The Hallelujah Effect: Philosophical Reflections on Music, Performance Practice, and Technology, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Hallelujah Effect

Philosophical Reflections on Music, Performance Practice, and Technology, 1st Edition

By Babette Babich


308 pages

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This book studies the working efficacy of Leonard Cohen's song Hallelujah in the context of today's network culture. Especially as recorded on YouTube, k.d. lang's interpretation(s) of Cohen's Hallelujah, embody acoustically and visually/viscerally, what Nietzsche named the 'spirit of music'. Today, the working of music is magnified and transformed by recording dynamics and mediated via Facebook exchanges, blog postings and video sites. Given the sexual/religious core of Cohen's Hallelujah, this study poses a phenomenological reading of the objectification of both men and women, raising the question of desire, including gender issues and both homosexual and heterosexual desire. A review of critical thinking about musical performance as 'currency' and consumed commodity takes up Adorno's reading of Benjamin's analysis of the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction as applied to music/radio/sound and the persistent role of 'recording consciousness'. Ultimately, the question of what Nietzsche called the becoming-human-of-dissonance is explored in terms of both ancient tragedy and Beethoven's striking deployment of dissonance as Nietzsche analyses both as playing with suffering, discontent, and pain itself, a playing for the sake not of language or sense but musically, as joy.


'… her primary focus is the meaning of dissonance, whether in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Wagner's Tristan lind Isolde, or Cohen's broken chords. The message of all three works is that harmony is an illusion, while tragedy and pain lead to truth.' The Beethoven Journal ’Babette Babich practices philosophical inquiry in the classroom. With The Hallelujah Effect she has brought her musings on philosophy and music to the world. If the role of a philosopher is to give us much to think about, Babich certainly accomplishes this in her book. From its first pages, The Hallelujah Effect is filled with ideas’. Rock Music Studies ’… in The Hallelujah Effect Babich presents a wealth of thoughts on the engagement between philosophy and music, and it is in her appraisals of Adorno and Nietzsche that the strengths of the book become apparent’. Musicology Australia '… this is a thought-provoking book that seeks to understand our current media culture within a philosophical context. Babich’s observations and conclusions are compelling …' Canadian Association of Music Libraries Review

Table of Contents

Contents: Prelude: the Hallelujah effect on the internet; The Hallelujah effect, Cohen’s secret song and the music industry; Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and other Hallelujahs: from Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus to the Hallel Psalms; On male desire and music: misogyny, love, and the beauty of men; ’Covering’ Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah: music makes the song from John Cale to k.d. lang; ’You don’t really care for music, do ya?’; Performance practice and the Hallelujah effect; Interlude: Adorno’s phenomenology: radio physiognomy and music; Interlude: Mousiké techné; The spirit of music in The Birth of Tragedy: Nietzsche’s phenomenological investigations of music and word; Nietzsche and Beethoven: on the ’becoming-human of dissonance’; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Babette Babich is Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University in New York City. She is author, among other books, of La fin de la pensée? Philosophie analytique contre philosophie continentale (2012) and Words in Blood, Like Flowers: Philosophy and Poetry, Music and Eros in Hölderlin, Nietzsche and Heidegger (2006). Editor of eight book collections, she is also executive editor of New Nietzsche Studies.

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Ethnomusicology