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Adorno on music
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 9:07 am    Post subject: Adorno on music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Adorno should be read, rather than read about.   When friends asked what they should read, it seemed that, opened at random, Adorno can seem daunting, while some of his shorter, more personal pieces are not translated into English. Even in Germany some of his essays are on sale only as part of the complete works.

It is said that Adorno did not intend access to his books to be easy.  But neither surely would he have preferred to remain unread. This page is a pointer towards pieces which are available in English and to his books which can either be bought or read in libraries. 



Adorno on Music 


Adorno's first professional writing was as a gifted music critic. His writing about music remains outstanding. This piece about Richard Strauss was written in 1929 when Adorno was 26 years old. It is translated by Rodney Livingstone in Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music, London/NY: Verso; 1992. pp. 34-35.



Quote:
From my childhood I retain very clear impressions of the associations aroused     in my mind by the name of Richard Strauss. I recall the moment when, shrill     and very new, it first entered my consciousness where Schubert's Rondo and     the Kreutzer Sonata had long since enjoyed a secure place. . . . To     me the name of Richard Strauss suggested music that was loud, dangerous and    generally bright, rather like industry, or rather what I then imagined factories     to look like.  It was the child's image of modernity that was set alight     by his name. What attracted me were the stories about the rumbustuous plays     he had composed which my parents and my aunt had heard.  I was attracted     even more strongly by their painful refusal to tell me the content of those     operas which anyway I was still too young to understand - I had been persuaded     that the head in Salome belonged to a calf, and similarly, they had     tried to convince me tht all the excitement in Otello was about a     handkerchief that had been mislaid.

         But more than all this my imagination     was kindled by the word Elektra. This word was explosive and full     of artificial, seductively evil smells, like a large chemical works close     to the town where we lived, whose name sounded very similar. The word glittered     cold and white, like electricity, after which it appeared to have been named; a piece of gleaming electrical machinery that poured out chlorine and which  only adults could enter, something luminous, mechanical and unhealthy.      When at the age of fifteen I got to know some of Strauss's music, it  had hardly any connection with that old sense of excitement I had felt and  which was comparable to the prospect of an excursion to the Eastern docks.      By then I knew about Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner, and was studying the theories of instrumentation.  The description of a bass clarinet, an     English horn or even the obsolete serpent gave me the same thrill as the self-contained machinery of the mysterious Elektra had done in the past.  And in Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben,which I knew directly, I sought only to identify those instruments.  Only much later did I notice that the images generated by my imagination in advance of any knowledge actually fitted the music far better than the verification procedures I subsequently conducted.  Thus the latent content of a work of art may well be transmitted uniquely in the aura you enter when you touch it, without any real knowledge, whereas it is too encapsulated in the solid kernel of its form to reveal itself to us until that form is shattered.


Theodor Adorno, Motifs,  translated by Rodney Livingstone and  published in Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music, London/NY: Verso; 1992. pages 34-35



The Culture Industry
Adorno is famed for his discovery of what he termed the Culture Industry. His scathing reaction to the claim that businesses merely respond to customer demand has a wider and more topical ring in the era of the supermarket.  It comes from Minima Moralia translated by E.F.N. Jephcott.

Quote:
Section 129. Service to the Customer 


The culture industry piously claims to be guided by its customers and to supply them with what they ask for.  But while assiduously dismissing any thought  of its own autonomy and proclaiming its victims its judges, it outdoes in its veiled autocracy, all the excesses of autonomous art.  The culture industry not so much adapts to the reactions of its customers as it counterfeits them.  It drills them in their attitudes as if it were itself a customer.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

For Adorno, "serious music" is usually classical, although he does say that much of what most people would place in the classical category is really just popular. "Popular music" refers to jazz, 'beat' music, film music, and anything composed purely for entertainment.

More significantly, though, serious and popular music have the following characteristics:

http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~janzb/courses/phi4804/adorno1

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Ahh, that's what I needed, a table. Easy to assimilate.

Maybe it is the fault of the translation, but I have difficulty reading this stuff, although the ideas are great.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yes.. that webpage is a bit .. well.. perhaps the code should be resmurfed or something.. smaller font.. ?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:

More significantly, though, serious and popular music have the following characteristics:
http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~janzb/courses/phi4804/adorno1


Quote:
Little effort is required to follow music - audience already has models under which musical experiences can be subsumed.
Music has "soporific" effect on social consciousness.
Renders 'unnecessary the process of thinking

something like that can be said of a lot of either "serious" or "popular" music. Maybe not all classical music is serious.
Quote:
Effort and concentration are required to follow music

I think that listening to "popular" music of a different culture than mine needs concentration, in other words how can you figure out if you are sane? ... Once you begin to question your own sanity, you get trapped in an ever-tighter vortex of self-fulfilling prophecies, though the process is by no means inevitable. Everyone knows that the insane interpret the world via their own peculiarly consistent logic; how can you tell if your own logic is "peculiar' or not, given that you have only your own logic to judge itself?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

That's what I absolutely love about listening to my own music. I am literally, literally, hearing myself think.
Cyx

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Cyxeris wrote:
That's what I absolutely love about listening to my own music. I am literally, literally, hearing myself think.
Cyx


Yes, but without the words. Some people believe that language is the fundamental basis of reality. I give a lot of credence to this, but there is reality without language. Music and Art are essentially non-verbal. So, more than "hearing yourself think", maybe it's hearing yourself BE.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
Yes, but without the words. Some people believe that language is the fundamental basis of reality. I give a lot of credence to this, but there is reality without language. Music and Art are essentially non-verbal. So, more than "hearing yourself think", maybe it's hearing yourself BE.


But even then, as linguistic beings, the majority of our thoughts are in the form of language, like silently talking to one's self. Music is the same way. You have these conversations with yourself, in music, as a form of thought. The thoughts that aren't linguistic in nature generally fall into the categories of instinct and emotion, I would say.

Mathematics and geometry are a language, but serve a different function than, say, "Go to Hell!" and "Hey, where's my chicken salad sandwich?" Thus is music another form. Well, as far as I see it.

Perhaps that is why music, and art in general, can vary so greatly from artist to artist. It's a language unique to one's self. Outsiders have to enjoy and appreciate, or perhaps hate, it from a distance, twice removed.

Cyx

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I just knew Adorno would start a nice thread.


Music as a language? Don´t think so. It does not qualify... not quite. But it does contain logic and symbols.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Perhaps not a language as speech is a language, but neither is assembler, or pictograms. Or physics equations. Perhaps in a looser sense, a more holistic sense, and with regards to the workings of the human mind, I would certainly consider it a form of language.

Cyx

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