Thursday, February 12, 2009


What Cartesian nonsense to think of birdsong as pre-programmed cries uttered by birds to advertise their presence to the opposite sex, and so forth! Each bird-cry is a full-hearted release of the self into the air, accompanied by such joy we can barely comprehend. I! says each cry: I! What a miracle! Singing liberates the voice, allows it to fly, expands the soul. In the course of military training, on the other hand, people are drilled in using the voice in a rapid, flat, mechanical manner, without pause for thought. What damage it must do to a soul to submit to the military voice, to embody it as one's own!

From "On Music," in J.M. Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year