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Claude Hagège

Music or Death The language of music explained by an eminent linguist

Claude Hagège is a linguist and professor at the Collège de France. He is the recipient of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique’s (CNRS) prestigious gold medal. He is the author of hugely successful books: Le Français et les Siècles, Le Souffle de la langue, L’Enfant aux deux langues, Halte à la mort des langues, Combat pour le français, Contre la pensée unique, Dictionnaire amoureux des langues and Les Religions, La Parole et la Violence.
"Without music, I would die."
"This formulation may seem a little abrupt. But what would we do if, suddenly, in shops, supermarkets, cafés, restaurants, other public places, and even in our own homes, where the most varied kinds of music can be heard, from the softest, subdued or discreet to the most thunderous or high-decibel, all music suddenly fell silent? We might not die from it, but we would feel a kind of deficit of being and existence. This book places music at the summits of civilization."
Music holds an essential place in the life of humans and in that of Claude Hagège in particular. Musical works can enchant us, help us to live.
How is it that an eminent linguist and polyglot like Hagège has such an existential relationship with music? Does music have something to tell us, in the way that words and speech do? Is it conceivable that music is a language which we experience as a certain way of feeling, imagining or thinking?
Claude Hagège talks about music both as a scholar and as an "amateur", in the sense, as he himself says, of a lover. He loves music with a demanding love, his scientific understanding of it leaving him even more impassioned.
This makes for a fascinating book. It deals with the nature of sound, its effects, the origins of music and its history, its instruments, its forms, etc.
All of this in Claude Hagège's unique and lively tone: a precise and chiselled language, there is no room for boredom here. A book to read if you love music - but who doesn't? - no matter the depth of your musical knowledge.