perspective in exteriority to music.

The only point – which will not be developed here (it would concern rather the retrograde of my obliged theme…) – holds incidentally that the musician, in particular the musician that I am, sees in Wagner other things more properly musical (it would be necessary here to discuss more tightly the question of the infinite melody, that of the network of leitmotifs, that of the connection between poem and music, that even of the subject of the operas – if an opera is a musical subject rather than a subject more or less verbalisable, then talking about this subject as a work of music implies other operations in the vernacular language, in particular the operations of analysis of the musical text…).

But this intervention seizes music from the point of Badiou’s philosophy and not from the subjective interiority of music (and thus from the exteriority of this philosophy).

[kk] See the chapter C.IX of “The world-Music

[ll] ideologico-philosophical rather than musical

[mm] and which would be necessary, moreover, to connect with the divergence Badiou/Adorno concerning Wagner: I lack the time to cover this, but I have the inclination to hear the Adornian reproaches concerning the Wagnerian mythology as the expression of a secret Adorno/Wagner rivalry precisely concerning mythological power.

[nn] sensibly at a distance from that of Cassandra

[oo] The oxymoron often appears as symptom of a singularity which breaks if it is true – mathematics teaches us this – that a singularity holds to indiscernibility in a point of two contradictory orientations (which find themselves here “crushed” [“écrasées”].

[pp] a name which would itself precede that of Plato…

[qq] to understand not according to the philosophical concept of “condition” (of an event proper to a given generic procedure for the given philosophy) but as conditioning cause [amont] of the philosophical dividual, as the very possibility for him of an orientation toward philosophy.

[1] En quoi la philosophie peut servir… (Deux régimes de fous ; p. 152)

[2] Five lessons on Wagner (Verso, 2010) [trans.: here referenced in its French version]

[3] p. 76

[4] p. 84

[5] p. 101

[6] p. 194

[7] p. 199

[8] p. 215

[9] p. 104

[10] p. 103

[11] p. 187

[12] p. 96

[13] p. 13

[14] p. 74

[15] Lesson 1

[16] Lesson 2

[17] p. 102…

[18] p. 114…

[19] Lesson 5

[20] Also Lesson 5…

[21] p. 42, 49, 62, 75

[22] p. 41

[23] Séminaire VIII (Le transfert, 1960-1961, Seuil), p. 16

[24] p. 152…

[25] p. 154…

[26] p. 155…

[27] p. 157…