The Rhythm of Thought: Art, Literature, and Music after Merleau-Ponty
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exhalation—bears no resemblance yet to the meter or bar lines marked in the score. What one senses in the opening—in the silence that transitions to the motion of duple and triple divisions—is the life of the external world transformed, through breath, into the deep silver notes of the flute; what one hears is the summoning and shaping of wind into columns of resonance, alignment, and amplification. It is as if the air itself had coalesced into a voice. Is not, then, this breath the beginning, as
quintessence.”35 Such an essence emerges through the depths as the effect of an orientation, change, or movement. The true Albertine belongs to an order of essence that “is not above the sensible world, [that] is beneath, or in its depth, its thickness,” like the true hawthorns of the past.36 Thus, the existence of Albertine’s essence can be determined only indirectly and in retrospect, through the pain that has lodged within Marcel’s heart.37 As Merleau-Ponty writes, “Grief teaches you how to
vanished; even the original bell came to stillness and was silent. I became again aware of the street in front of me—of the people passing by in a hurry. . . . I understand the acoustic basis for the phantom tones, although I know that it is rare to hear them so clearly as I did on that afternoon in Vienna. Yet I may never find a satisfactory scientific explanation for the synesthetic dimension of the experience.1 Those who theorize about synesthesia but have not experienced it may imagine
Michael B. Smith (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993). Originally published as L’oeil et l’esprit (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1964). Hereafter cited as “Eye and Mind,” with pagination of the English translation followed by that of the French original. 2. For a subtle reading of Merleau-Ponty’s relation to Descartes, see the chapter “Dwelling in the Texture of the Visible: Merleau-Ponty’s ‘Eye and Mind’ (1961)” in Lawlor, Early Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy, 141–73. 3.
recognizable in this new guise. My joy at having rediscovered it was enhanced by the tone, so friendly and familiar, which it adopted in addressing me, so persuasive, so simple, and yet without subduing the shimmering beauty with which it glowed. Its intention, however, this time was merely to show me the way, which was not the way of the sonata, for this was an unpublished work of Vinteuil in which he had merely amused himself, by an allusion that was explained at this point by a sentence in the