Inherited from Romantic metaphysics, the musical ineffable is a contested category; denoting something in musical experience that largely escapes verbal articulation, it also leads to diverse philosophical assessments of its validity as an analytic category. Its contested status, however, can be given clearer, historically embedded contours if it is related to Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic register of the Real across historically changing modes of media-technological reproducibility. This connection gives us new insights into the interface between sensuous immediacy, verbal articulation, and sonic media characteristic of the auditory imagination.

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