Dark Celebration
Heidegger's Silent Music

Peter Hanly

You mustn’t cry
Says the music.
—Ingeborg Bachmann

We shall begin with a letter. It dates from the winter months of 1950 and is addressed from Heidegger to Hannah Arendt.1 The letter reflects, as such a letter might, on the passage of time, on renewed affections, on political circumstances. But at the top of the letter, before it is even begun, before its addressee’s name is inscribed, are the following words:

Beethoven, op. 111, Adagio, Conclusion.

Just that, no more: then, the letter itself. It is almost as if the music, summoned by its inscription, were hovering over the discourse of the letter. As if the music might enclose the words that are to be thought. Beyond and before those words, the music might be both their source and their destination—a presence both silent and resounding, enfolding everything that is spoken. From out of this possibility, a question looms up: a question about music itself, about the kinds of connections it might maintain with language. More specifically still, we might find a way to pose a question regarding the status of music in Heidegger’s discourse, of its presence or absence, its elision or its inclusion.2

Immediately, the evidence marshals itself against such an undertaking. If we wanted to summarize the objections, we might listen to Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, who tells us that “Heidegger’s attention to music is, we know, practically nil,” and continues: “allusions and references to music are extremely rare, and mostly conventional.”3 Now, the assertion concerning the absence of extended discussion of music in Heidegger’s work is undeniably correct: after all, even his most massive contribution to the understanding of the artwork makes only the most meager and fleeting direct references to music. Further, and more compelling still, the longest and most specific of these apparently rare and slight engagements would seem to speak with unequivocal negativity of a dominance of music within the field of art. In the Nietzsche lectures, and in sympathy with Nietszche’s rejection of Wagner, Heidegger writes with a kind of fury of “the domination of art as music, and thereby the domination of the pure state of feeling—the tumult and delirium of the senses . . . the plunge into frenzy and disintegration into sheer feeling as redemptive.”4 If one were to conclude, as Lacoue-Labarthe does, that, insofar as it represents Heidegger’s lengthiest explicit address to musical experience as such, this passage is clear evidence of Heidegger’s negative attitude to music in general, then no amount of anecdotal support, it would seem, can resist the conclusion that music simply does not play a significant role in Heidegger’s thinking.

Certainly, our endeavor must recognize this silence. From the outset, the absence of explicit engagement must be acknowledged. Music is not “addressed” by Heidegger as a topic, as a realm of human experience: it never becomes the subject of a discourse. Lacoue-Labarthe suggests that for the history of philosophy music has played the role of “rebel object par excellence . . . continuously and silently indicating a limit to philosophy, a secret menace to its full deployment.”5 In that sense, to refuse to engage music would be simply to play out again structures laid out by ancient ambivalence. The question, then, becomes the following: is Heidegger’s lack of engagement simply another manifestation of that kind of suspicion, a holding-at-arms-length, a necessary blind spot?

The force of the “no” with which we intend to answer that question can be supplied by a moment from one of Heidegger’s own texts: a passage crucially overlooked by Lacoue-Labarthe.6 Toward the end of the lecture-course Der Satz vom Grund, Heidegger addresses directly a new “tonality” (Tonart) with which he invites us to listen to the words “nichts ist ohne Grund” such that a different inflection might occasion a “leap” (Sprung) into a different kind of hearing, one that might allow the ist and the Grund to play in resonance with one another. It is only, says Heidegger, if we are able to push through the polyvalence of the word Satz, such that it includes its musical sense (Satz as musical “movement”), that we might “achieve for the first time a full relation to the Satz vom Grund.”7 A kind of thinking is to be made possible in this hearing, then, a thinking that is possible only in and through a kind of music. There is an intimacy of thought and music, here, that steps beyond “influence” or “inspiration.” It is not that, under the influence of music, one might be provoked to think different kinds of thought, which could be then detached from their musical inspiration. Rather, an utterly new possibility of thinking is engendered here, one that cannot be detached from the resounding together (Einklang) of the words themselves, one in which thinking is not so much to become musical, as music is to become a kind of thinking.

If music is to make possible a kind of thinking, then clearly the relation of thinking and music will not be such that music can ever become a “subject” of that thinking. Rather, if music is to be uncovered, is to be found at work in Heidegger’s texts, its operation will be brought to light only in pointing to a kind of play, an oscillation in which one might glimpse, briefly, the movement of a changing register of thought.8 This will mean stepping beyond merely “exposing” the absence of an explicit engagement with music in Heidegger’s thinking, and then attributing this lack either to accidental oversight or inadequate consideration. Rather, music will belong to thought precisely in such a way as to preclude its becoming an object of that thought. The silence that governs the presence of music in Heidegger’s thinking will, then, belong to the very core of that presence. It is within the reflections on language that the play of a modality governed by the silent presence of music might be brought to light. What will be addressed here, then, are certain operations within the texts that seem to gesture toward an opening within which this play can be seen. And the first and most transparent locus of such an opening will be the emergence of song.


What is song? What does it mean for the word that it is changed into song? Stretched out along the time of its utterance, drawn out of itself into a resonance that overwhelms the opposition of sound and sense, the word that shifts register into song undergoes a transformation that reaches toward a fundamental experience of voice, toward the encounter of language and time. Heidegger’s sense of this transformation is manifest at different moments within his reflections on Rilke, on Hölderlin, on Stefan George. The shift is witnessed in each case from within the idiom of the dialogue Heidegger has engaged; the transformation of word into song is encountered, not imposed. Hence, the context of each encounter must be understood within the structure from which it emerges. The contextual immanence of these moments renders impossible any project that would seek to articulate a unitary understanding of this transformation, to extrapolate a single sense from its different occasions. Rather, what would be demanded is that we allow the different senses of this transformation to play in resonance with one another, precisely to echo and resound together.

Such a resounding can orient itself around the transformation of word into song that is explicit in Heidegger’s reflections on Stefan George. The shift is occasioned by a particular experience of the word, echoing out of a narrative poem, “Das Wort.” The experience is one of collapse: the disruption, the dislocation of a rhythm that sustains the relation of word and thing. The poet-narrator of George’s verse is one who experiences a kind of process in this relation: the process of naming. He speaks, in mythic voice, of “wonders from afar or from dreams” that he brings to the “border” (Saum). An impatient waiting is described, a hovering at the limit, at the edge of language (and we must hear, in this border/limit, Heidegger’s sense of Grenz, πέρας: that from out of which thought gathers itself), as he offers his dark treasure to the “grey norn,” the source of names. But this process, the rhythm of this naming, is suddenly interrupted, dislocated. In George’s narrative the poet returns from a journey with a “treasure rich and delicate,” for which no name can be found. In this disturbance of the rhythm of searching, attending, naming, Heidegger writes: “another, higher, rule (Walten) of the word glances abruptly at the poet.”9 Why? Because in the absence of word, the treasure itself vanishes, precipitating an utter disorientation, one that shatters the rhythm of his relation to language, that brings him face to face with “the terrifying . . . the undreamed-of.” The poet, whose connection to language is bound up in the process of discovery, retrieval, and naming, must abandon this prior orientation. He must suffer the de-stabilization of the link between word and thing, which becomes inverted in such a way as to bind them together with a wholly unexpected force. Suddenly, word becomes something other than a name for what is already present. In the treasure’s vanishing is revealed a different order: “no thing,” he learns, “may be where word breaks off.” The poet will henceforth speak from out of this disorientation, this fracture, out of an experience of the word that is bound up with loss, with mourning (Trauer), with “abandonment” (Verzichten). And to speak from out of such a loss is to sing:

Because the word is shown in a different, higher rule, the relation to the word must also undergo a transformation. Saying attains to a different articulation, a different μέλος, a different tone. . . . For this poem is a song.10

It is thus that a kind of music enters the scene: in the face of an abyssal disruption of language as naming, a new kind of utterance is engendered, an utterance in which the familiar orientations of sound and sense are displaced and re-configured. Song is the locus of this displacement, an utterance that speaks out of fracture and loss. Music will enter into language, as song, at the instant in which the relation of word and thing hesitates, falters. And this appearance will have consequences: the irruption of music will be that around which the oppositions of sound and meaning, speaking and listening, voice and silence, will gather, coalesce, and collapse.

The Hölderlin readings, too, and in particular the reading of “Wie Wenn am Feiertage,”11 equally engage a fractured correspondence of word and thing. The poet, here, is one who is always both with and beyond what he names, echoing, re-sounding, and anticipating what Hölderlin calls “die wunderbar Allgegenwärtig,” the “wonderfully all-present.”12 In Heidegger’s reading, the poet belongs, co-responds (ent-spricht) to this “omnipresence” to the extent that this presence—Hölderlin’s “nature”—is always, precisely, in anticipation of itself. Once again, the classical mechanics of poetic response— description, representation, imitation—are displaced in this anticipatory belonging-together, in which the poetic utterance—the naming— is intertwined with the unfolding of natural process. Hölderlin’s lines become exemplary in this respect:

But now the day breaks; I waited and saw it come.
And what I saw; holy be my word.13

The poet names nature in its unfolding, and in so doing co-responds with the event of that unfolding, with that awakening. Co-respondence, here, is the name for an abyssal disruption of a logic of precedence that would insist on the priority of either word or thing in the generation of the poetic utterance. If the utterance of the poet is to co-respond with and to this unfolding, then that utterance will be subject to the same “upheaval,” the same disordering (Aufruhr) that the event itself is exposed to. “The awakening,” in Heidegger’s appropriation of Hölderlin, “happens in ‘storms’ that ‘drift on between heaven and earth.’”14 In utterance, the poetic word is exposed to the same trauma of awakening, and experiences what Heidegger calls an Erschütterung, a shudder that echoes out of Kant15 in subtle and complex ways. The exposure of the word to this “shock” is an exposure to the richness, the abundance of an inceptive moment (Reichtum des Anfänglichen), which, says Heidegger, “grants (the) word such an excess of meaning as can scarcely be uttered.”16 It is out of this excess, and this improbability, that song is born—a fragile thing, the barest possibility that an utterance might resonate with the shock of inception:

Song must spring from the awakening of nature . . . If it shares in this way the “awakening inspiration,” then the breath of the coming of the holy drifts in it.17

In the George readings, song had rung from out of a gesture of abandonment (verzichten), of renunciation, that embraced a fractured longing. Within the sway of Hölderlin, song shudders forth from an unstable correspondence of event and name, a disruptive instant in which the word is overwhelmed in a gesture of excess. “The singer is blind,” remarks Heidegger, in the reading of Heimkunft—a beautiful remark, born of Hölderlin, that captures the traumatic complexity of dazzlement and loss that occasions song. The “scarcely utterable excess of meaning” from which song is born in “Wie Wenn am Feiertage” becomes, here, the blindness of the singer, the shudder of whose song is so saturated with loss and longing that it sings entirely beyond, without words: “ein wortloses Lied.” The singer reaches so far into this loss that his song twists free of the word altogether:

Poetic “singing,” because it lacks the proper, the naming word, remains still a wordless song—a string-music.18


It is only in relation to sound that a transformation, a slippage from word into song, can be conceived. Even if the song never achieves utterance, even if one were to imagine a “silent singing,” it is only in relation to sound that such an imagining could occur. Thus, the relation of language to its sounding must be central to this movement. Heidegger, in fact, goes further: it is only in the instant of its utterance, in its enaction, that word becomes song: “the song is sung, not after it has come to be, but rather: in the singing the song begins to be a song.”19 Song does not emerge out of language by taking up words in their pre-given fullness and transforming them. To describe such an operation would be to “fail to understand the higher meaning of song,” to reduce it to a merely “retroactive setting to music of what is spoken and written.”20 Heidegger will emphasize often the necessity of listening to the poem, in a way that cannot be separated out from its performance, its sounding: indeed, Time and Being opens precisely with an appeal to just such a listening: “if it were possible right now to have Georg Trakl’s poem Septet of Death recited to us, perhaps even by the poet himself.”21

The transformation of word into song leads us, then, necessarily, to confront the question of voice, of voicing. But what will determine voice, here, is a conception that will radically displace the classical opposition of sound and sense. It is precisely Heidegger’s intent to render impossible the determination of language as the “manifestation in sound of inner emotions.”22 Such a classical determination would revolve around the notion of language as “expression,” and render utterance subordinate to intention. What must be effected, then, is clearly not a reversal of this hierarchy: to invert the determination of language as “vocal expression” in order to emphasize intelligibility and intention would be merely to re-iterate and reconstruct the classical opposition of inner and outer. He writes: “it should in no way appear that we wish to belittle vocal sounds as . . . the mere sensuousness of language, in favor of what is called the meaning.”23 Quite the contrary: “it belongs to language to sound and ring and vibrate, to hover and tremble, just as much as it does for what is spoken to carry meaning.”24 The sounding of language, then, will re-emerge as central but can do so only within a deconstruction of its metaphysical opposition to sense, to intelligibility. Sound must be involved, must be stitched into the fabric of language in a wholly new way.

If song, too, belongs to the voice—to the instant of a transformative utterance—it must equally do so in the orbit of a thinking that refuses easy recourse to a vocabulary of “expression.” It must be clear, however, that, in that song utters the dislocation of language exposed to the fracturing of the relation of word and thing, this kind of utterance cannot be understood as a recourse to the “merely sensuous.” Song can never be in opposition to language in such a way as to restore or renew the opposition between sound and sense. If music emerges from a dislocation of language, such an emergence must not be determined as a sort of sonic rarefaction, a “musicalization” of language. Within this kind of structure, the “affinity (Verwandschaft) of song and speech” can be thought only in terms of the “melody and rhythm of language,”25 as if these might be some kind of ornament, an unnecessary addition to a plenitude of meaning. But equally, a simple reversal of this supplementarity will be inadequate: a conception of word that prioritizes its pure aural resonance, its “musicality,” leaves intact the opposition to meaning, merely re-organizing the hierarchy. Instead, the displacement from out of which the music of language—song—emerges will mean that the entire conception of the relation of sound and language will have to be re-thought.

How, then, is the event of sound in language to be understood? “Language is the flower of the mouth,”26 writes Heidegger, citing Hölderlin, and in so doing ensures that whatever understanding of the sounding instant of language we may reach will not be separate from the body, from a corporeality that directly pertains to the human. But this is not a corporeality that locates the body as the repository of an interior expressive plenitude. Rather, the Mundarten that Heidegger recalls are the loci, not of modes of expression, but of a relation that binds the instant of utterance to the earth: “body and mouth belong to the earth’s flow and growth,” he writes.27 The sounding of language becomes the event of this bindedness; not as something to be grasped, to be used, but as the happening of a relation. We might here, perhaps, listen to Jean-Luc Nancy, as he describes the “listening subject,” who is, says Nancy, “perhaps no subject at all, except as the place of resonance, of its infinite tension and rebound, the amplitude of sonorous deployment and the slightness of its simultaneous redeployment.”28

To the event of the sounding word (which means, also, to listening), to its irruption (Heidegger will call this the Aufriβ—in which one must hear more the incision, cut, the tearing of language than its “design”) belongs an excess that gathers and hovers around it:

What it says wells up from the once spoken and the as yet still unspoken saying that flows through the tear (Aufriβ) of language.29

The excess is the excess of the soundless, of soundless-ness, which belongs to the event of the sounded word. The poet will be he who listens to this excess—waiting, attending—in the co-respondent expectancy determined from the Hölderlin readings. The singing of the poet, then—belonging, as it does, utterly to a transformation in the sounded word—must belong in an equally originary way to this sense of the sounding of language. It will be the event of the sounding of language that keeps closest to the absence that emerges out of the failure of the name. It must belong, too, within the embrace of the soundless. Aufriβ—the cut, the tearing of the word—and zerbrechen/zerschlag—its breaking, its shattering—become the twin axes of the constellation within which song emerges and collapses:30 a song, says Heidegger, “shattered even in its sounding (im Klang schon zerschlug).”31

Step (that is, way), and call and breath vibrate around the rule of the word,” writes Heidegger, in an extreme recension of the opening poem of George’s Das Lied.32 And these three will be addressed in turn, and seen, each one, to circulate around a relation to the soundlessness that both belongs to and determines the possibility of song. Breath speaks to the silent undergirding that draws language into the corporeality of the Mundarten. George sings of the “secret breath of melancholy”: the systole and diastole, the give and take, the silence in which I catch my breath, the silence of a respiration that belongs to the occasion of song—“ein Hauch um nichts.”33

Call responds to the re-situating of listening that flows through Unterwegs zur Sprache: “we let the soundless voice come to us, claiming, reaching out and calling for the sound that is already kept open for us.”34 The rethinking, the re-configuring of the relation of sound to language involves, with equal intensity, a re-structuring of the relation of speaking and listening. No longer will the listening that belongs originarily to language be a listening that “accompanies.” Rather, we listen, necessarily, in advance of our words: “speaking . . . is a listening, not while, but before we speak.”35 Call, then, expresses the polyvalent senses of a listening that is at once an attending, a being-called by language, and a reaching out into language, a calling-to, stretched toward the possibility of the sounded word.36

If speaking is to fold into a listening, if speaking is, precisely, to be a listening, then Heidegger must articulate the silence of listening as the very essence of the spoken, as the dark wellspring of the word. But this silence must be one that reaches beyond an opposition to sound. “Silence (Schweigen),” writes Heidegger, “is already a corresponding (Entsprechen)”:37 a simple opposition cannot sustain the interweaving of the spoken with the unspoken. “In no way merely the soundless,”38 the originary, impossible absence to which both the spoken and the unspoken always already correspond is named by Heidegger “die Stille”: the stillness. The abyssal beyond of the opposition of sound and silence, “stillness” will escape any determination as simply a more originary undergirding of the sounding of language. The stillness itself rings, resounds, resonates. Language does not stand in opposition to this stillness, as if to once more re-establish a metaphysical opposition at a more originary level. Rather, language is the resonance of this stillness: “Language speaks as the ringing of stillness (Geläut der Stille),”39 says Heidegger. Once again, we confront the inadequacy of the determinations of sound in language in terms that would restrict it to an acoustical phenomenon:

The phonetic-acoustic-physiological explanation of the sounds of language does not experience their origin in ringing stillness and even less how sound is determined/voiced (Be-stimmung) by that stillness.40

Sound, then, the sounding of language, of voice, will emerge from the ringing, the resonance, the resounding of a stillness that it must paradoxically break precisely in order to be itself. The “sounding, and vibrating, and ringing”41 of language, and thus of poetry, of song, is the breaking, the shattering, of the stillness to which it belongs.


In Heidegger’s three-word recension of George’s Lied—“step (that is, way), and call, and breath”—it is “step” that ventures in the most radical direction. Described, in context, simply as a “journey through the domain of Saying,” the seemingly casual, parenthetical association of Schritt with Weg in fact opens onto an entirely new dimension. Addressing the sense of Weg that determines the title of the last essay of his reflections on language, Heidegger insists on an archaic inflection of Weg that makes of it the product of a transitive verb: Weg, in other words, not as a directional structure, but as a process, Be-wëgung (way-making). And it is Be-wëgung that comes to determine the movement within language to which the irruption of the sounded word belongs:

The way-making brings Sprache (the essence of language) as Sprache (saying) into Sprache (into the sounded word).42

The circular, re-iterative structure of this formulation insists on a refusal, here as elsewhere, of a simple directionality within the Be-wëgung that would risk returning the sounding of the word to a process of externalization. Language, here, is always—completely, and at once— all of its different moments: it is both the stillness and its shattering, both the sounding and the silence. But how, nonetheless, to resist locating a single point of origin for the way-making that is language? How to avoid describing die Stille as, again and again, a plenitude that functions as originating source for an utterance that “exteriorizes” itself in the sounded word? Precisely by uncoupling the opposition of motion and rest, by making of stillness itself, not the source of movement (Bewegung), but the very movement itself.43 “What is stillness?” asks Heidegger. And, in refusing a simple equivalence with soundless-ness (“merely the lack of the movement of sounding”), and the consequent invocation of a “restfulness” (Ruhe) that would “precede” such a movement, Heidegger answers that, indeed, stillness is rest, but:

As stilling of stillness, rest is, properly thought, always more moving (bewegter) than all movement (Bewegung) and always more active than any agitation.44

To install movement at the heart of absence, agitation (Regung) at the heart of what is most at peace (Ruhig), is to defer indefinitely the question of origin. The way-making in which word comes to sound can no longer be a movement that originates out of the pure repose of a stillness. Such a structure would again re-articulate an opposition. Bewegung, rather, will be constitutive of language in such a way as to dislocate any sense of a directionality moving from soundless-ness into sound, silence into the spoken word. Rather, what is exposed is a radical instability, an an-archic configuration (Fügung). And what is most crucial, here, for us, is that it is the same configuration that underpins Heidegger’s conception of rhythm, which will thus become determinative of his thinking of language.45

Commenting on a lyric of George’s, Heidegger writes:

Rhythm, ῥυσμός, does not mean here flux and flowing, but rather form/arrangement (Fügung). Rhythm is what is at rest (das Ruhende), what occasions (fügt) the moving (Be-wegung) of dance and song, and so lets it rest within itself.46

The passage points, with precision, toward the same chiasmic intertwinement of movement and rest, sounding and stillness, that we have seen to be already operative in the Be-wëgung constitutive of language. The brief glimpse of a conception of rhythm that the passage offers us becomes more significant when it is allowed to echo out of parallel indications that punctuate Heidegger’s work, echoes that resound both forward and backward. The seminar text of 1940 on ϕύσις in Aristotle’s Physics B1 already identifies ῥυθμός with “form,” with the “character of articulating, impressing, fitting and forming,” not with pure fluidity.47 As late as 1966, in the Heraclitus seminar, Heidegger will again return to the question of rhythm, here refusing the traditional etymology of ῥυσμός as a derivative of ῥέω, to flow, insisting that, instead, “it must be understood as imprint.” Nonetheless, it is clear from the sense generated in relation to the interpretation of George above, that “form” or “imprint” cannot mean pure stasis but rather must always be thought out of and in relation to movement.

In order to understand better this intertwinement, we can appeal, if only briefly, to the analysis of Émile Benveniste.48 Writing in 1951, Benveniste does not reject outright the derivation of ῥυθμός from ῥέω, which he finds “morphologically satisfying,” but refuses adamantly the conventional assumption that links its origin to the flow of water: “ῥυθμός is never used for the movement of the waves,” he claims. Furthermore, “if ῥυθμός means ‘flux,’ ‘flowing,’ it is hard to see how it could have taken on the value proper to ‘rhythm.’” By contrast, Benveniste, like Heidegger, points to uses of ῥυθμός that indicate an entirely different sense. In particular, he points to the identification that Aristotle makes (Metaphysics 985b 16) between ῥυθμός and σχῆμα (“form,” dispensation). Nonetheless, unwilling to abandon entirely the morphology that attaches rhythm to a sense of flow, ῥυθμός to ῥέω, Benveniste insists on a conception that brings both of these senses together. His formulation of the belonging-together of these seeming opposites is breathtakingly pertinent to our endeavor. He writes that “ῥυθμός designates the form in the instant in which it is assumed by what is mobile and fluid . . . It is the form as improvised, momentary, changeable.”49 And then, more decisively still:

We can now understand how ῥυθμός, meaning literally “the particular manner of flowing,” could have been the most proper term for describing “dispositions,” “configurations,” without fixity or natural necessity and arising from an arrangement which is always subject to change.50

It is in this interlacing of disposition and flux, in the sense of form (“imprint”) insofar as it belongs to what is changeable, that we come close to Heidegger’s conception of rhythm:51 the “resting in itself” of the Bewegung that constitutes language. And if the involution of rest and movement belongs deeply to this conception, then so, equally, must the intertwinement of sound and the soundless, of stillness and its breaking, of the irruption and collapse of the word. The conception of Be-wëgung is introduced to refract indefinitely the directionality of the emergence of the sounded word, to defer impossibly the question of source, of origin, to leave indefinitely open the question that Heidegger himself leaves unanswered close to the opening of Unterwegs zur Sprache: “On what does the ringing stillness break? How does the broken stillness come to sound?”52 If we are now able to call the intertwinements, the interlacings that constitute the “waymaking” of language rhythm, then to rhythm must belong the shattering of the word. Rhythm—the form, the configuration, the imprint of what is in motion—is interruption. It is the interruptive and the interrupting, the hiatus that makes possible the sounded word. It is perhaps this that prompts Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback to write, most beautifully, that: “Rhythm is discontinuity in continuity. What in music is called rhythm is properly an unrhythm, that is, a ‘break,’ an interruption, a rift (Riß), a breathing or caesura of and in continuity.”53

Rhythm, thus, takes on a centrality within language that entirely displaces its position within a metaphysical structuring. As with the μέλος of song, rhythm is dis-engaged from any possible containment in the language of Aesthetics, for which the “rhythm” of words, like their song, are always separable from, and in opposition to, the structures of meaning. Further still, we must point to the radicality of harnessing rhythm to the sounding of the word: any aesthetics, whether of language or of music, will need to insist on a distinction between sound and its occurrence, between timbre and temporality. In fusing the two, Heidegger ensures that wherever music is to be uncovered, however it is to be understood, that uncovering, that understanding is only to be gained by addressing the occasion of language itself.

In Heidegger’s reading of Stefan George, music entered the scene, became possible, from out of a disorientation, a disordering of the relation between word and thing. In this disordering a space opens up: the expectant attention with which the poet waits for the “treasure” to find its name is replaced by another kind of silence. This is no longer the silence of an “unspoken” that, as it were, waits upon the spoken. This is the silence of an abyssal disruption, into which the “treasure” slips as the collapse of the structure of naming looms. The poet, remaining always within language, sings the loss of his “treasure,” sings his abandon; the language that belongs to this de-stabilization is precisely song. The effect of this de-structuring was a kind of irruption of music into language, taking the form of a relation to the word that cannot be detached from the mode and instant of its utterance.

But how is such a music to be conceived? If song belongs to language precisely as the articulation of a disruption, then it is clear that the music into which this language enters is not one that can be detached from this mode of its appearing. Music, in other words, cannot be considered as a “phenomenon” in its own right. To situate music within its own phenomenal region is merely to re-cast it in opposition to the intelligibility of language: it is to re-engage the language of Aesthetics. Outside of, and in opposition to, the intelligibility of language, music would then become merely a sonorous exploration of endless reservoirs of feeling: leaving language intact, music will become the celebration of a kind of powerlessness, a beautiful cry that remains always subordinate to the “real work” of meaning. The dominance of such a music, then, would—far from freeing music into new possibilities—emphatically reinforce the metaphysical oppositions that govern the determination of art as aesthetic experience. And this, precisely, is the perspective from which Heidegger’s negative assessment of Wagner’s project becomes intelligible. It is not that, in this reading of Wagner, music is afforded too much power. Rather, it is the opposite: in attempting to unchain music, to unleash it into a realm of pure “states of feeling,” Heidegger’s Wagner condemns it instead to a renewed impotence in the face of metaphysics.54

To separate music, then, into its own domain, its own phenomenal region, is necessarily to place it, in a sense, opposite language, as the discursive is opposed to the sensuous. What will be required, rather, in order to sustain and rigorously pursue the deconstruction of the opposition of sound and meaning, is that language and music be yoked together in a wholly new way. Music, emerging from and within the destabilization of the hierarchies of meaning, does not present itself as an alternative, as a possibility of language that can then be opposed to a newly recovered discursive dimension. Music, precisely, is the destabilization, the slippage of language, always within, but in a certain way equally beyond it. And thus it is that Heidegger can claim that:

Song is not the opposite of discourse (Gespräch), but rather the most intimate kinship (innigste Verwandtschaft) with it; for song is language.55

Song belongs to Gespräch, and Gespräch to song. Song is not a separable, optional mode that one might or might not attach to discursive language. They are bound together in an intimacy that leaves neither one intact. The music that plays within the disorientation of the relation of word and thing, that haunts the dislocations and interruptions of language, is welded into language in an insoluble bond. Or perhaps, to put it more simply: language is music.


Heidegger’s readings of Trakl speak precisely from out of this intimacy of song and discourse. Indeed, his most sustained engagement is itself described as a Gespräch—that between poet and thinker. The true Gespräch, we are told, can only be between poets, but here, Heidegger will attempt to engage an improbable dialogue, reading Trakl wholly from within, from inside the resounding of the words themselves, in a way that reaches beyond what is attempted in the readings of Stefan George. The essay “Das Wort,” for example, seeks a corroborative reading, George’s language supporting, resonating within Heidegger’s philosophical discourse. Thus it is, perhaps, that song can be addressed directly in that reading: song, music, becomes thematic precisely because of the distance that Heidegger maintains from George’s words themselves. Die Sprache im Gedicht travels much further, travels even recklessly— impossibly, perhaps—toward a place, a site, ein Ort, within which language speaks as music. What the essay will attempt to do is to read, to listen, to think Trakl utterly beyond “allegory and symbol,” beyond metaphysical opposition. The music of language will be so close, here, that the essay can no longer—even for an instant—become a discussion of or about song. The reading will instead perform a re-iterative movement— echoing, repeating, recalling—that tugs at the threads of Trakl’s polysemic utterance, but always from within. We will be able, here, to trace out only one thread from this fabric but will try to glimpse in its weave the operation of a kind of music.

The discourse, the conversation (Gespräch) between poet and thinker, then, is possible from out of the prior determination of the intimacy of song and discourse, of music and language. Because it is music that carries language through and beyond its metaphysical determinations, a kind of listening becomes possible, one that entirely eschews the externality of commentary, of interpretation, but can yet strive for an “Erläuterung,” a speaking that clears, that clarifies. The Erläuterung belongs to an Erörterung, from out of which Heidegger hears resonate the Ort, the locus. Allowing these words to resonate together, Heidegger can say that what is to be aimed at, in the Erläuterung, is a clarification of the Ort that plays within the difference between the two terms. But how is the Ort, the locus, to be understood? Not, clearly, as a guiding meaning, an overarching principle to which the intentions of Trakl’s poetry would be subordinate. Rather, the Ort will be itself a kind of gathering, a collecting (Versammlung) around which Trakl’s words will tend to coalesce.

The “Ort”—the locus around which the words of Trakl’s utterance gather—is what holds within itself the abyssal emptiness that appears only in the breaking, the rupturing that is the happening of language. To name this emptiness is the work of the Gespräch between poet and philosopher. The Ort is what remains unspoken within the poet’s work: it is only from out of the play of the Gespräch that such a name might resonate. But such a resonance must necessarily acknowledge its impossibility—acknowledge the risk that to name what lies outside the words of the poem might fall back upon the authority of a metaphysics, in which the philosopher is to provide the “meanings” for which the poet has no name. Which is why, when Heidegger finally comes, hesitantly, to “name” the unspoken Ort within which Trakl’s words resound, he does so only in invoking a figure of deep absence: “Abgeschiedenheit.”

The questions that resonate around the determination of Abgeschiedenheit—in which we must hear continually the melancholy movement of Abschied (leave-taking) ringing through the different senses of the verb scheiden—are posed by Heidegger himself. He asks: “how is Abgeschiedenheit to gather a poetic saying to itself as its site, and determine it from there?” And again: “how can Abgeschiedenheit start a saying and a singing on its way?”56 The question, for us, will invoke the entire range of displacements we have hitherto encountered: the intertwinements of discovery and loss (George), of plenitude and absence (Hölderlin), of sound, rhythm, and silence, of speaking and of listening.

The gesture of parting—of having-already departed—that belongs to Abgeschiedenheit generates a vocabulary of “following,” of “coming-after,” which will co-ordinate the coming-to-be of song. The singer will be the “friend,” he who is left behind, following always after what has already gone. Once again “step” (Schritt), path (Pfad), way (Weg) are decisive, but are so by being folded into a listening, into a responding, into gestures of mourning that parallel the Verzichten of the George readings, that echo the fate of the blind singer in Hölderlin. The friend will follow by listening, tracing his way along the wake:

A friend listens after the stranger. Listening after, he follows the departed (Abgeschiedenen) and becomes himself a wanderer, a stranger.57

And how is this listening? How does it occur? Not as silence, but as a listening once more wrapped up in song: the friend, we are told, “listens, in that he sings of death.”58

It is in this distance of listening, this Nachsagen (saying-after), that the singing of the poet is born. It is this gap, this rent, in which coalesces all the different senses of fracture and loss we have encountered already, that generates the movement that “moves the poetic saying toward language.”59 Heidegger describes a kind of wave, a surging forth, as if the poet’s words might seem to flow out from and at the same time back into this gathering point. Abgeschiedenheit, the “site,” the Ort of Heidegger’s reading of Trakl, is the figure of loss that generates this movement (Bewegung), the loss in which language recognizes its own impossibility. The movement, says Heidegger, is one that “within a metaphysical-aesthetic conception, might appear as rhythm.”60 To talk of the “rhythm” of words, here, would risk awakening once more the ghost of a metaphysical distinction that separates out the “musicality” of language from its content. The ghost is indicated here, to be sure, gestured toward—perhaps the Gespräch cannot take place without such a gesturing—but only so that it can continue to be pushed away, held out at arm’s length. This spectre looms up out of the pure flow of Trakl’s words, their resounding, resonating in and around one another as they circulate around the blank space of their gathering. The movement that is generated within the Ort of Trakl’s words is not a flow of resonance but the movement of “way-making” (Be-wëgung) we have described, the movement to which belongs the rupture (Aufriß) of the word. It is in this sense that Heidegger points to the Ort, etymologically, as the Spitze des Speers, the tip of the spear, the point toward which the poet’s words gather, but equally the point that rends, that shatters the stillness, bursting apart the seams of sound and silence.61 It is here, in the Trakl readings, that this rending is brought closest to the loss, the abandonment from which we tracked the happening of song, and where we will discover its most powerful occasion.

To move further, we must confront a question, one that raises itself precisely at the moment in Heidegger’s text at which Abgeschiedenheit is identified as the locus of the poet’s listening, the absence after which his song reaches. Heidegger writes: “To sing means to praise, to watch over the praised in song.”62 Would the sense of praise, accorded here to song, not point toward its origin in celebration, not in affective loss? And there are more examples that suggest such an interpretation—in an earlier text on Hölderlin, for example, we read: “ὑμυεȋν: to sing, to praise, to glorify, to celebrate, to consecrate.”63 And yet again, from the essay on Stefan George: “a jubilant homage, a eulogy, a praise: laudare. Laudare is the Latin name for song.”64 Indeed, this understanding of song as celebration has been emphasized by Derrida, among others. He writes: “the necessary path would lead from speech to saying, from saying to poetic saying, from Dichten to song, to the accord of consonance, from this to the hymn and thus to praise . . . It is merely a question of pointing to a problematic . . . in which these meanings appear indissociable.”65

However internally consistent this trajectory appears, it nonetheless runs roughshod over the contexts from out of which its different elements emerge. Within the discussion of Trakl, the gesture of “praise” that belongs to a singing cannot be dissociated from the Nachsagen, the saying-after, the listening that listens to what has departed, that sings of what is dead. And this, too, is a kind of praising, a watching-over (hüten), the protection of an absence. If the celebratory emerges, then, in the event of singing, it is not to be thought in terms of a pure consonance, a plenitude of joy. Song, rather, will be what holds, what binds together praise and loss, celebration and abandonment, joy and mourning. It is this holding-together (Gefüge) that must concern us now.


In the Trakl reading, the figure of the friend, the listener that sings the departed (Abgeschieden), emerges from lines of Trakl’s “An einen Frühverstorbenen” (“To One Who Died Young”). The lines are as follows:

And in the garden, the silver countenance of the friend remained behind, Listening in the leaves or among ancient stones.66

It is from these lines that the pathos of distance is generated; it is here that song is cast as a longing for what has been lost. The lines open the space, the rent, the gap in which the movement of the Ort is initiated. But this is not their first appearance in the text. Earlier, the same lines make a seemingly unwarranted and unexpected appearance in the context of a reading of a stanza from “Heiterer Frühling.” In the midst of a detailed, line-by-line description, Heidegger pauses to say that “the entire stanza corresponds (entspricht)” to the lines above. The correspondence is not obvious, nor is it clarified in Heidegger’s text. The stanza with which Heidegger wishes to indicate this correspondence runs as follows:

So painfully good and true is, what lives,
And softly an ancient stone touches you:
Truly! I shall forever be with you.
O mouth! that trembles through the silvery willow.67

Resonating deeply within these lines is another text of Heidegger’s, another reading of Trakl, where we can locate the thematic that draws this obscure but crucial “correspondence” together. The echo has to do with the relation between stone and pain, which resounds out of Heidegger’s reading of “Ein Winterabend,” and the line in question runs:

Schmerz versteinerte die Schwelle [Pain has turned the threshold to stone].68

The discussion of this line, strikingly repeated four times in the text of “die Sprache,” focuses on the idea of threshold, which functions within the narrative of the poem as the connective instant that binds the “wanderer,” the stranger—he who is apart, outside (abgeschieden)—to the intimacy of the home, an intimacy both welcoming and alien. Decisive, here, is Heidegger’s understanding of “threshold” as what both separates but also joins, what keeps apart but also holds together: “the threshold bears the between.”69 Nothing itself, the threshold both determines and is determined by what it keeps apart; impossible, here, to even outline the context of the emergence of “threshold” in this essay, its function in the configuration of “world” and “thing.” But the re-occurrence of the conjunction of pain and stone in “Die Sprache im Gedicht” more than suggests that the “between-ness” of the threshold, its function as pure difference (dif-ference, Unter-schied),70 is equally operative in this second context: that the Unterschied and the Abgeschiedenen can be seen to play within the same orbit.

In Heidegger’s reading of Trakl we have already identified the gap, the rent—the distance between stranger and friend—as the generative force of poetic utterance, that which makes of song always a song of absence. And this force of loss corresponded, too, to the gesture of abandonment, to the failure of the name, which emerged in the readings of George and of Hölderlin. Music was to have arisen as, and in, the fracture of a language exposed to loss, a language intimate with its interruption, its collapse; a language forced to sing its own limits. Now, in the context of “ein Winterabend” the senses of fracture, of interruption, and of absence are to be determined as “threshold.” And the urgency of this determination is its identification with pain. “Pain has turned the threshold to stone,” repeats Heidegger, and understands, here, not merely an affective transformation. Rather, it is in and as pain that the threshold itself emerges, becomes possible—that it is “made stone.” Pain, then, is crucially identified, not merely with the rent, the fracture (Riß) itself but as that which binds together what is torn, what holds them in intimacy (Innigkeit):

Pain rends (reißt). It is the rift (Riß). But it does not just tear (zerreißt) into dispersive fragments. Pain indeed tears asunder, it separates, yet so that at the same time it draws everything to itself, gathers it to itself . . . Pain is the joining agent in the rending that divides and gathers. Pain is the joining of the rift. The joining is the threshold.71

Pain, then, carries the ambivalence, the play, the togetherness of joy and sadness. It is the between space that holds opposites in proximity to one another. The celebration, the joy of affirmation belongs within the sadness. Song belongs always in the vicinity of loss, but always as a gesture of abandon, in its manifold senses. And it is thus that when Heidegger comes to describe Trakl’s Heiterer Frühling, he can say of the stanza that it is “the pure song of pain.”72 Song is occasioned in the very play that Heidegger calls “pain,” the very togetherness of joy and loss: as such, it is, always, the “pure song of pain.” Music is such that, in voicing itself, it voices pain—fundamentally and essentially. The “pure song of pain,” then, would be the purest expression of the essence of music itself, an essence that does not exclude the celebratory, the joyful, but that draws its abandon from exposure to a deep absence.

To “sing of death,” to listen after what has been lost, is to hold together a language fractured at its core. What is sung across this fracturing is ecstatic celebration and deep loss, with all the fragility and vulnerability to which that exposes us. Moving across the Riß, reaching for what is abgeschieden, the singer is the voice of this gathering, this holding-together. Music, which sings always in and around language, is the fracturing, the Riß, but also that which joins what is apart (geschieden): music is the pain of language, the painful ἁρμονία of joy and sorrow, a celebration of absence.

Writing of the resonance of Trakl’s words, the way in which they play, echo, within a polyvalence that cannot be reduced to their “meanings,” Heidegger writes that “the polysemic sounding (mehrdeutige Ton) of Trakl’s poetic utterance comes from a gathering (Versammlung), that is, a unison (Einklang) which, meant for itself alone, remains unsayable.”73 The play in which these words are held, then, revolves around a silence, a space in which they ring together in a unison so perfect as to collapse all difference, all sounding, into itself:

The rigorous unison (Einklang) in which the many-voiced language of Trakl’s poetry speaks—and this means also: is silent—corresponds to Abgeschiedenheit as the locus (Ort) of the poetic utterance (Gedicht).74

The locus around which Trakl’s poetry gathers comes to language as the figure of absence, of one who has departed, who has always already left. But this absence corresponds (entspricht) to the absence around which all language plays. It is the fracture, the Riβ that opens in a language exposed to the dislocation that belongs to poetry, to words abandoned to the slippage that comes with the de-stabilization of the name, the disruption of presence. We have called this fracture, this dislocation, “music,” and watched for its implicit operation in Heidegger’s thinking. The Einklang that merges into silence, the Ort of Heidegger’s own thinking of language: this is music. Not, perhaps, a music that one can know, that one can recognize, or even identify as such. That music blossoms out of a more originary kind: it blossoms out of a music that sounds in the deepest recesses of the language that we speak, that makes of language always more than the meanings we express: a music that echoes in the space of a play that enjoins us to speak, and speak again, in the rhythm of a dark celebration.


The epigraph is from Du sollst ja nicht weinen,/Sagt eine Musik./Sonst/sagt/niemand/etwas. Ingeborg Bachmann, from “Enigma,” in Darkness Spoken, trans. Peter Filkins (Brookline, Mass.: Zephyr Press, 2006), 622–623.

1. Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, Letters, 1925–75 (Orlando: Harcourt, 2004), 74.

2. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual Meeting of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology at Södertörn University, in Stockholm, in April 2010. I am endlessly indebted to the quality of listening in evidence at that event.

3. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Musica Ficta (Figures of Wagner) (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1994), 91, my emphasis.

4. Martin Heidegger, Nietszche, Vol. 1. The Will to Power as Art, trans. David Farrell Krell (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), 86.

5. Lacoue-Labarthe, Musica Ficta, 86.

6. The passage in question has, however, received invaluable attention recently from Dennis Schmidt, in Lyrical and Ethical Subjects: Essays on the Periphery of the Word, Freedom, and History (Albany: SUNY Press, 2005), 61–64.

7. Martin Heidegger, Der Satz vom Grund (Tübingen: Verlag Günther Neske, 1957), 151.

8. In this connection, Krzysztof Ziarek has described this changing register as one in which words play around one another in an “infold,” which exerts a counterforce to the logic of difference that appears to dominate Heidegger’s texts. See K. Ziarek, Inflected Language: Towards a Hermeneutic of Nearness (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994). He writes that, in this mode, “insights are disclosed not so much by the mode of presentation itself or its argumentative rigor but instead by the exactitude of his verbal exploits and accomplishments” (p. 42). The notion of “infold” is a telling one, provided that one does not assume that the “counterforce” it presents operates outside the logic of difference. Rather, it is precisely the radicality of this “logic” that allows it to include strategies which would undermine any attempt to construe difference as a “structure.” Difference itself is never undifferentiated.

9. Martin Heidegger, Unterwegs zur Sprache (Pfullingen: Neske, 1959), also GA 12: 146. English translation available as On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1971), except for the first essay, Die Sprache, of which a translation appears in the volume Poetry, Language, and Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1971), 187–211. Although the standard translations have been usefully consulted throughout, they have been frequently emended here.

10. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 228; On the Way to Language, 147.

11. Heidegger, Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung, GA 1: 4, 49–79. English translation in The Heidegger Reader, ed. Günter Figal, trans. Jerome Veith (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 151–177. Hereafter, German pagination will precede English.

12. Erläuterungen, 53; Heidegger Reader, 159.

13. Erläuterungen, 72; Heidegger Reader, 172.

14. Erläuterungen, 66; Heidegger Reader, 168.

15. Cf. Kant, Critique of Judgment, §47.

16. Erläuterungen, 66; Heidegger Reader, 168.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 228; On the Way to Language, 77.

20. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 229; On the Way to Language, 148.

21. Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 1, my emphasis.

22. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 15; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 193.

23. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 204; On the Way to Language, 98.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 206; On the Way to Language, 99.

27. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 205; On the Way to Language, 98.

28. Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening, trans. Charlotte Mandell (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007), 22.

29. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 235; On the Way to Language, 124.

30. Christopher Fynsk writes, tellingly, that “only a broken stillness imprints mortal speech—breaking and imprinting are in fact indissociable.” They are unthinkable beyond their intertwinement. Fynsk suggests that this intertwinement, the interplay of breaking, tearing, imprinting that circulates around the instant of utterance in Heidegger’s text, might be considered as the play of a kind of “noise” that must surround the event of the spoken word. See the essay “Noise at the Threshold,” in Fynsk, Language & Relation: . . . that there is language (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1996), 28. One might, here, despite the compelling eloquence of Fynsk’s analysis, want to express some slight reserve at the use of the word “noise,” a reserve that one might find addressed by Paul Valéry, when he writes: “Noise gives ideas of the causes that produce it, dispositions of action, reflexes—but not a state of imminence of an intrinsic family of relations” (Valéry, Cahiers II [Paris: Gallimard, 1974]. Quoted in Nancy, Listening, 15). Or perhaps the reserve might be expressed as follows: where Fynsk hears noise, might one not rather hear music? It is in the direction of this possibility that this essay attempts to move.

31. Wozu Dichter, in Heidegger, Holzwege (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1963), 292. Translated as “Why Poets?” in Heidegger, Off the Beaten Track, trans. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 238.

32. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 235; On the Way to Language, 124.

33. Holzwege, 293; Off the Beaten Track, 238.

34. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 255; On the Way to Language, 124.

35. Ibid.

36. In this context, Christopher Fynsk writes that “correspondence presupposes . . . a kind of reserve, (but) this reserve must be ready . . . to anticipate upon the command of difference.” Fynsk, Language and Relation, 27.

37. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 262; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 131.

38. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 29; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 206.

39. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 30; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 209.

40. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 252; On the Way to Language, 122.

41. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 205; On the Way to Language, 98.

42. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 261; On the Way to Language, 149.

43. This twisting of the opposition of repose and movement echoes first from out of “The Origin of the Work of Art”: “Where rest includes motion, there can exist a repose which is an inner concentration of motion, hence the highest state of agitation.” Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Poetry, Language, and Thought, 48. Also GA 5.

44. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 29; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 207.

45. David Farrell Krell, in a marvelous essay—“The Source of the Wave” (in Krell, Lunar Voices [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995], 60)—asks: “does rhythm lend repose precisely in the way that all metaphysical ideas ‘beyond’ the sensuous word offer solace and rest? The suspicion cannot be readily quelled.” No indeed, except perhaps by insisting on the chiasmic involvement of movement and rest in these texts, on their incessant resistance, their refusal to come to rest within the structure of any opposition whatsoever; a refusal to which the opposition of rest and movement is not an exception, but of which it is, rather, almost a paradigm (if a paradigm were possible).

46. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 230; On the Way to Language, 149.

47. See Krell, “The Source of the Wave,” 57–58 for an invaluable discussion of the function of this initial conception of rhythm in relation to Aristotle.

48. See “The Notion of Rhythm in Linguistic Expression,” in Benveniste, trans. Mary Elizabeth Meek, Problems in General Linguistics (Miami: Miami University Press, 1971), 281–288. A valuable analysis of Benveniste’s article can be found in an essay of Henri Maldiney: “L’Esthetique des Rhythmes,” in the collection Regard, Parole, Espaces (Paris: Amers, 1994), 147–172.

49. Problems, 286.

50. Ibid., my emphasis.

51. “The wave of rhythm does not just simply flow by; it entwines, links, forges, and inscribes,” as Krell puts it (Krell, Lunar Voices, 62).

52. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 31; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 208.

53. “The Poetics of Language: Readings of Heidegger’s On the Way to Language,” in Metaphysics, Facticity, Interpretation, eds. Dan Zahavi, Sara Heinämaa, and Hans Ruin (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2003), 195–217. Schuback focuses, interestingly, on the endlessly re-iterative, repetitive movement of Heidegger’s own text, and on his preoccupation with the grammatically punctual.

54. The question of whether or not this representation of Wagner’s achievement is accurate, and even whether this perspective can be thought of as Heidegger’s last word on Wagner, is here left in abeyance. Whatever may be the status of Wagner’s project, he is here considered by Heidegger purely as emblematic of a certain possibility of music. One should, perhaps, consider writing “Wagner” in inverted commas, to emphasize this emblematic quality.

55. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 182; On the Way to Language, 78, my emphasis

56. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 67; On the Way to Language, 186.

57. Ibid.

58. Ibid., my emphasis.

59. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 73; On the Way to Language, 191. To risk again a parallel, we will cite Nancy, who writes that “to be listening is to be inclined toward the opening of meaning, hence to a slash, a cut in un-sensed (in-sensée) indifference.” Listening, 27.

60. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 38; On the Way to Language, 160.

61. My gratitude to Claudia Baracchi for this reminder.

62. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 69; On the Way to Language, 187.

63. Heidegger, Hölderlin’s Hymn, Der Ister, Gesamtausgabe 53, 1, trans. William McNeill and Julia Davis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 1.

64. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 229; On the Way to Language, 148.

65. Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 127128.

66. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 68; On the Way to Language, 186.

67. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 64; On the Way to Language, 183.

68. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 26; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 203.

69. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 27; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 204.

70. Writes Fynsk, eloquently (Language and Relation, 25): “it is a figure of the threshold that is language itself, inasmuch as language is defined as the articulation of difference by which difference comes about.”

71. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 27; Poetry, Language, and Thought, 204.

72. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 64; On the Way to Language, 183.

73. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 75; On the Way to Language, 192.

74. Unterwegs zur Sprache, 76; On the Way to Language, 193.

Peter Hanly - Dark Celebration
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