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This essay examines the way Baudelaire and Proust respond to music in terms of trying to account for being 'touched' or 'struck' by it. I contrast dramatic music, as it figures in Baudelaire's writing on Wagner, with the newly emergent notion of 'absolute music', as it manifests itself in the fictitious chamber music of Vinteuil in Proust's novel. The essay thereby demonstrates how emptying music of referential meaning allows writers to fill up that blank space with a verbal reply to the call of music, which itself becomes an act of aesthetic creation. Such an approach to listening, which emerged in the nineteenth century, still resonates with contemporary accounts by scholars working between musicology and literary studies, and shapes their account of aesthetic subjectivity.