An Ear for Evil: The Sociology of Balzac’s Music Fiction

Douglas Collins
University of Washington

Le Diable sait ce qu’il fait, il est subtil, il s’attaque à la musique des peuples qu’il veut supprimer.

Céline, Lettres à Albert Paraz

“[L]a musique, pour moi, ce sont des souvenirs,” wrote Balzac to Mme Hanska .1 Something all of the moment, rather, was it for Stendhal—joy in breaking news and in the easy forgetability of it, in the glamor of adaptivity to the promiscuities of present arrangements. Stendhal praises Rossini’s art for its ability to beguile the ear for a moment only—musical melting pot of difference,Gebrauchsmusik of sociological nihilism, the noise of liquid assets. Balzac was fluent in at least the Parisian-performed of the operas mostly praised in Vie de Rossini, but his legitimist spirit blackened before the unseriousness of a music that groomed to submission to the disposabilities of opinion, before the depravity of those taking the bait of the buzz, in merry capitulation to the monocultural drive of an international Rossini regime,2 those alienated to the charm offensive “fait exprès pour donner des extases aux gens médiocres.”3 Balzac was unshy enough, he claimed to Madame Hanska, to have tartly had the same view of an audience of fashion victims before the compliant composer himself: “Je lui ai montré tout ce brillant Paris qui était là en lui disant: ‘Jeter ses diamants et ses perles à cette boue.’ ”4

“[L]a musique d’un pays doit prendre la nuance du gouvernement qui forme les âmes en ce pays,” Stendhal writes.5 And in his survey of the career there is breezy contextualization of the composer’s shining moment, but the insipid fun of it left to Balzac the baleful work of evaluation of the affront of glee in exuberantly serial enthusiasms to the honored shapes of consciousness belonging to a nobly regretted past, those that console as they burden the French reflection on music that both followed and had come before.  Parody of freedom: The fresh young élan these sounds—dissolving bath of easy pleasure—was the becoming infectiously giddy of the remorselessness of the real.  Stendhal, like Balzac, did not spy the world spirit on horseback, but heard it rather in the fast flaring of the Rossinian roulade—Negativity evanesced into the creedlessness of mere entertainment, self-promotion of the sonorously silly subject of manic social mobility. The frothing of the figure, the production of a hyperfigurality through musicalization that excited the compulsions to as easily merge as diverge—erasing simultaneously the memory of itself, according to both Hegel and Stendhal6—was at once the instrument and symptom of a depletion of cultural capital, crisis of the self-scepticism of the withered legacy of a faltering elite now hedonically wallowing in social deficit. “Les nobles ne sont plus solidaires,” Balzac said, aligned with Tocqueville.7 By debauching the least self-certain amongst them, Rossini’s depoliticizing spell—the lulling that was its verve—had relaxed the hold of memory, succeeded in drawing even the past into the vortex of the gleaming capitulation of its virtuosities. Herbert Lindenberger argues that nineteenth century opera co-opted the “high” style, and “allowed the novel throughout its history to meditate on its own insufficiency as a genre.” “Seen through the novelist’s eyes, opera pursues the high style with an unselfconscious ease impossible within any of the literary genres.”8 In his worrying at the meaning of Rossinian man, an unbewitched Balzac bows out of the generalization.

Famously had it been Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s point that “The labor process . . . can be evaded only through the approximation to it in leisure time.”9 And it was the prematurity of this insight that sent Balzac to fasten onto a reverse image, one that would upset the crudely reflective historicism of the Stendhal position noted above. However abused as might have been the meaning of the composer’s work to fit the novelist’s nostalgias, it was a legend of Beethoven that was summoned to redemptive action in La Comédie humaine—myth of an intractably autonomous art, a sternness of concentration that drives inward only to explode beyond the social—to be deployed against the dissolvent energies of opera buffa—idiom of the superconductivity of a now freely actionable resentment, liquidation of the centripetally local, anciently settled wealth that had been the basis of the persistence of the antique tie.  Meteroric Rossini was to Balzac what America was to his contemporary Tocqueville—land of molten differences, the romp of the illusion of difference, “agité et monotone.”10 A music that had made a spectacle of itself, music tortured into self-betrayal, into the venalizing, viralized service of high display.

Balzac responds by casting redeeming radiance upon an unaccomodating, esoteric Beethoven, whose name becomes a signifier of non-identity, an undisolvability into the depravities of the present.  Pathos of the worldly incompetence of the negative thrust of his art, figure of fragile resistance to the Parisian rabble, an aristocrat of fatalist valor majestically spiritualized, the wistfully sketched fantasy of him representing the grandeur of the doomed quality of the reenchanting alternative. In the imagination of the wordlessness of his music, its inwardness, it was the musical antipode to the extension of the ascendant Rossini and his commodification of difference. In this obstinate particularism represented by German music—as nativist French riposte—“Rien n’y remue, tout y diffère.”11 And against this dignity Rossini was the singing commercial for a disenchanted France, the depoliticized aspect of its pleasures being the accelerant of a calamity of indistinction. Balzac restates esthetically the position of Tocqueville: The muscialization of the figure had been the error of the ancien régime, the perpetuation and consequences of which now course implacably through the present.

“Like Stendhal,” Edward Saïd strained, “Rossini was the product of a horrendously disenchanted and reactionary Europe.  It is tempting to understand both these great artists as using an extremely worldly and knowing fluency in their art to assert a tremendously antithetical vitality against an undeserving and uncomprehending society.”12 This is one way of looking at the matter, but not Balzac’s, as for him it was Italian opera, “the overflowing animal vitality of a Rossini”13—uncritically appreciated by Nietzsche—that proved stupidly passive. Agent of sameness, the composer produced the sprightly sounds of the liquid capital of the new risers, of the simultaneous fluidities of the ascendency of opportunists and the delapidation of old families, extending the penetration of the values of the Revolution by other, more powerful because more catchily frivolous means.  Not escaping him was the infectious aspect of “le compositeur qui a transporté le plus de passion humaine dans l’art musical,”14 the dash of whose works, in the grayness of their high colors, was a uniquely cunning delivery system of the “natural” mobility he despised.15 Before the happily received assault of this soft power France could remain itself—if only fantasmagorically, and in the dignity of the haplessness of the wistfulness of the effort—rescued from the defeat of what remained of a legitimate ruling class, through the imagined difficult resources of a textless German music.16 Just as Nietzsche would mobilize this sound world against Wagner, so did Balzac deploy against what he perceived to be this twittering a contrarian whose music was heard as exaltingly private—sound of a reimagined aristocracy, restored on new, dematerialized (and thus even more diminished) grounds.  Rossini’s style was the musical embodiment, not so much of France but of Paris, Stendhal wrote.17 Yearning for home in what is foreign, Balzac agreed: Parisian music was Parisian to the extent to which it was Italian, and France—prestige of exile, of a solitary traditionalism—listens to itself through the lonely sounds of the German forest.18 French music in his novels does not exist as such, but is seen rather to be the site of a struggle between German and Italian positions. The “Querelle des bouffons” returns with the force of the return of the repressed.

In asymmetrical struggle two figures do essential battle, with the novelist’s musical surrogate summoned for the lesson of heroic failure. “Rossini or his imitators reign everywhere,” it was said in 182819—exorbitant market share that was symptom of a dialectic of progress, as far as Balzac was concerned, of an identity vacuum, mirror of it, a forty-opera supply of enfeebling energies, and Beethoven became the ineffectuality of lonely antidote. Long before Carl Dahlhaus saw the century in terms of the Beethoven/Rossini divide, “one of the fundamental facts of the nineteenth century”20—music of figurality and music as pure form, Balzac beat him to the point. And he bested Adorno to the irony of it: ”[M]usic will be the more true and substantial the further it is removed from the official Zeitgeist; the one of Beethoven’s epoch was represented by Rossini rather than by him.”21

Unconcealing pride in association: “J’ai pour ami depuis longtemps le grand maestro Rossini,” wrote Balzac in an 1844 letter.22 The cordial terms on which the novelist was with the composer have led to confidently floated distortions.  He was “a rhapsodist for Rossini,” one scholar writes23 and there is “the exaltation of Rossini by Balzac,” says another.24 But a distinction is to be made between the Rossini the friendship and Rossini the problem, as the evidence takes us in another direction, towards the clarity of the Rossini/Beethoven split as governing the binary music environment of La Comédie humaine.25 Maurice Agulhon argues that in the post-Revolutionary period political conflicts were expressed through the counterpoint of conflicting symbols, between revolution and counterrevolution.26 An example would be tension between underappreciated terms associated with the Physiocrat movement: “faste de subsistance” and “luxe de décoration.”  Balzac thought in the terms of this conflict, but his reasoning through this distinction requires correlation with the contrasting views of the mimetic that organize the cultural politics of La Comédie humaine. Balzac knew very little of Beethoven, but the sketchiness of his characterization proved a condition of the success that the socio-visionary work this caricature was assigned to perform in his fiction, this through imagery to be read with the aid of reference to the enchanted circles of Physiocratic space—zone of a freedom that finds everything for itself, within itself.

The forwards/backwards context illuminates the urgency of the Frenchness ofBesonnenheit.27 “Un seul verbe, pour le musicien: soustraire,” writes Jacques Drillon .28 The narrative of music as subtraction that governs Balzac’s music stories echoes through culture wars past and future. The novelist oft admired Rousseau who in the Lettre à D’Alembert praised a music that kept its distance, protecting from dissolutions risked in the appeals of the centralizing, professionalizing effects of the work of Lully and Rameau—primacy of a music of domesticity, sameness of performer and listener, recalling the sounds of monastic life.  In the world of the Lettre each virtuoso-free family sings its virtue to itself—self enchantment that collapses agencies of production and consumption .29 Nerval’s “Sylvie,” also suffused with Rousseau reference, woundedly describes the immediacy of community threatened in its organic aspect by exposure to an irresistibly corrupting world of Parisian opera.

“Je suis un musicien sans importance”—the first sentence of a novel by Richard Millet. “Je ne figurerai dans nulle histoire musicale,”30 the narrator continues in L’angélus, one of the author’s two music fictions .31 The title—its reference to the Frenchness of the Catholic peasant humility of the famous painting—draws attention to the aspirations of a composer to produce sounds to match this austerity—asperities of a self-contained life, of a withholding music, lesson of “la vanité de toute enterprise humaine.”32 Morgue of unyielding minority, anonymity of the exception, expression of a lost terroir attached to the innocence of the advantage of form over the figure, whose representations are better apt to excite the disgrace of the smudging of difference: “Je ne regrette pas de m’être voué à la musique: la littérature m’aurait conduit à une imposture bien plus grande” (56). “Le surnon de paysan me fut vite octroyé,” Millet’s character says of the view of him in Paris—“Je ne m’en offusquai pas” (61). Through an untimely music, “J’optai pour le silence” (82). Music of indigenous knowledge, exalted scorn for dependencies of city and court, “un extrême où la musique tend à se dépouiller de ses vertus séductrices pour atteindre à une sorte de paix” (73). Size mattered—music as the rudeness of the smallest unity of self-delight, irreducibility of its difference as fulfilled and resigned.

Peace of “une apologie de la francité,” Millet adds (79). Not just any Frenchness, and it is upon this point that insistence is required: “Je trouve maintenant autant de plaisir à faucher un champ, fendre du bois ou élever quelques poules et lapins qu’à jouer du piano” (85). Sound as a question of space: music of the decent distance, of happiness that lies at hand–identity of it with the self-limiting discretion of the sociability of farm and field, music of an indigenous knowledge of an agriculture of subsistence organizing the life world of the resident provincial nobility—its murder/suicide being the story that Tocqueville told.33

“Poètes pur eux seuls.”34 Performance performing its denial as such, nobility of the music of the wildness of intimate purpose. This modesty of unruly reflexivity is the theme of Tous les matins du monde, novel that opposes the surly freedom of a recessive aristocracy to  a compromised nobility of court, this just one of the music texts of Pascal Quignard .35 The Ravel fiction of Jean Echenoz recounts the composer’s drift into dementia—music as his privacy, composed in indifference to audience .36The music of agorophobia is the theme of ““Les Grands moments d’un chanteur,” of Louis-René Des Forêts .37 Figures of exalted passivity, all, of scornful self removal from the vanity of a search for recognition .38

Music for an audience of one, even and especially in the midst of a crowd. Listening to the misunderstood Vinteuil, Swann, in private purpose, hears past the vicious unanimity of the Verdurin gang, summoned to coherence by their Wagnerian racket, parody of authoritarian discipline. In the final volume of À la recherche, about to die in battle, Saint-Loup, scion of Guermantes magnificence, ennobled in the Middle Ages, sings to himself a Schumann song. Mid-performance, he requires shushing from the narrator who fears indignant response from surrounding (bourgeois) French patriots .39 The reader was long prepared for this performance of solitude in ancestral proximity, because of this greatest of French families’ attachment to its German identity.

Following this music where it wants to go, with an account of its historical aspect, waits Balzac, comprehensively focused ancestor. In an 1831 article on Balzac, Philarète Chasles described La Peau de chagrin as having the sprightly features of Rossini opera .40 The novelist might have been flattered at the time, but his sense of the music clouded as he came to conclude that the compositions of his friend—and their triumphs were confirmation–were charged with features that required neutralization. In a 1837 letter to Mme Hanska, we find a thaumaturgical Beethoven positioned as Rossini’s “other.”  Musicalization—no incidental issue for the nineteenth century in general—was the becoming irresistible of, or the resistance to, the afflictions that cascade from the figural mistake. The visible/audible: Opera was the reciprocal corruption of figure and sound, with the last amplifying the calamity of the first. The once Rossinian novelist now takes sides against his former self:

Beethoven est le seul homme qui me fasse connaître la jalousie. J’aurais voulu être plutôt Beethoven que Rossini et que Mozart. Il y a dans cet homme une puissance divine. Dans son finale, il semble qu’un enchanteur vous enlève dans un monde merveilleux, au milieux des plus beaux palais qui réunissent les merveilles de tous les arts et là, à son commandement, des portes, semblables à celles du Baptistère, tournent sur leurs gonds et vous laissent apercevoir des beautés d’un genre inconnu, les fées de la fantaisie, ce sont des créatures qui voltigent avec les beautés de la femme et les ailes diaprées de l’ange, et vous êtes inondé de l’air supérieur, de cet air qui selon Swedenborg, chante et répand des parfums, qui a la couleur et le sentiment et qui afflue et qui vous béatifie.  Non, l’esprit de l’écrivain ne donne pas de pareilles jouissances, parce que ce que nous peignons est fini, détermine, et que ce que vous jette Beethoven est infini .41

Obvious is the mediation of newly popular writings of E. T. A. Hoffmann, whose Kreisleriana (mentioned by Balzac) contained promotion of Beethoven—also with special focus upon the Fifth Symphony—as the genius of an absolute music, beyond the abjection to the mimetic that lamed other arts, unshamed by the limits of the figure and verbal expression, beyond the contaminations of the fallen world of the visual–a pure instrumental music that opens onto an alternative ontological sphere .42  But blindness in the letter to the social aspect of taste finds correction in Balzac who carves to the point, becoming incisive witness to the conflict organzing the interaction of the pair .43

“What is genuinely reactionary in Balzac,” writes Adorno, “is not his conservative turn of mind but his complicity with the legend of rapacious capital.”44 The view is crudely unnuanced—as uncontextualizedand efficient means of understanding why is through study of the meaning of the Rossinian infection for him, less through reference to class identifications, stiffly speaking, than resort to the novelist’s relation to the concepts of eighteenth-century Physiocrat economists François Quesnay and the Marquis de Mirabeau. The basis of social well-being, they influentially argued, was agricultural endeavor, and forms of economic activity were authentic insofar as they were of service to its health. The vigor of France hung upon resistance to the sway of commercial and finance capital that was made possible by an adequate population of independent, money-distrusting farmers supporting the mission that eighteenth-century banker Isaac de Pinto lamented to be “the frenzy of the soil.”  The fixed order was to be guaranteed by discouraging the sale of properties and marriages between members of different classes. Exchanges must be limited to necessities to avoid porosities of caste. Prestige of inertia—The flourishing of the nation and the hierarchy of its natural order depended upon protection of the cultural value of underconsumption, termed “faste de substance”—or noble display of expenditure as a self-limiting wealth, self-congratulating in its “pauvre bonheur.” The meaning of its self-limiting excesses was the glorying in the fact that its exertions were vernacular, were for no necessity other than their own. This value of a centripetal audacity was to be contrasted with “luxe de décoration,” a ruinously open-endedly developing, commercially based wealth, mobility promoted by “la classe stérile”—manufacturing and financial interests, whose powers composed against those virtuous elements of “la classe productive,” the peasantry, and “la classe des propriétaires.”

There is evidence of moral decline on display in general in “toute l’industrie somptueuse française,”45 but opera, “ce tripôt”—the expression of the Marquis de Mirabeau (Pr 63)—proves preeminently worthy of the scorn of Physiocratic philosophy, rich as it is in examples of  “l’instabilité des modes de Paris,” (Pr 162) in the multiplication of disposable enthusiasms associated with the external resource of a “luxe étranger” that debauches proper sociability.  The affliction of “luxe de décoration” poisons when there is falling away from this concentration of affect, a value so familiar throughout Balzac’s fiction: “La réunion de ces deux mobiles, le besoin et le désir, est le principe et l’effet de la société.  Plus on les rappoche, plus on dirige leurs forces vers le même objet, plus on lie et corrobore la société: plus au contraire on laisse relâcher les liens qui les condensent, plus ils se séparent, plus aussi la société tend vers la dissolution” (Pr 16). With the splitting–calamity of the alienation from “la liberté, la joie et la salubrité de la vie champêtre” (Pr 135)—there is the panic of the shape shifting of wealth: “Alors tout est artifice, dérèglement, iniquité, querelle, animosité, parti” (Pr 135).  Madness of the struggle for recognition:

Parce que toutes les dépenses de décoration, qui ne satisfont guère au fond que celui qui veut s’attirer les regards des passants; que l’argent employé en tabatières, vernis, dentelles, belles étoffes, etc..; que toute la dépense de vaine décoration, en un mot, est autant d’épargné dans les lieux où chacune se connaît et vit à la fois simplement et grandement; et la défalcation de ces dépenses ruineuses revient au profit du luxe de subsistance. . . et de la vraie jouissance de la vie. (Pr 135)

Balzac’s music philosophy reflects a Physiocratic value of proximity, a probity of landed enbeddedness insulted in the Parisian spectacle: “Toute l’oeuvre économique de la prospérité politique est de rapprocher le consommateur et la production” (Pr 190).  Exchange cannot to be avoided, but emphasized is the moral quality of the intimacy of transactions, “le commerce de propriéte ou première main.”

A logic of poverty follows: “La pauvreté volontaire n’est point pauvreté; elle est richesse au contraire, puisqu’elle ne saurait être renoncement au nécessaire, mais seulement à une dépense frivole . . . . ” (Pr 241). But at once there is hostility to frugality, to accumulation, with Physiocracy reserving all enthusiasm for waste in the form of hospitality for those who are closest, as wealth properly explodes inwards in the disengaging domesticity of the nobly implosive dilapidation of “faste de subsistence:” “je me plairai à traiter avec joie et abondance mes amis, mes voisins, mes domestiques” (Pr 135). The chateau—with its unchanging furnishings–was the proper scene of prestige spending .46) Exemplary in this regard were “les moeurs généreuses des anciens Germains:” “Les anciens Germains ne connaissaient d’autres richesses que leurs tentes, leurs armes et leurs troupeaux.  Ils avaient abondamment de tout cela; et ils étaient hospitaliers, parce qu’ils étaient solidement riches” (Pr 242). If this virtuously scattered culture of intransigent interiority is honored, then encouraged are “les propriétaires à se plaire sur leurs domaines” (Pr 134). Properly landed aristocrats were the musical people—on the condition that they disappeared on their own.

Not crudely about an imperative of backwardness, Physiocrats were progressive regressives. Although pointedly Catholic, there is in Quesnay and Mirabeau the primacy of the solution to an ethical problem through technical means—secularized is the rich mystery of subsistence. And as free traders (Quesnay if not Mirabeau), encouraging improvement of transportation, clarification of currency and elimination of tariffs, they encouraged interactions that distanced them from an ideal of subsistence polyculture, the traditionally solipsistic French agricultural mode of production. Their favorite word may have been “subsistence,” but their version differed as self-aware as productive of a national cohesion. In this they offer a pre-Revolutionary case of what Marc Fumaroli describes as the project of modern France: the reconciliation of Republican values with features of the ancien régime, especially the cultural value of dilapidation.47

Tracking these points in Balzac’s view of music in La Comédie humaine in general, we will find juxtaposed the music of desire outracing need, versus music of the dignity of a self-constrained self-delight. As Rossini is the sound of a normalvolatility of wealth, “luxe de décoration,” Beethoven’s would be the music of the “faste de subsistance,” sound of the self-possession of the true France.

This virtuous geography of the resident, organic individual emerges, for example, in the final spatial lesson of Le Curé de Tours:

Le cercle au milieu duquel s’agitent les hommes s’est insensiblement élargi. [. . . ] D’abord, l’homme fut purement et simplement père, et son coeur battit chaudement, concentré dans le rayon de la famille. [. . . ][L]e champ de ses intérêts s’augmenta de toutes les régions intellectuelles.  Aujourd’hui, sa vie est attachée à celle d’une immense patrie; bientôt, sa famille sera, dit-on, le monde entier.  Ce cosmopolitinisme moral, espoir de la Rome Chrétienne, ne serait-il pas une sublime erreur?  Il est si naturel de croire à la réalization d’une noble chimère, à la fraternité des hommes.  Mais, hélas!  La machine humaine n’a pas de si divines proportions .48

A music had to be imagined to match this space of self-concentration, a mimetic minimalism operating on its own isolating frequency. The aristocracy survived as a disappearing act; in the prestidigitation of its self-effacement  it was the musical class, in Hegel’s sense, in Kant’s.

Kant felt that music—“that holds the lowest place among the fine arts”—was as ephemeral as the scent on a handkerchief,49 and Hegel, also emphasizing volatility, said that its strangeness had to do with the agency of the experience of its end, its disappearing on its own—a good thing for the second, and not so for the first .50 Nietzsche—interested in what turns out to be related—said that music could be just anything, seeming to associate it with the mimetic faculty itself:  “[Music] can transform itself into everything and has to transform itself because like the demon of the sea, it has itself no character.”51 And it feared itself as such, he added.  What we can add to Nietzsche—attaching the position of Hegel and Kant—is that its special status was due to the fact that it had an immanent solution to the problem of its anxiety.  Music—playing itself out—summoning its listener to desiring attention, removed itself at the same moment from the possibility of resentful response .52 Unassisted flameout—the immediacy of the auto-negation of self-satisfaction, music is the quick fix, taking the dilemma of this contrast between the constitutive features of the esthetic for the quickest spin.

As much as German philosophy helps to explain Balzac, Balzac’s sociology of art reveals the occulted contents of this philosophy. For Balzac—of the more comprehensive view—the social worth of this experience of music’s simultaneity of cross-purposes, of its catch-and-release, hung on a relation to the figural, whether this mimetic minimalism served one of two ends: the economic mobilization or the defeat of envy, through the maddening or the defeat of the mimetic.  A text-based, “spectacular” music—e.g. Rossini’s—was the sliming of a miracle—the one for which Balzac’s German stood—a homeopathy of mimesis, the grandeur of its collected interiority, now suffering, in opera, in the service of the motorization of social mobility.  Opera was a denatured music, its sounds amplifying the perverse potential of the figure, exciting the intensity with which it can be experienced as simultaneously exalted and defamed.  Music—the music that one sings to oneself, that returns the performer/listener to the propriety of his/her solitude—with the potential to serve noble self-concentration through avoidance of a negativity that loops resentfully through social mediations, is coopted by the volatilities of an entertainment industry, captured to serve its ensorcelling hyperfiguralities. “Luxe de décoration”—fashion fast forwards. “Dans ce siècle expéditif, Rossini a un avantage; il se passe d’attention.”53 To use Hegel’s formulation, he vanished of himself, but for the sake of the multiplication of the forgetabilities of the figural effects his art at once produces. (After he had written forty operas—in 1829, at the age of thirty seven—he fell more or less self-contentedly silent.)

Music of the figure become sonorous, Rossini’s was the sound of an aristocracy’s giving itself up to a self-beguiled inability to project itself into the future.  The protagonist enters singing in La Peau de chagrin: “Di tanti palpiti,” hit cavatina from Rossini’s Tancredi. Citified noble, Raphaël de Valentin, penetrates the antique shop to become dependent upon forces that prove terminally destructive because of his inability to Physiocratically circumscribe his desires. In “Sarrasine,” the monster enters in response to identical music .54  It was an immortal melody, Schopenhauer said, but in each case the tune announces the biosocial calamity attached to the Rossinian presence in the fiction.

Rossini reverence?  After 1834 there are no examples, least of all offered in the pestilentially related cases of Mémoires and “Massimilla Doni” where the defeat of the nobility is experienced literally, as musically, in its very body.  To live for, through his music, was to die by it—this the message of the epistolary novel, with taste for the suavities of the composer reflecting the dooming disarray of landed leadership. The narrative traces the social development of marriageable aristocrats who leave together their convent to contrasting worldly fates. One is released into the blessed obscurity of provincial life, for “les humbles plaisirs de la campagne.”55 “En restant dans la solitude, une femme ne peut jamais être provinciale, elle reste elle-même” (Mjm 169). Internalizing the requirement of the self-perpetuation of the provincial aristocracy and its ideal of noble subsistence, maternity becomes the major focus. “Une femme qui n’est pas mère est un être incomplet et manqué,” (Mjm251) this for Legitimist reasons, as “le grand art de la maternité” (Mjm 250) is associated with the not-to-be questioned “droit d’aînesse, qui pour l’antiquité se marie à celle du monde et se mêle à l’origine des Sociétés. . . . ” (Mjm 250). In this fortress of self-intimacy “une poésie naturelle, indestructible nous environnera. En restant fidèle à mes devoirs, aucun malheur n’est à redouter” (Mjm 153).

Rossiniism becomes the climate of the fallenness of her cosmopolitan friend, that of the operatic self-betrayal of the nobility. Initiation to the jealousies of Paris is through opera performance–mediation of the congestion of low designs. Emotion unknown in the world of the mother of aristocratic subsistence, envy is the entire energy of the capital of self promotion, hybridity and connectivity: “D’abord une jalousie universelle: les classes supérieures seront confondues, on prendra l’égalité des désirs pour l’égalité des forces; les vraies supériorités reconnues, constatées, seront envahies par les flots de la bourgeoisie” (Mjm 174). And it is from that pinnacle of society that is lyric theater that the emotion surges through the system.  Rossini is reported to spread invidious response on account of the fact that he himself must have been personally consumed by it.  “Je suis comme folle du désir d’entendre la musique italiennne,” says the contaminated friend (142).  There arrives the chance to dope herself on Rossini and it is downhill from here:

Ah! Le monde est une féerie.  La musique des Italiens me ravit, et pendant que mon âme nage dans un plaisir divin, je suis lorgnée, admirée; mais, par un seul de mes regards, je fais baisser les yeux au plus hardi jeune homme. J’ai vu là des jeunes gens charmants; eh! bien, pas un me plaît; aucun ne m’a causé l’émotion que j’éprouve en entendant Garcia dans son magnifique duo avec Pellegrini dans Otello. Mon Dieu! Combien ce Rossini doit être jaloux pour avoir si bien exprimé la jalousie? (Mjm 160-61)

Conceptually, at least, the afflicted is a Legitimist: “En coupant la tête à Louis XVI, la Révolution a coupé la tête à tous les pères de famille.  Il n’y a plus de famille aujourd’hui, il n’y a plus que des individus. ]. . . ] En proclamant l’égalité des droits à la succession paternelle, ils ont tué l’esprit de famille, ils ont créé le fisc!  Mais ils ont prepare la faiblesse des supériorités et la force aveugle de la masse, l’extinction des arts, le règne de l’intérêt personnel. . . . ” (173)  “J’appartiens au petit nombre de ceux qui veluent résister à ce qu’on nomme le peuple” (Mjm 173). But political wisdom cannot save her from being a casualty of the message of representation itself, made irresistible through its musicalization. School for the learning of the desensitizing lesson of the superiority of spectacle to life, the opera is where she is tutored to deploy the weapon of provocative absorption that in turn will be used against her.  “Je suis pire qu’une fille d’Opéra,” she says (Mjm 271). “Voulez-vous être aimée?  N’aimez pas” (Mjm 266). She eventually marries a man she meets at a Rossini opera, and is wed, forbidingly, we can now appreciate, to the strains of his music .56 Dying of jealousy in the capital of jealousy, bitterly childlessin this association of reproductive with historical failure—she expires singing Rossini to herself. Death by entertainment—a musician assisted suicide.

Noble demographics are again the issue in Béatrix. Balzac was without need of the lessons of Tocqueville on the specific weirdness of a French bourgeoisie in its aping of the manners of the class it had worked to extinguish. The reverse was no less true, in Béatrix, for example, the novel of the formation of an artistic elite under Louis-Philippe.  Young Calyste—of an aristocracy now summoned to betray itself into the figure–laments to the seniors of his anciently embedded noble Breton family, of  “L’insuffisance de mon education à une époque où les nobles doivent conquérir une valeur personnelle pour rendre la vie à leur nom.”  “J’étais aussi loin de mon siècle que Guérlande est loin de Paris,” he adds .57 In the authenticity of its inertia, Guérlande—“la dernière image de la vie féodale,” “l’Herculanum de la Féodalité” (B 47)—doomed its youth to redefine prestige through Parisian posturing. “Criticism is its opium,” one of the characters says of the the hot zone of a culture of acultural dissolve in which the young man will be summoned to shine. Calyste has been lured from country life to make a spectacle of himself in the city by Félicité des Touches, also a landed bretonne, but unmorose in self-awareness as traitor to her class.  She is stuck on, and ghost composer for the composer/singer Gennaro Conti—as charming as he is fatuously venal—described as a rival of Rossini and a singer of his music, of “I Tanti palpiti,” for example.  “[I]l ne croit à rien,” (B 129) we are told of this cosmopolitan infection, the liquifaction of difference. The sociological treachery of Félicité is expressed  through the degeneracy of musicalization—“le suprême dissolvent, la musique. . . de perdition” says Julien Gracq of its role in the novel58—that blurs into a pride in biological incompetence. A woman who performs the social roles of a man, she has renounced maternity, i.e. the projection of her class into the future. (B101) The death of her group was a musician-aided suicide.  Again Rossini as a biohazard; the composer’s was the name of a social disease—“the fashion neurosis,” “the amnesiac substitution of the present for the past.”59

Again, in “Massimilla Doni,” the fright of the Rossini entrance, music of the damned: “En ce moment, une femme de chambre entra  folâtrement en chantonnant un air du Barbier de Seville” 60—association of the composer with a vulgarity that smudges class codes. Again a deficiency of reproductive prowess in this story, where Balzac strikes lower, making the same point as faltering sexual performance becomes metaphor for sociological malfunction. Recalling what will be the argument of Freud’s paper on “The Most Prevalent Form of Degradation in Erotic Life,” Balzac describes how an enervated, vice-consumed aristocracy recovers debased virility through a process of  auto-Rossinification. There remain sparks amongst the ashes, Balzac says of the old nobles, whose fragilized manliness depends for rekindling upon a musico-erotic disorder—perversion of the figure become sound. The good vibrations of the Rossini remedy alone can restore sexual pulse to a senior Venetian aristocrat, moral/physical/social wreck who is aroused only in the company of a soprano who is expert in the compromised art of this composer.  Another jolt of Rossinian love is administered on a second occasion in the story, as his music rescues two noble lovers unable to get physical on account of the disembodied character of their reciprocal self-enjoyment.  The eponymous protagonist—a countess–succeeds in causing her otherwise exclusively contemplatively ardent lover to amorous action by disguising herself as a Rossinian soprano.  Here there is competence and she holds the composer in the highest, knowledgeable regard, (MD 246) daring to rank him above Beethoven (MD 317).  And thus the judgment rendered on the night of Rossinian love, example of the romantic irony Balzac found in Hoffmann: “Comment dire le dénouement de cette aventure, car il est horriblement bourgeois?  Un mot suffira pour les adorateur de l’idéal.  La duchesse était grosse” (MD 337). The dying class can reproduces itself only into a déclassement par en bas.

No mere historical compromise, the sexual deceit doubles as a theological calamity, as the coupling is witnessed by angels in heaven who weep at the betrayal of class through Rossinification: “[T]oute la nation des figures qui, brisant leur forme pour venir à vous, artistes compréhensifs, toutes ces angéliques filles incorporelles accoururent autour du lit de Massimilla, et y pleurent” (MD 338). Self-dissolution of the class—confronted with a choice between two suicides—surviving alone as concept and/or body, it chooses mere biology over the greatness of freedoms past.

The Countess had not been unwarned of the treachery of the musicalized figure, an advocate of pure music having to her lamented: “Il est déplorable que le vulgaire ait forcé les musiciens à plaquer leurs expressions sur des paroles, sur des intérêts factices; mais il est vrai qu’ils ne seraient plus compris par la foule” (MD 285).  And an opera audience neighbor hearing out her praise for the Mosé of Rossini, reacts darkly to the complacent celebration of a sundering within musical culture:

Madame, dit-il, en m’expliquant ce chef-d’oeuvre que grâce à vous je reviendrai entendre demain, en le comparant et dans ses moyens et dans son effet, vous m’avez parlé souvent de la couleur de la musique, et de ce qu’elle peignait; mais en ma qualité d’analyste et de matérialiste, je vous avouerai que je suis toujours révolté par la prétention qu’ont certains enthousiastes de nous faire croire que la musique peint avec des sons. (MD 321-22)

The treason of music as figure—shameful hybridity—produces coercive blurring that excludes the proper aristocratic spacing:

Cette langue [la musique], mille fois plus riche que celle des mots, est au langage ce que la pensée est à la parole; elle reveille et les idées et les sensations, mais en les laissant ce qu’elles sont chez chacun.  Cette puissance sur notre intérieur est une des grandeurs de la musique.  Les autres arts imposent à l’esprit des créations définies, la musique est infinie dans les siennes.  Nous sommes obligés d’accepter les idées du poète, le tableau du peintre, la statue du sculpteur; mais chacun de nous interprète la musique au gré de sa douleur ou de sa joie, de ses espérances ou de son désespoir. (MD293-94)

Different sorts of social conductivity here—hyperconductivity of the musical figure, against the blessing of the (futility of the) nobility of an apartness of pure form.

Stendhal reports that the Neapolitan physician/philosopher Cotugno argued that greatest satisfaction from music required removal from proximity to other persons, the animal heat emanating from a foreign body having a pernicious effect upon enjoyment .61 The ear seems surrounded by a fragile buffer of what Stendhal’s translator  calls “a musical ether.”62 Balzac supplies a matching sociology of musical fields—differently spaced communities are the products of contrasting sound effects.

Beethoven arrives to roll up the Rossinian circus in “Gambara,” where the agitated composer is put on trial by a Milanese gentleman, uncompromised noble “[qui] laissait tomber un regard dédaigneux sur la foule,”63 “sans se laisser distraire par les oeillades bourgeoises qu’il recevait” (G 148).  In Paris on his errand of disenchantment, Count Andrea Marcosini crosses the path of an obscure rival of Rossini, and an exchange follows over the state of the music of the day.  It proves the project of the aristocrat to blunt the wave: “[de] battre en brèche la réputation européene de Rossini,” (G 168) this from the vantage of “l’admirateur forcené de Beethoven,” (G 168) again noticed to offer a lonely resistance to the music/figure blur: “[P]as encore compris. . . Beethoven. . . a reculé les bornes de la musique instrumentale, et personne ne l’a suivi” (G 167). Gambara receives a withering report of the degeneracy he ineptly imitates, as the Count exorcises Paris of the false messenger.  The Italian was an emissary from a Rossini-free Germany, i.e. from the ancien régime of France, and cruelly apprises the drunken composer:

Ces tournures uniformes, cette banalité de cadences, ces éternelles fioritures jetées au hazard, n’importe la situation, ce monotone crescendo que Rossini a mis en vogue et qui est aujourd’hui partie intégrante de toute composition; enfin  ces rossignolades forment une sorte de musique bavarde, caillette, parfumée, qui n’a de mérite que par le plus ou moins de facilité du chanteur et la légereté de la vocalisation. L’école italienne a perdu de vue la haute mission de l’art. Au lieu de d’élever la foule jusqu’à elle, elle est descendue jusqu’à la foule;  elle n’a conquis sa vogue qu’en acceptant des suffrages de toutes mains, en s’adressant aux intelligences vulgaires qui sont en majorité.  Cette vogue est un escamotage de carrefour.  Enfin, les compositions de Rossini en qui cette musique est personifiée, ainsi que celles des maîtres qui procèdent plus ou moins de lui, me semblent dignes tout au plus d’amasser dans les rues le people autour d’un orgue de Barbarie, et d’accompagner les entrechats de Polichinelle.  J’aime encore mieux la musique française, et c’est tout dire.  Vive la musique allemande!64

Gambara, agrees that Rossini is the problem, that “un Parisien préfère une décoration à un chef d’oeuvre musical,” (G 219) but makes the error of seeking to top him on his own, mistaken grounds.  But the madness of the musicalized figure is not vulnerable to critique from within its terms—Opera remains the fallen realm of the mimetic.  And hence the irony of his cry: “Où est Beethoven. . . pour que je sois bien compris.” (G 194)  “Gambara” would be the musical “Chef d’oeuvre inconnu,” with an outcome suggesting the basis of the failure of the painter Frenhofer, the failure indeed being that of all paintings, of the figure in general.

“Balzac had a special fondness for the Germans,” Adorno noticed .65 And why would their music be described as corrective, and the French as healthy to the extent to which it is attached? Germany was the land of the self-removal of the glamorously exiled aristocrat, “banni de sa patrie,” (G 149) as is the Milanese nobleman himself, identifying with this group in flight from the values of the Revolution. Fernand Baldensperger estimates the number of émigrés leaving the country, mostly for Germany, between 1789 and 1797 and returning between 1797 and 1815 at 180,000. He argues that the loss of society of this group caused them to associate with the savage, the primitive,66 and the German, we can add, this being clear in Mme de Staël. For De Maistre the passage through Germany was the refining fire of the exiled aristocrats, the condition of their recoming themselves.  Mme De Staël, a favorite author of Balzac reports on salient contrasts, and in speaking of the inner-directed Germans describes the spiritual qualities associated with the French noble display of interiority:

Les écrivains allemands, éminemment élévés au-dessus de leurs juges les gouvernent au lieu d’en recevoir la loi.  De là vient que ces écrivains ne se perfectionnnent guère par la critique.

Les français pensent et vivent dans les autres. . . et l’on sent, dans la plupart de leurs ouvrages, que leur principal but n’est pas l’object qu’ils traitent, mais l’effet qu’ils produisent.  Les écrivains français sont toujours en société, alors même qu’ils composent, car ils ne perdent pas de vue les jugements, les moqueries et le goût à la mode. . . . .

En France, on ne lit guère un ouvrage que pour en parler; en Allemagne, ou l’on vit presque seul, l’on veut que l’ouvrage même tienne compagnie; et quelle société de l’âme peut-on faire avec un livre qui ne serait lui-même que l’écho de la société!67

Mme de Staël contrasts the disgrace of the French, whose proneness to mimetic volatility produces the proximity of a social clotting that contrasts with the Germans (i.e. the older French nobles), the forest people who know how to make the decent space for themselves—a properly vernacular conviviality–that is the discouragement of this vile suggestibility: “Un François s’ennuieroit d’être seul de son avis comme d’être seul dans sa chamble. [. . . ] On a fait la révolution de France, en 1789, en envoyant un courier qui, d’un village à l’autre, crioit: armez vous , car le village voisin s’est armé; et tout le monde se trouva contre tout le monde, ou plutôt contre personne” (DA II 112-13). “Les triomphes de la plaisanterie se renouvellent sans cesse en France; dans un temps il convient d’être religieux, dans un autre de ne l’être pas; dans un temps d’aimer sa femme, dans l’autre de ne pas parôitre pas ave elle. [. . . ] Quel mal cet esprit d’imitation feroit-il parmi les Allemands!  Leur supériorité consiste dans l’indépendence de l’esprit, dans l’amour de la retraite, dans l’originalité individuelle” (DA II 114-15). Music was a boundary issue, and Beethoven restored a lost territoriality.68

As the story ends, Gambara, no longer strung out, has been cured of his project to top Rossini, and this health takes the form of renouncing fame for the status of busker on les Champs Elysées.  Now beyond the morbid affliction of rivalrous spite, he smiles to hear the complaint of a passer by: “Quel dommage que l’on ne veuille pas nous donner aux Italiens les opéras de Rossini que nous ne connaissons pas!  Car voilà, certes, de la belle musique” (G 227). “Gambara” concludes with the return of the now (disastrously) sexually functional pair of “Massimilla Doni.” The Rossinified Emilio and Massimilla, now wed, reappear for the only other time in La Comédie humaine, to confront the  recovering Rossiniite—“Cet homme,” the husband says, “est resté fidèle a l’IDEAL que nous avons tué” (G 228). Menaced at one point with the fate of a Fernhoffer, Gambara had become Beethoven.

Cousins Pons and Ursule Mirouët are yoked by the co-presence of nobly impervious Schmucke, the helpessness of the Beethovenian superego of the two novels—as morally omnipotent as he is socially incompetent.  Miserably ineffective against the velocities of the Rossinian tsunami, Beethoven the redeemer arrives at a moment of immense pathos in Cousin Pons. Thomas Mann wrote to Adorno that it was his project to produce in Doktor Faustus the “novel about music itself.”69 No less ambitioned, Balzac’s fiction depicts music as its own worst enemy, music dividing against itself, music of or against the theatre, music as either the maddening of the figure or the solution to it in pacifying form, each warring alternative attached to a member of a cohabiting pair of pit musicians: while Pons is stricken with a fragilizing hyperfigurality, Schmucke respresents an innocence of the disgrace of the music/figure collapse that poisons the vulnerable yearnings of his friend.  If music is the health of the idealization of the voice, then bonding of word to melody is the alienation of this miracle to the infections of worldly appetite. Pons continues as it deepens the work of Le Neveu de Rameau: as in Diderot, the theme is the inappropriateness of a music as amplification of that indiscriminating sociability that facilitated the new transactions that were the ruin of the immemorial confidential conviviality of a vernacular society.70

Once—like Gambara—a scarcely visible rival of Rossini, Pons briefly had himself ambitions as a composer.  Failing as a producer, he becomes a collector of genius, hoarding in his garret a jumbled mess of paintings and statues, lost masterpieces all that he alone has had the cunning to recognize as such.  Music becomes figure—Through his mania revealed is the labial aspect of the effervescence of Rossini’s language, the tippiness of it, not just always on the verge of collapsing back into the dangers represented by the figure, this music—treason of it—produces an effect of the amplification of the figure—music of desire’s explosion beyond need, that shame from which pure sound preserves. Thus Pons perpetuates rivalry with Rossini by other means, one upping him on the basis of shared pathology—resembling Gambara here–through that logical extension of his music that is the blood sport of collectionism .71 Pons’s timid use of his stash for social advance exposes him to the every form of Parisian villainy.  The betrayal delivers the would-be upwardly mobile figure-accumulator—in panicked decline—to the pitiless opportunisms too complex for this guileless creature to understand let alone best.

“Le sentiment des allemands,” wrote Stendhal, “trop dégagé des liens terrestres, et trop nourri d’imagination, tombe facilement dans ce que nous appelons en France le genre niais.”72 Agreeing on the type while reversing the spin, Balzac depicts the diffidently authentic Schmucke, genially out of sorts with his world—immense in dopey defiance—who lives his preference for pure music, savingly incomprehending of the sociabilities of Paris that have depraved his recognition-straved friend.  Genius of the intimacy of creation and consumption, undividing the labor of artist and audience, “Schmucke, appartenant tout entier à la musique, compositeur pour lui-même, regardait toutes les petites bêtises de son ami, comme un poisson qui aurait reçu un billet d’invitation regarderait une exposition de fleurs au Luxembourg.”73 An out-of-placeness of Physiocratic abundance: “Ce véritable et noble Allemand était à la fois le spectacle et les spectateurs, il se faisait de la musique à lui-même.  Il habitait Paris comme un rossignol habite sa forêt.”74 Schmucke brings music into its own: freedom of internal exile, however infinitesimal, and although impotently yearning, it is released from bondage to the figure, “faste de subsistence,” nobly relieved of abjection to audience and “criticism.”

Cascading woes exploding from indistinctions of figure and form take Pons down and out. The grieving German performs for the dying friend, offering a foretaste of heavenly harmonies. Music unlimited—im Freien despite suffocating circumstances—he plays before open windows against those provocatively membraned spaces of the toxic collection: “[Schmucke] fut à la fois Beethoven et Paganini, le créateur et l’interprète!  Intarissable comme le rossignol, sublime comme le ciel sous lequel il chante, varié, feuillu comme la forêt qu’il emplit de roulades. . . . ”75 Inseparability of revolt and sublime acquiescence, at the edge of death an exchange between friends, beyond aspirations to visibility, the performance of the passivity of a defiance, performance of the end of an (invisible) lifetime.  A music that addresses in privacy, music of the “sacrifice beyond all reward” (Corneille), music as wild sanctuary, here, the unusability of it—a Physiocratic sharing of wealth that protects it from mobilization as capital.  But this rapturously faint rebecoming domestic of art in this Rossini-free zone—music of subsistence, haunting of the Parisian night by the German forest—fails to impede the motorization of the depravity of the Rossinification of the social field in this novel of the perpetuation of the Tocquevillian process in overdrive.

In his autobiographical essay Boutès, Quignard offers an example of the French longevity of the lesson of morally contrasting musics.  While Odysseus binds himself to listen, Boutès plunges helplessly into the sea, into the song of the Sirens. There is, here argued, the prudence of a music that “knows how to lose itself” (music of “la Contre-Sirène), an art that protects the listener from killing fascination, restoring him to himself as it does so: “la musique de la cithara . . . fait obstacle à la puissance sidérante du chant animale.”76 This art—self-limitation of fascination—that “ordonne le retour,” is to be contrasted with the music that “ôte le retour,” blocking the return of desire to the self” (B 18). This last is “[la] voix ‘acritique’ c’est-à-dire non séparée, indistincte, continue” (16-17). The becoming word of music was the becoming endless of the state of fascination, music of the image: “La musique experte en ‘perdition’ n’a pas besoin de se protéger avec des images” (B 19).

The basis of the authority of the art of Beethoven as refeudalization, as poverty restorative in Pons is clarified in Ursule Mirouët, where the protagonist becomes a fine pianist due to the guidance of the returning Schmucke. The mother of Ursule was the daughter of a harpsichordist murdered by the Revolution,77 and the disassociating aspect of German music was a resource to protect from the rapacities attached to the new order, “un siècle où les rangs se nivellent, ou la manie de l’égalité met de plain-pied tous les individus et menace tout” (UM189). Here, for the reader of the Mémoires de deux jeunes mariées, is the memory of the gender-specific damage of the Rossini effect: “La pauvre Ursule achevait la symphonie en la de Beethoven.  Avec la ruse permise à l’innocence, l’enfant que son parrain avait éclairée et à qui les héritiers déplaisaient, choisit cette musique grandiose et qui doit être étudiée pour être comprise, afin de dégoûter les femmes de leurs envie. Plus la musique est belle, moins les ignorants la goûtent” (UM 157-58, my emphasis).

Again, the music is understood to be text-free: Beethoven is the representative of “le seul art qui parle à la pensée par la pensée même, sans secours de la parole” (UM 187). Ursule is able to resist her enemies as “Les incrédules n’aiment pas la musique, céleste langage développé par le catholicisme qui a pris les noms des sept notes dans un de ses hymnes: chaque note est la première syllable des sept premiers vers de l’hymne à saint Jean” (UM 86).

Another Beethoven sighting, this from Le lys dans la vallée, one confirming the character of Balzac’s investment.  Here Félix de Vandenesse, critical at once of the Napoleonic order as well as that of the impotence of the returning Bourbons—all “polichinelles,” Balzac’s term as well for Rossini78—finds proud retreat to a private sphere, in the remote, self-sustaining estate of Henriette de Mortsauf.  With the center of power unbearable, nestled back into the strategic retreat of the melancholy of luxurious survivalism, autonomous subjectivity discovers its authentic remains within the dream world of the hard bitten anonymity of provincial greatness.  Félix speaks wordlessly to Henriette through virtuosically chosen arrangements of flowers.  Association, again, of the composer with the confidentiality of a nobly constricted communication. Audience of one: “Aucune déclaration. . .  de passion insensée n’eut de contagion plus violente que ces symphonies de fleurs, ou mon désir. . . me faisait deployer les efforts que Beethoven exprimait avec ses notes; retours profounds sur lui-même, élans prodigieux vers le ciel” (Ldv 163. Musico-socio-ecotherapy of Beethoven—restoration of the doomed Tocquevilian space. Beethoven was the genius of the sound world of an intractable localism, yet there was the self-neutralizing universality of this particularity. The universalization of an aristocratic ideal, therefore, but the pathos of its being negated as preserved. The irony of France coming home to itself through the German forest—the self-recovery through self-alienation being not without its corrosive residue.  Balzac’s knowledge was that of Stendhal: “On obtient un effet d’un moment qui, un quart d’heure après, crée un sentiment de répugnance.”79 The music towards which all art strives—a mimetic minimalism—was the rapidity of trap-and-release from desiring attention, simultaneity of the self-enchanted and the self-disenthralled.

And there is reciproal clarification to be had through the juxtaposition of Balzac’s music views with the positive evaluations of Rossini in the fashion victims Hegel and Nietzsche.  From the perspective of the novelist’s view of the relation of form to figure, Hegel’s opinion of Rossini was naïve in its enthusiasm. “No other music excels it,” the philospher wrote to his wife, in September 1834, after hearing Rossini’s Otello.  “As long as I have money to go to the Italian opera and to pay for my return trip, I shall remain in Vienna.”80 No surprise, thus, when Rossini assumes a pivotal role in his aesthetics. Art always involves the disappearance of an object of desiring attention, Hegel argues—“The ear has scarcely grasped it before it is mute” he says81—the point made, at least implicitly, from Aristotle to Freud.  Mallarmé speaks for the category of the aesthetic itself as he writes that “Destruction was my Beatrice.” All depends upon the location of the  agency of destruction—whether immanent or external to a resented form.  In its “cancellation of spatial objectivity” (HA II 890), music “does not allow the external to assume in our eyes a fixed existence as something external” (HA II 890).

Decisive is the point, now, that removed is the sense of our own compromising, self-fragilizing imagined role in a violent disappearance of the desired object: “Now, with sound, music relinquishes the element of an external form and a perceptible visibility,” and hence “there is no wish to consume or destroy them” (HA II 890). Music “feels satisfaction in its perception of itself,” he says, of that reflexivity that commands angry attention, trigger of the sequence of Hegel’s negativity (HA II 939). But this self-enjoyment is released from threat, as at the same time you are freed from the self—condemning drive to exercise yourself against what would have been its threat to your own illusion of omnipotence.  The genius of music, for Hegel, is that of the perfection of the deniability of violent intent–its status as generating an experience of double indemnity, as undoing an effect of the reversibility of violence that remains attached to the figural.  As absolving confusion, “Music cannot narrate,” said Boileau. “The passions cannot be depicted with the full scale they require.” Music steals the show—through deniability of the agency of virtual violence and its reversibility–and it is Hegel who explains the point that had been masked in the analysis of the self-recovery process that appears in Kant.

Rossini’s critics may “decry his music as a mere empty tickling of the ear” (HAII 949). But the complaint trivializes the advanced role of this triviality—and Nietzsche will here agree—for there is its health in the weakness of an attachment to the figure with its triggering relation to a self-diminishingressentiment:

For it is true that all too often Rossini is unfaithful to his text and with his free melodies soars over all the heights, and so the result is that we can only choose whether to stick to the subject-matter and grumble at the music that no longer harmonizes with it, or alternatively to abandon the subject matter and take unhindered delight in the free inspirations of the composer and enjoy with fullness of soul the soul that they contain. (HA II 949)

There is progress in the space he allows for improvisation:

Thus when it is said, for instance, that Rossini makes things easy for the singers, this is only partly correct.  Indeed he makes it really difficult for them by so often referring them to the activity of their own musical genius.  If this really is genius, the resulting work of art has a quite peculiar attraction, because we have present before us not merely a work of art but the actual production of one.  In this completely living presence of art, all external conditions are forgotten—place, occasion, specific context in the act of divine service, the subject and sense of a dramatic situation; we no longer need or want any text; nothing at all is left beyond the universal note of feeling.  In that element the self-reposing soul of the executant artist abandons itself to this outpouring and in it he displays his inventive genius, his heart’s deep feeling, his mastery in execution and, so long as he proceeds with spirit, skill, and grace, he may even interrupt the melody with jokes, caprices, and virtuosity, and surrender to the moods and suggestions of the moment. (HA II 957)

Here “like a flash of lighting, the inner conception and the execution of the imagination of genius in their most momentary fusion and most quickly passing life” (HA II 958). Improvisation—self-delight as the entire simultaneity of the there-and-gone—double action amplification in both directions of the constitutive features of art in general, and of music in particular, the special feature of which is the particular intensity with which this occurs.  Where has guilt gone? The reader as agent of revenge?—unlocatable now as everywhere at once, invisibilized is violence as driven into form itself.  A difference is produced that achieves ritual escape velocity, an identification born unbloodthirstily primed for its sequel.  The sonorized figure allowed for the silly society of a giddy fluidity of identifications, maximally volatile their multiple onsets, sunsets, resets—The fickleness of the atomized, as estheticized crowd in the undoing and redoing of its unanimity. Opera was the childhood illness of mass entertainment.

Balzac’s knowledge was that of Hegel: the musicalization of the figure involved a double action—in its volatilization of it effected is the denarrativization of the amplification of its provocation—the summoning of my desiring attention towards the compelling insult of its self love—and the making evanescent, becoming nothing of this threat, as it itself solves—immanently—the problem it poses, that being its threat to my self standing. Art, always a matter of the sizing of the circles of self love–the relation of them to the scales of an offensive prosperity to those of an intimidating justice.  The witness is doubly alienated in this process—from a native self-delight, and from the compensatory violence that follows, that counter-violence that allows the restoration of self love that the form had fleetingly interrupted. At issue is the experience at the inflection point—the ability to locate an agency of the violence at the point of the turn. The work takes a bullet for you, as it takes a bullet from you.  A question of agency, therefore, of the relation of narcissisms of infinite good to those of zero sum, of the relation of ritual to market society.  It is text-free music, for Balzac, that supplies the full achievement of this logic—speeding the sequence (i.e. your own virtual violence) into its unrecognizability as such that makes of music the perfect crime.  The aesthetic is the performance of a double indemnification, always, but the extent to which it gives an otherwise vulnerable self-delight a pass, removes it from ritual possibility, allowing a space for the economic, the peaceful violence of reciprocally challenging assertions of social centrality, varying according to the intensity with which I am intimidated or not by an experience of a reversibility of violence.

Daniel Sibony summarizes that point—frequently made by Derrida, for example—from which so much flows: “[L]e narcissisme implique de déformer l’autre pour mieux exister.”82 And the esthetic is a special case of the trouble: “un créateur célèbre l’identification en même temps que sa  cassure” (C 170)  And music for Hegel is a special case of the special case, a doubling down of narcissism, a self-limiting of the solicitation of desiring attention. Self-sceptical, music is self-containment self-contained, self-dismissing as self-enraptured, alienating the witness from his or her violent potential. It is a self-initiation of destruction of the envied perfection, the auto-initiation of its end, rage that is now preemptively driven into, rather than at, the form.

The incompletely contrasting situation of Frenhofer clarifies.  The fate of the painter illuminates the mythic residue that ghosts the aesthetic in general. As agent of the disappearance of a beautiful form, he, through his suicide, supplies the lesson of the reversibility of violence excited by the resented figure, lesson of the labiability of admiration, its intimidations blocking the development of the unembarrassed personalities required for the risk requirements of a dynamic market. Rossini was Frenhofer at the innocence of warp speed—the musicalization of what had been the teaching moment of the disaster is the indemnifying whirl of the process (now no longer guiltily recalled as the form alienates you from your violent potential) into an open-ended series of commercial effects.

In opera “music has [not entirely] torn itself from a content” (HA II 899), and so a step beyond Rossini was required, Hegel argued, if music was to be entirely an art that “even as it arises and exists vanishes once mor” (HA II 889). If this art is to be at one with its essence there must be a breaking with the figure. The spontaneity of the flow of wordless music would be the next step, and Nietzsche agreed.  The work of the Italian represented a health to be contrasted with what Wagner was about: “I should not know how to get along without Rossini,” Nietzsche said. But, “With just a little more impertinence,” he added, he could have achieved a text-free music that has “forgotten the world in contemplation of itself.”83 “Rossini would have had everybody sing nothing but la-la-la-la—and that would have made good rational sense.”84 This music of the self-lucidity of the illusion would maximize the liquidity in identification characterizing what Nietzsche called “the historical sense.”

But Balzac’s view was the more coherent, consequential, supplying as it does the integral perspective that goes missing in philosophy that ignores the sociological dimension.  Modernity constituted an ecology of interactions of forgetabilities, two rapidities of trap and release, Balzac sees—one of figure, one of form, each serving to support a contrasting sense of community. To analysis of Hegel and Nietzsche, Balzac adds his supplement of the pathos of higher lucidity regarding the historical aspect of the development of the irrepressibility of the silly subject, the productivity of the speed of the effects of identification to which it gave rise.  As musicalization turns the figure into a moving target for resentful attentions, denying through the volatilization its availability to ritual potential, sealed is the shift from at least the figure’s memory of the economy-stunting intimidations of myth to the unconstrained effervescence of an autonomous market. “Rossini has become indisputably, since the death of Canova, the greatest living artist of our time,” wrote Stendhal.  And he added, summarizing happily what would be the basis of the reserve of Balzac: “As to the verdict of posterity—how should I know?”85 Rossini, as supporting the instrumentalization of the de-monumentalization of experience, served ends that could be aesthetically struggled against only with the greatness of the poorest of means.

The philosophers don’t grasp what Balzac feels to be the contrasting social aspects of mimetic minimalisms. Noticed by Balzac is that there are two microloopings, two forms of identification as there-and-gone: those of figure, those of form—and that there is the sociology of their deployment. His view is that music’s powers—through the “musical ether” of Physiocratic space—are to be kept from bonding with the figure if the silly society, the America of Tocqeuville, is to be avoided. Musicalization—at least in Rossini—volatilizes identification with the figure, frothing effects of internal mediation to produce what was sought by Nietzsche: “To be good would be to identify very easilyand very rapidly.  It is thus a metamorphosis, as in the case of the actor.”86

Benjamin emphasizes that “Balzac’s gift was a prophetic one.”87 The legend of Beethoven as counter-revolutionary myth of the future can be associated with positions of the utopians who were his contemporaries—prophets Fourier, Proudhon, Considérant, and Perreymond—whose enchantingly preposterous anticipations  had a nostalgic cast, showing signs of their authors having rummaged through elements—to now unintentional comic effect—that had undergirded the ancien régime. Basis for a new society, the phalanstère of Fourier reproduced the scale and self-sufficiency of the introversion of the life world of the parish. “La proprieté c’est le vol” of Proudhon was the secular projection of the Catholic poverty ideal. Considérant together with Perreymond attached their utopian urbanism to Christian principles.88 The foundation of futurology was the sorrowful remainder.
Related is the pathos of the untimeliness of the solution of the Beethoven myth, inert witness unsupported by an actually existing resident aristocracy. The composer had achieved in isolation, and if only in the unearthliness of form, the freedom in apartness that had mostly vanished from the life of the nation.  Offered up as visionary were the now detached, no longer functional aspects of the past—the future as anachronism.  Idyll, however extraterritorial, this dream Beethoven collapsed the virtue of nostalgia with resigned clarity regarding the sterility of its regression. The composer represented the musicalization of the old nobility’s dignity, but this spiritualization of it—acknowlegement of impotence—had emptied the values of their sustaining basis. Adorno: “Tradition in a strict sense is incompatible with bourgeois society.”89 And powerless is critique when tradition clothes itself in the intransigence of the incorruption of forms, assigning itself as such the futility of a monopoly of innocence.

The name Beethoven shimmers with ambivalence—the utopian aspect neutralized by the absence of concrete alternative to a fallen present.  And thus the immemorial Frenchness of the melancholy grandeur of renunciation.  Beethoven was a future as adamantly old, an absurdly delicate hope—a reaction as fuite en avant—the only way backwards was fast forwards, and vice versa. Heirless, derelict of its landed reference, in Beethoven the ancien régimewith its Catholic/agricultural value of poverty prosperity, the residue of “nonidentity” survives on as irreversibly remote in the hopelessness of resigned indignation. In Balzac’s Beethoven, with its transformation of aristocracy into the archetype of it, the author brings the authority of that class to an end.  As the novelist saw him, Beethoven resembled nothing so much as a transcendental version of the Spanish peasant who resisted Napoleon, Carl Schmitt’s “partisan” warrior who preserves the local threatened by foreign occupation, an irregular who fights in darkness with the mockery of means to defend the autonomy of the sorry patch that his own king cares insufficiently to protect.  The audacities of the autochthonous here assume the form—in the exalted irreality of its Swedenborgian aspect—of the prospectlessness of a disembodied nobility. Adorno here grievously slights as he claims to respect the historical dimension: “[T]he productive forces of the bourgeoisie on the threshold of advanced capitalism were incarnated in him. . .  .  The resentment of the provincial . . . becomes the driving force of exact imagination.”90

But Adorno almost merits pardon for this disastrous view as he notices that “[Balzac’s] demeanor is that of the late Beethoven, dressed in a nightshirt, muttering furiously and painting giant-sized notes from his C-sharp minor quartet on the wall of his room” (NtL 125). Marx,91 Engels,92 Lukács93 and Wurmser94 praised the novelist for his tart grasp of real conditions. A tripleness of perception, rather, for finally something of an optical illusion was this Balzac as secretary of a fallen present, the present he fantasmagorically yearned from, towards a coincidence of past and future: Balzac was spinning so fast in opposite directions that he appeared to be standing still.

What is the meaning of the being put-to-music of the struggle?  Music may have been deployed against music, but music remained itself—central device of the liquifaction of European cultural capital, in the new compressions that were the suppression of an aristocratic experience of space.
The estheticization of the split may have been an instrument of the discovery of the tensions, but inasmuch as they appear now only as form, mitigated is the split as much as it is maddened as there is the projection of it onto another scene, where awareness of differences are the dying of them, dying into the intensities of mere opinions–of which there are always more.  A transfer, thus, of the struggle away from an economy of zero sum to one of the evil of infinite good. The art of the tension was the possibility of the monetizability of it, its recovery as a liquid asset, the productive liquidity of difference, the viral marketing of difference; negativity as retail.  The judgment of taste, the blandness of this category—the becoming economic of what had been lived as the denial of it—was that of a suspended sentence, one infinitely so, as without worldly consequence other than that of the postures of the Parisian pandemic of the instabilities of centrality.  The struggle may have been finally the temporary illusion of one, for the musicalization of experience was the dissolution of wealth as substance. Through submission to a toxic allure—agency and symptom of its coming indistinction—a proud class is smilingly groomed into the inexorability of its absorption and defeat.


1. Lettres à Madame Hanska 1832-1844, ed. Roger Pierrot, Paris: Lafont (Bouqins), 1990, 171.

2. Schopenhauer wrote that the success of Rossini had “spread over the whole globe,” his melodies “have regaled every heart.” Parerga and Paralipmena, trans. E. F. J. Payne, London: Oxford University Press, 1974, Vol. II, 462.

3. Vie de Rossini, Paris: Gallimard, 1992, 438.

4. Lettres à Madame Hanska 211. But Stendhal’s view of Rossini was not uninflected with horrified awareness of its economic aspect–his music contaminated by the spirit of “le gros financier ivre d’or.” Vie de Rossini, 287. See also his reference to the “Jewish” aspect of the music. (300).

5. Vie de Rossini, 45.

6. “Rossini se voit le premier des artistes vivants. Quel rang lui donnera la posterité? C’est ce que j’ignore,” Stendhal concludes in indifference. Vie de Rossini, 438.  Easy listening was easy forgetting. “a rapid succession of unconnected flourishes merely beguiles the ear for a moment.” 441. “un homme comme Rossini dont la vie ne laisse d’autres traces que le souvenir des sensations agréables.” 36.

7. Ursule Mirouët, Paris:Livre de poche, 1968, 178.

8. Herbert Samuel Lindenberger, Opera: The Extravant ArtIthaca: Cornell University Press, 1984, 56, 152, 166, 133, 137, 168.

9. Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. Edmund Jephcott, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002, 137.

10. De la Démocratie en Amérique, vol. II, In Oeuvres, ed. André Jardin (Paris: Gallimard, 1992) vol. II, 742.

11. De la Démocratie, vol. II, 742.

12. Music at the Limits, Edward Saïd, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008, 127.

13. “The Case of Wagner,” in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann, New York: The Modern Library, 1968, 644. >

14. La Duchesse de Langeais, Paris: Livre de poche, 1958, 20. The novel, containing beaming remarks about Rossini, dates from 1834, perhaps the year of Balzac’s first exposure to Beethoven. Enthusiasm is absent in subsequent texts in which there is music discussion: Le Lys dans la vallée appears in 1835. Both “Gambara”  and “Massimilla Doni” are from 1839. Both Ursule Mirouët and the Mémoires de deux jeunes mariées date from 1841, Cousin Pons from 1847.

15. “[L]’antiquité du nom, la plus précieuse qualité d’un homme.” Le Lys dans la vallée, Paris: Livre de poche, 1995), 87. Social transformation was monkey business— underauthorized advance associated with animal disgrace: “Les parvenus sont comme les singes desquels ils ont l’adresse: on les voit en hauteur, on admire leur agilité pendant l’escalade; mais, arrivés à la cime, on n’aperçoit plus que leurs côtés honteux.” Le Lys dans la vallée, 95. Disrupted in these circumstances is the proper link between class and genius: “Les grands génies n’ont vécu et travaillé que soutenus par la protection et le suffrage de nobles familles.” “Du Droit d’aînesse,” in Henri Clouard ed., Balzac: pages sociales et politiques, Paris: Librairie nationale, 1910, 158.

16. Stendhal was uninterested in purely instrumental music.  “Est-ce que jamais de la vie on a fait recommener une sonate?” He asks. “Les instruments ne touchent guère. Ils font rarement couler des larmes.” (367) A weakness of German school: “du chant pour la clarinette, du chant pour le basson, mais rien ou presque rien pour cet instrument admirable lorsqu’il ne crie pas: la voix humaine” (431). And, backhanded praise for its strength: “La tête la plus méthodique et d’une patience allemande réussira cent fois mieux au piano que l’âme de Pergolèse” (367).

17. Vie de Rossini, 439.

18. Robert Bouyer, in his 1905 Le Secret de Beethoven, sought to prove that the composer was French and not German—his father having been born in Flanders.

19. Le Courrier des théâtres, Jan. 13, 1828. Quoted in Benjamin Walton,Rossini in Restoration Paris: The Sound of Modern Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 7.

20. Nineteenth-Century Music, trans. J. Bradford Robinson (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 8.  From Walton, I also know of Bernd Sponheuer, “Beethoven vs Rossini—Anmerkungen zu einer ästhetischen Kontroverse des 19. Jahrunderts,” in Berich über den internationalen musikwissenschaftaftlichen Kongress Bayreuth 1981, ed. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling and Sigrid Wiesmann (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1981), 398-403. For a differently motivated version of the pairing, see Sanna Pederson, “A. B. Marx and Berlin Concert Life,” 19th-Century Music, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall, 1994), 87-107.  Rossini was the main target of Marx, criticized from the vantage of Beethoven, the idealistic German.

21. Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998), 46.

22. To composer Hippolyte Chelard, in Correspondence, ed. Roger Pierrot, Vol.  IV (Paris: Garnier, 1960), 739.  Rossini is mentioned 28 times in the correspondence with Mme Hanska, between 1832 and 1844.  The 1842 Le Contrat de mariage was dedicated to Rossini. See Liliane Lascoux, “Balzac et Rossini, histoire d’une amitié,” L’année balzacienne, 2005, 369.

23. Jean-Pierre Barricelli, Balzac and Music. Its Place and Meaning in His Life and Work (New York: Garland, 1990), 145.

24. Paola Dècina Lombardi, “Balzac, le silence de Rossini et le ‘suicide de l’art,’” in Balzac et l’Italie. Lectures croisées. (Paris-Musées/Edition des Cendres, 2003), 108. See also Liliane Lascoux, 382.

25. From Balzac’s perspective there was reason to suspect Rossini of “flexibility,” on account of the casual ease with which the Napoleon sympathizer became the official composer of Charles X.  The most superficial of studies of the operas reveals another basis of suspicion, above all in the corrosively jolly depictions of liquidities of caste.   There are the phony aristocrats of La Cenerentola and L’italiana in Algeri.  For the coronation of Charles X in 1825, the composer wrote Il viaggio a Reims–mocking everybody and everything. This show, with a self-delighted, unselfconscious complicity, offers up unsolemn depiction of trivial, deracinated nobles traveling to France to honor the new king.  But what Rossini portrays with relish, Balzac depicts only bitterly—with or without humor attached.

26. Marianne into Battle: Republican Imagery and Symbolism in France, 1789-1880, trans. Janet Lloyd (Cambridge and Paris: Cambridge University Press/Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1981), 37.

27. Key term of praise for Beethoven in Hoffmann,  See E.T.A. Hoffmann: Kreisleriana, The Poet and the Composer, Musical Writings, ed. David Charlton, trans. Martyn Clarke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 18.

28. “Karajan président,” in Le Nouvel Observateur, no. 2265, 3-9 April, 2008, 66.

29. On the organic aspect: “De ceux que j’ai vus savoir la musique, l’un me disait l’avoir apprise de son père, un autre de sa tante, un autre de son cousin, quelques-uns croyaient l’avoir toujours sue. Un de leurs amusements est de chanter avec leurs femmes et leurs enfants les psaumes à quatre parties; et l’on est tout étonné d’entendre sortir de ces cabanes champêtres l’harmonie forte et mâle de Goudimel, depuis si longtemps oubliée de nos savants artistes.” Lettre à D’Alembert (Paris: Garnier Flammarion, 1967), 135-36.

30. L’angélus; La Chambre d’ivoire; L’écrivain Sirieix (Paris: Gallimard “Folio,” 2001), 15, 16.

31. La Voix de l’alto (Paris: Gallimard, 2001).

32. L’angélus, 69.

33. Tocqueville on the informality of the conditions of the local: “On aurait donc bien tort de croire que l’ancien régime fut un temps de servilité et de dépendance.  Il y régnait beaucoup plus de liberté que de nos jours; mais c’était une espèce de liberté irrégulière et intermittente, toujours contractée dans la limite des classes, toujours liée à l’idée d’exception et de privilège, qui permettait. . . de braver la loi. . . . .” L’Ancien régime et la révolution (Paris: Gallimard, 1967), 204-5.

34. From “Massimilla Doni,” in “Le Chef d’oeuvre inconnu,” (Paris: Livre de poche, 1970), 290.

35. Tous les matins du monde (Paris: Gallimard, 1993).  See also La Haine de la musique (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1996) and La Leçon de musique (Paris: Gallimard, 2002).

36. Ravel (Paris: Minuit, 2006).  Recently rediscovered is the related film script,Le Violon de Crémone, Louise de Vilmorin (Paris: Gallimard, 2008)

37. La Chambre des enfants (Paris: Gallimard, 1960), 103-154.

38. See also Pierre Jourde, La Cantatrice avariée (Paris: L’esprit des Péninsules, 2008), and André Tubeuf, La Quatorzième valse (Paris: Actes sud, 2008).

39. From Le Temps retrouvé, in À la recherche du temps perdu, Vol. IV (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), 425.  Sartre’s use of “Some of these days you’ll miss me honey,” in La Nausée continues the pattern.  The music envy of Céline: taking note of his description of the primacy of music in his work, its function ”[de] tricher en musique l’horreur de vivre,” a critic writes that his texts are to be divided into musical genres, the novels are concertos, or symphonies, the correspondence his chamber music. But the hierarchy is to be contested, as the author spoke of the entirety of his production as “ma petite musique.” Philippe Lançon, “Céline et la vache matière,” in Libération, Nov. 29, 2007,  III.

40. See Liliane Lascoux, “Balzac et Rossini, histoire d’une amitié,” L’Année balzacienne, 2005, 367. Adorno: “Balzac’s novels, archetypes of the  genre, are musical in their flowing quality.” “Reading Balzac,” in Notes to Literature Vol. I, ed. Rolf Tiedemann; trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 124.

41. Nov. 14, Letter 131. Lettres à Madame Hanska, 1832-1844, ed. Roger Pierrot (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1990), 419.  That did not mean that music was culturally primary, however.  Music may be superior to literature, but literature, as the self-awareness of music, was capable of subsuming or (to use Hegel) sublating music.  This would be Balzac’s response to that body of literature haunted by its failure to be music. (In his idealizing of the composer, it helped that Balzac knew little of his music and less about the man.)

42. Hoffmann was also at once hostile to the Italian: “Rossini, admittedly a frivolous composer and therefore not worthy of true art.”  In his operas “what matters is neither character, nor situation, nor any other requirement of the drama; accordingly, the words, regardless of rhythm and declamation, serve only as an incidental vehicle for strings of notes, forming successions of flourishes that titillate the ear, or justified merely by fashionable taste. . . . “ E. T. A. Hoffman: Kreisleriana, 441.
Other hostile evaluations of Rossini were available.  Henri-Montan Berton published in 1821 an anti-Rossini pamplet, De la musique mécanique et la musique philosophique, denounces the roulade—meaningless surfaces, associates with the gothic. I know of this from Benjamin Walton, p. 92. Also there was Joseph d’Ortigue, De la Guerre des dilettanti, ou la révolution opérée par M. Rossini dans l’opéra français; et des rapports qui existent entre la musique, la littérature et les arts (Paris: L’Advocat, 1829) See Walton, 174.

43. There is a mismatch between the level of enthusiasm expressed and an apparent lack of interest in taking advantage of occasions to hear the works of the composer, opportunities plentifully frequent in the Paris of the July Monarchy–Between 1828 and 1848 96% of the Conservatoire concerts included at least one work by Beethoven. (See Beate Angelika Kraus, Beehove-Rezeption in Frankreich: Von ihren Anfangen bis zum Untergang des Second Empire (Bonn: Beethoven-Haus, 2001), 109.
Balzac’s appears to have been an intentionally inadequate knowledge of Beethoven, with his willful vagueness about his work serving the drama of a false sense of the estrangement of an unreconstructed outsider, an exaltingly disembodied figure, exaggeratedly extraterritorial in relation to the French tradition, in relation to the taste for Italian opera.

44. “Reading Balzac,” in Notes to Literature Vol. I, ed. Rolf Tiedemann; trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 133.

45. Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau, Philosophie rural, ou économie générale et politique de l’agriculture, réduite à l’ordre immuable des lois physiques et morales, qui assurent la prospérité des empire. Reprint of the edition of Amsterdam, 1764. (Scientia Verlag Aalen, 1972), 162.  The most thorough study of the movement is by Georges Weulersse, Le Mouvement physiocratique en France, 2 Vols. (Paris: Alcan, 1910).  For the movement in context, see Louis Dumont, Homo aequalis I; Genèse et épanouissement de l’idéologie économique (Paris: Gallimard, 1977).

46. Paris, capital of conspicuous consumption, is condemned as a place where people changed their furninshings, the sale of which provided wealth for “fripons.” See Mirabeau, L’ami des hommes (Avignon, 1757). I refer to the Paris edition of 1883, 101.

47. L’état culturel (Paris: Fallois, 1991).

48. Le Curé de Tours (Paris: Pocket, 1999), 97.

49. Critique of Judgment, trans. James Creed Meredith (New York: Oxford University Press, 1952), 195-196.

50. Hegel’s Aesthetics, trans. T. M. Knox, Vol. II (Oxford University Press, 1975), 889.

51. Daybreak, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 462.

52. Music would be a “telephism,” to use the term of Starobinski to describe the spear of Achilles which can alone cure the wound it inflicts. Le Remède dans le mal (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), 191 ff.

53. Vie de Rossini, 425.

54. In E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, the outrageous protagonist also sings the same piece. Trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Penguin, 1999), 152.  Another example of misuse from Schopenhauer: “At a large choral society dinner I once witnessed how they [Germans] sneeringly chanted through the menu to the melody of his [Rossini’s] immortal ‘Di Tanti Palpiti.’ Impotent envy.” Parerga and Paralipmena, trans. E. F. J. Payne (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), Vol. II, 462.
Sarrasine is the sterility of embodied sound. The musicalization of the figure, the sonorous amplification of its disgrace, here associated with castration, is associated by Balzac with reproductive dysfunction, in general.

55. Mémoires des jeunes mariés, in La Comédie humaine, Vol. I, ed. Marcel Bouteron (Paris: Gallimard, 1951), 153.

56. “Je viens d’entendre, l’âme épanouie par les plaisirs permis d’un heureux mariage, la céleste musique de Rossini que j’avais entendue l’âme inquiète, tourmentée à mon insu par les curiosités de l’amour.” (236)

57. Béatrix, ed. Vincenette Claude Pichois (Paris: Flammarion, 1979), 140.

58. “Préface,” to Béatrix, 20.

59. Roland Barthes, The Language of Fashion, trans. Andy Stafford (New York: Berg, 2006), 116.

60. “Massimila Doni,” 236.

61. Vie de Rossini, 50. (back)

62. Life of Rossini, trans. Richard Coe (London: Calder, 1956), 17.  For the French version, see Vie de Rossini, 50.

63. “Gambara,” 147.

64. Sarrasine. Gambara. Massimilla Doni. (Paris: Gallimard “Folio,” 2007), 101.

65. “Reading Balzac,” in Notes to Literature, Vol. I, ed. Rolf Tiedemann; trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 124.  See also Martine Gärtner, Balzac et l’Allemagne (Paris: l’Harmattan, 1999).

66. Le Mouvement des idées dans l’émigration française (1789-1815) (Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1925). See also Ghislain de Diesbach, Histoire de l’émigration, 1789-1814 (Paris: Perrin, 1998).

67. De Staël, De l’Allemagne, Vol. I (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1968), 160.

68. In Les Misérables the ancien régime survives on as the lonely music of the returning aristocracy: “C’était un vieux gentilhomme émigré, aveugle et ruiné, qui jouait de la flûte dans son grenier pour se désennuyer.” Vol. II  (Paris: Garnier Flammarion, 1967), 25.

69. Mann to Adorno, 30 December 1945, in Theodor W. Adorno and Thomas Mann, Correspondence, 1943-55, eds., Christophe Gödde and Thomas Sprecher; trans. Nicholas Walker (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006), 12.

70. In both Diderot and Balzac’s Pons the fall of music is associated with an appetitive, culinary aspect.  From the vantage of the Rousseauist view of music in Balzac, one could argue that the lesson of Pons is that Rameau was his own nephew: the social promiscuities of the one are morally indistinguishable from the opera of the other—a sharing of the perversion of the sonorous figure.

71. The hidden museum is the guilty knowledge of the moral advantage of music over the figure. What is musicalization?— narrative without punishment. 

72. Vie de Rossini, 53.

73. Cousin Pons, ed. Maurice Allem (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 1956), 52.

74. Cousin Pons, 17. Romain Rolland on Germany, where there is no esthetic division of labor: “Un pays ou tous sont musiciens.”

75. Cousin Pons, 258. In Vie de Rossini, Stendhal also associates pure sounds of instrumental music with “the dreamy souls” (75) of “the tranquil and patient Germany” (42), of “the forests of Germany” (43).
While Balzac sees Beethoven’s music in Platonic terms as existing largely apart from performance, or performed only in private exaltation, Rossini’s operas are associated with the abjection of their performance. On the history of the Platonic view of music as underperformed or unperformed, see Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

76. Boutès (Paris: Galilée, 2008), 19.

77. Ursule Mirouët, ed. Renaud Matignon (Paris: Livre de poche, 1968), 36.

78. Le lys dans la vallée, ed. Gisèle Séginger (Paris: Livre de poche, 2002), 59.

79. Vie de Rossini, 378.

80. Briefe von un an Hegel (Leipzig, 1887), 154.

81. Hegel’s Aesthetics, Vol. II, 892.

82. Création. Essai sur l’art contempor (Paris: Seuil, 2005), 167.

83. Daybreak, 145.

84. The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1974), 135.  Schopenhauer: “His music requires no words at all and therefore produces its full effects when rendered by instruments alone.” The World as Will and Representation, trans. E. F. J. Payne (New York: Dover, 1966), 262.

85. Vie de Rossini, 407.

86. Das Philosophenbuch, trans. Angèle K. Marietti (Paris: Aubier-Flammarion, 1969), 85.

87. The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 760.

88. Nicholas Papayanis, Planning Paris Before Haussmann (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).

89. “Thesen über Tradition,” in Ohne Leitbild (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1966), 310.

90. “Reading Balzac,” in Notes to Literature, Vol. I, ed. Rolf Tiedemann; trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 121.

91. Capital, trans. By Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling (New York: International, 1967), Vol. I, 589.

92. Letter to Margaret Harkness, in Lee Baxandall and Stefan Morowski, eds.Marx and Engels on Literature and Arts(Saint Louis: Telos Press, 1973), 114-16.

93. Writer and Critic and Other Essays, trans.  (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1971), 61-88.

94. La Comédie inhumaine (Paris: Gallimard, 1970).

#An Ear for Evil: The Sociology of Balzac's Music Fiction#Douglas Collins#Vol. 8 Issue 1 Fall 2009