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The Philosopher's TouchSartre, Nietzsche, and Barthes at the Piano$
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François Noudelmann

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153942

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153942.001.0001

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The Piano Touches Me

The Piano Touches Me

(p.94) (p.95) Four The Piano Touches Me
The Philosopher's Touch

François Noudelmann

, Brian J. Reilly
Columbia University Press

This chapter examines how Roland Barthes affirmed the radical difference between playing and discussing music yet wrote about his own piano playing. Barthes played the piano daily; he was also a “connoisseur,” an expert of musicology. But he wished to maintain a clear distinction between his writing and his playing. His writings initiate a shift in musicology toward an analysis of practice—a shift that is even more marked because he considered amateur practices. In Barthes's texts, the amateur's playing implements feelings and temporalities that elude the pejorative, or perhaps merely underestimating, definition of amateurism. Based on the idea of a shifting subjectivity, Barthes's theoretical intention comes close to being impossible. But he was careful not to construct a full philosophical aesthetics—even if he did develop a little philosophy of amateurism. This chapter considers how Barthes's movement toward theoretical generality develops through the personal description of his tastes, his sensitivity, indeed his sexuality, all of which are linked to the piano.

Keywords:   piano, Roland Barthes, music, piano playing, musicology, amateurism, subjectivity, philosophy, theoretical generality, sexuality

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