Point of departure: music and noise. Music vs. noise. Music constitutes the positive term, noise comprises the negative term. The negative of musical sound is noise. Noise is an undesirable sound, the static on a telephone, the unwrapping of cellophane candies during Mahler. Noise is any sound that interferes; it contaminates what we want to hear. Music is often defined as a pattern of organized sounds, deliberately created in order to produce certain effects, while noise is thought of as sounds that occur naturally or randomly. The steady periodical, stable vibrations of music are in clear contrast to the non-regular and fragmentary vibrations of noise (cf. Nattiez, p.45. cf Murray Schafer, p.5).
 In Noise, French thinker Jacques Attali apparently develops a similar outlook. According to Attali, the history of music can be seen as the history of the ordering of noise in codes. However, the impact of music goes beyond this. Attali regards the ability of music to bring about discipline among its major functions. Music can be regarded as an affirmation of the possibility of establishing order in the social. Music is used and produced in an attempt to make people forget the general violence, to make people believe in the harmony of the world, and to silence and censor all other human noises (Attali, p.19). When music banishes noise, it (symbolically) proscribes violence in a more general sense. Thus, music simulates the accepted rules of society. An example. To Attali, the entire history of tonal music amounts to an attempt at making people believe there is harmony in order. '[Tonal] music made harmony audible. It made people believe in the legitimacy of the existing order' (Attali, p.61). Dissonances (conflicts and struggles) are forbidden, unless they are merely marginal and resolved in a higher order and ultimate harmony.
 The other of music is noise. In an historical overview, Attali observes that noise is long regarded as a 'threat of death'. Noise is considered a symptom of destruction and pollution and, on a physical level, a source of pain. Beyond a certain limit, it can become a deadly weapon: 'Noise is violence: it disturbs. To make noise is to interrupt a transmission, to kill. It is a simulacrum of murder' (Attali, p.26). If noise is the auditory devil, then music is the ministering angel: 'The whole of traditional musicology analyzes music as the organization of controlled panic, the transformation of anxiety into joy, and of dissonance in harmony' (Attali, p.27). Tonal music in particular absorbs noises and restores order by repressing the tragic dimension of lasting dissonances. Repeated dissonances are prohibited and a tonal piece can certainly not have a dissonant ending. Dissonant music would be the expression of a deficiency and the failure of the channeling of violence. The term, dissonances, in Attali's argument should be viewed, however, in the broad sense of all unwanted sounds and any serious infringement on the existing order. And when Attali addresses music's standardizing and disciplining function, he not only refers to (tonal) music: it includes the educative role of conservatories, the hierarchical organization of orchestras, the passive stand of audiences, the rise of all kinds of organized interest groups, the standardization of production processes, etc. All of these help to banish dissonances. Consequently, a music world develops, one that has no use for disorder or noise. It might even be better to say that certain noises are neutralized immediately after they are introduced into the institutionalized music world, where they are deprived of any harmful impact and adapted into a comforting and reassuring order.
 Attali conceives of music as a form of sublimation. Music can be regarded as an echo of the sacrificial channeling of violence. Dissonances are removed from it in order to keep noise from spreading. In this way, it mimics the ritualization of murder in the space of sound (cf. Attali, p.28). However, it is precisely in this 'channeling of violence' and in this 'ritualization of murder' that music can no longer maintain itself as the other of noise, as the exclusively positive term opposed to noise as negativity, as order vs. chaos, as culture vs. nature. (A wide range of oppositions could be added to these.) Gradually, an orderly analysis becomes disrupted. Several signals interfere with the reception of Attali's message. And he is aware of it. Early in his book, Attali already refines his argument on the disciplining function of music. 'A subversive strain of music has always managed to survive, subterranean and pursued, the inverse image of this political channelization: popular music, an instrument of the ecstatic cult, an outburst of uncensored violence ... Here music is a locus of subversion at odds with the official religions and centers of power ... Music ... is simultaneously a threat and a necessary source of legitimacy' (Attali, p.13-4). The subversive element is no less a characteristic of music. An aspect of music that Attali still tries to displace to the margins of music history (he mentions certain pop music or music played at Dionysian feasts) seems to reveal itself precisely through the ritual aspect that music carries with it as a phenomenon that permeates all music. Music's ambiguous role as integrator and subverter leads to Attali's somewhat casual, but important remark 'the rupture music contains within itself'. Music affirms society and disciplines quality. But at the same time it is imbued with subversive elements, always already carrying the other (noise) with it. Every association that was connected to noise - destruction, disorder, aggression against code-structuring messages - turns out to be inseparably connected to what seemed to be diametrically opposed to noise, i.e., music. (Incidentally, this is not a new or remarkable phenomenon. In Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge, Lawrence Kramer writes that especially in the 18th and 19th century, music was almost exclusively thought to be representing the subversive, the disorder, the other.)
 Ultimately, Attali observes a new music emerging towards the end of the 20th century, a subversive music. Music turns against itself. As yet subject to the power of the economy that music itself helped to create, 'the seeds of a new noise', a new music, loom up. The entry of noise into music (Attali mentions Luigi Russolo, John Cage, and Jimi Hendrix as examples) represents only a first stage of this development, the liquidation of the old codes. Attali points to another practice: making music on one's own without having a preconceived goal, without holding on to already existing codes and rules. It is a practice that is concerned more with the process of making music and mutual communication than with results (cf. Teaching a Supplement). He calls this practice 'composition': 'Composition ... plugs music into the noises of life and the body, whose movement it fuels. It is thus laden with risk, disquieting, an unstable challenging, an anarchic and ominous festival, like a Carnival with an unpredictable outcome. This new mode of production entertains a very different relation with violence: in composition, noise is still a metaphor for murder. To compose is simultaneously to commit a murder and to perform a sacrifice. It is to become both the sacrificer and the victim, to make an ever-possible suicide the only possible form of death and the production of life' (Attali, p.142-3). Music and noise, order and disorder, stability and instability. They have become one here, inseparably connected to one another. An order is established in the act of making music, but this order is once-only, unique, singular, non-compelling, variable. In 'composition', stability is perpetually called into question. 'Composition' is inscribed in the permanent fragility of meaning. This music is at the same time, noise. It is at once a setting of rules and a questioning and undermining thereof. The same and the other simultaneously. The other within the same.
 Music vs. noise. Order vs. disorder. It is not that simple. Order and disorder are both present within music. Music is order and disorder.
 Attali proves to have varying thoughts in several passages about music, noise, and how they relate to each other. Could it therefore be appropriate to think of Attali's book as a 20th century composition in which the transmission of a message is disrupted (willfully or unwillfully) by a subversive noise? The noise of deconstruction? In a most general sense, the first notion that presents itself to the reader of Noise is the idea of putting music in opposition to noise. Noise is the radical other of music. The statement, 'Music is inscribed between noise and silence' (Attali, p.19), reads as though the borders of music, noise and silence are clearly marked or can be clearly marked. Three coexisting entities. Above, I outlined the ways in which the borders between noise and music dissolve in his argument. While noise is characterized by the adjective 'subversive', music, too, turns out to have a subversive side. Where initially noise is equated to disorder, it also brings on order from within its own core. In yet another passage, Attali seems to want to label noise as a secondary category that merely exists by the grace of an antipodal positivity: 'A noise is a resonance that interferes with the audition of a message in the process of emission. A resonance is a set of simultaneous, pure sounds of determined frequency and differing intensity. Noise, then, does not exist in itself, only in relation to the system within which it is inscribed: emitter, transmitter, receiver' (Attali, p.26-7, my italics). Here, much more emphatically than in the preceding remarks, noise seems to merge as negativity into a general category of music, a hierarchical relation in which noise is designated a less prominent place constituting a negative part of music. In the same paragraph, however, Attali writes, 'All music can be defined as noise given form according to a code' (Attali, p.25). Here, Attali defines noise as the general category of which music is a subspecies. Music seems to require noise in order to define itself. 'The fundamental status of music must be deciphered through that of noise: Noise is a weapon and music, primordially, is the formation, domestication, and ritualization of that weapon as a simulacrum of ritual murder ... In the space of noise it symbolically signifies the channeling of violence and the imaginary, the ritualization of a murder substituted for the general violence, the affirmation that a society is possible if the imaginary of individuals is sublimated' (Attali, p.24 and p.26-7, my italics). And in the same part of the text, he calls music 'a channelization of noise'. In these citations, noise precedes music. Or, noise seems to reveal itself here as a kind of arche-noise in which music, noise, (and silence) become manifest as (hardly) distinguishable categories. Arche-noise. This also legitimizes Attali's pronouncement that 'the theory of noise ... should thus precede the study of the artifact that is the musical work ... The political economy of music should take as its point of departure the study of the material it highlights - noise' (Attali, p.26). The road to music runs through noise; better yet, noise is the road that leads us to the music since the codes for music rest in noise (cf. hierarchical oppositions).
 What characterizes noise and music - both contain order as well as disorder - also applies to the musician. Especially the social position of the musician reveals a certain ambivalence, an equivocality that is not an oppositional pair, but rather, a mutual pervasiveness.