The Recognition Epiphany

Why has more not been written on the sublime jouissance of unforeseen recognition in music? When we undexpectedly hear a melody, a certain arrangement of timbres, a harmonic twist from some buried past, we disintegrate in the most thrilling of ways. The world is affirmed, time stops. The music steals in before the void, separating me from myself, insisting on a visceral impingement of past and present critical awarenesses. Recognition is ‘a time of fascination’ (Blanchot), a kairos time, the ‘time in which nothing begins, where before affirmation there is already the return of affirmation’. The recognition epiphany, though implicated in circular logics of canonicity, provides music with a bright and surging moment of speedy, ecstatic imagination. It’s the masking of re-presentation as presentation, of semblance as the real.

Uncanny recognition eroticises the possibilities of listening, replacing the everyday with a momentary eternal.


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