Theodor W. Adorno - Theory - Music

Music

In his early essays for the Vienna-based journal Anbruch, Adorno claimed that musical progress is proportional to the composer's ability to constructively deal with the possibilities and limitations contained within what Adorno called the "musical material." For Adorno, twelve-tone serialism constitutes a decisive, historically developed method of composition. The objective validity of the composition, according to Adorno, rests with neither the composer's genius nor the work's conformity with prior standards, but with the way in which the work coherently expresses the dialectic of the material. In this sense, the contemporary absence of composers of the status of Bach or Beethoven is not the sign of musical regression; instead, new music is to be credited with laying bare aspects of the musical material previously repressed: The musical material's liberation from number, the harmonic series and tonal harmony. Thus, historical progress is only achieved by the composer who "submits to the work and seemingly does not undertake anything active except to follow where it leads." Because historical experience and social relations are embedded within this musical material, it is to the analysis of such material that the critic must turn. In the face of this radical liberation of the musical material, Adorno came to criticize those who, like Stravinsky, withdrew from this freedom by tasking recourse to forms of the past as well as those who turned twelve-tone composition into a technique which dictated the rules of composition.

Adorno saw the culture industry as an arena in which critical tendencies or potentialities were eliminated. He argued that the culture industry, which produced and circulated cultural commodities through the mass media, manipulated the population. Popular culture was identified as a reason why people become passive; the easy pleasures available through consumption of popular culture made people docile and content, no matter how terrible their economic circumstances." Capitalist production so confines them, body and soul, that they fall helpless victims to what is offered them." The differences among cultural goods make them appear different, but they are in fact just variations on the same theme. He wrote that "the same thing is offered to everybody by the standardized production of consumption goods" but this is concealed under "the manipulation of taste and the official culture's pretense of individualism".By doing so, the culture industry appeals to every single consumer in a unique and personalized way, all while maintaining minimal costs and effort on their behalf. Consumers purchase the illusion that every commodity or product is tailored to the individual's personal preference, by incorporating subtle modifications or inexpensive "add-ons" in order to keep the consumer returning for new purchases, and therefor more revenue for the corporation system. Adorno conceptualized this phenomenon as pseudo-individualization and the always-the-same.

Adorno's analysis allowed for a critique of mass culture from the left which balanced the critique of popular culture from the right. From both perspectives – left and right – the nature of cultural production was felt to be at the root of social and moral problems resulting from the consumption of culture. However, while the critique from the right emphasized moral degeneracy ascribed to sexual and racial influences within popular culture, Adorno located the problem not with the content, but with the objective realities of the production of mass culture and its effects, e.g. as a form of reverse psychology. Thinkers influenced by Adorno believe that today's society has evolved in a direction foreseen by him, especially in regard to the past (Auschwitz), morals or the Culture Industry. The latter has become a particularly productive, yet highly contested term in cultural studies. Many of Adorno's reflections on aesthetics and music have only just begun to be debated, as a collection of essays on the subject, many of which had not previously been translated into English, has only recently been collected and published as Essays on Music.

Adorno's work in the years before his death was shaped by the idea of "negative dialectics", set out especially in his book of that title. A key notion in the work of the Frankfurt School since Dialectic of Enlightenment had been the idea of thought becoming an instrument of domination that subsumes all objects under the control of the (dominant) subject, especially through the notion of identity, i.e. of identifying as real in nature and society only that which harmonized or fit with dominant concepts, and regarding as unreal or non-existent everything that did not. Adorno's "negative dialectics" was an attempt to articulate a non-dominating thought that would recognize its limitations and accept the non-identity and reality of that which could not be subsumed under the subject's concepts. Indeed, Adorno sought to ground the critical bite of his sociological work in his critique of identity, which he took to be a reification in thought of the commodity form or exchange relation which always presumes a false identity between different things. The potential to criticise arises from the gap between the concept and the object, which can never go into the former without remainder. This gap, this non-identity in identity, was the secret to a critique of both material life and conceptual reflection.

Read more about this topic:  Theodor W. Adorno, Theory

Other articles related to "music":

Xena: Warrior Princess - Production - Theme Music
... Composer Joseph LoDuca wrote the theme music and incidental music, and co-wrote the lyrics for the songs in "The Bitter Suite" ... The theme music was developed from the traditional Bulgarian folk song "Kaval sviri", sung by the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir ... nominations for LoDuca, who won the Emmy award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore) for the Season 5 episode Fallen Angel in 2000 ...
Nairobi - Society and Culture - Music
... Nairobi is the centre of the Kenyan music scene ... The genre is a fusion of jazz and Luo music forms ... In the 1970s, Nairobi became the prominent centre for East and Central African music ...
Libya - Culture
... Main article Culture of Libya Further information Music of Libya and Libyan literature Libya is culturally similar to its neighboring Maghrebian states ... The tradition of folk culture is still alive and well, with troupes performing music and dance at frequent festivals, both in Libya and abroad ... A number of TV stations air various styles of traditional Libyan music ...
Bass Guitar
... has largely replaced the double bass in popular music as the bass instrument in the rhythm section ... While the types of basslines performed by the bassist vary widely from one style of music to another, the bassist fulfills a similar role in most types of music anchoring the harmonic framework and ... The bass guitar is used in many styles of music including rock, metal, pop, punk rock, country, reggae, gospel, blues, and jazz ...
Music Therapy
... Music therapy is an interpersonal process in which the therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients to ... client's needs are addressed directly through music in others they are addressed through the relationships that develop between the client and therapist ... Music therapy is used with individuals of all ages and with a variety of conditions, including psychiatric disorders, medical problems, physical handicaps, sensory impairments ...

Famous quotes containing the word music:

    Thy remembrance, and repentance, and deep musings are not free
    From the music of two voices and the light of one sweet smile.
    Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

    From where Pan’s cavern is
    Intolerable music falls.
    Foul goat-head, brutal arm appear,
    Belly, shoulder, bum,
    Flash fishlike; nymphs and satyrs
    Copulate in the foam.
    William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)

    In benevolent natures the impulse to pity is so sudden, that like instruments of music which obey the touch ... you would think the will was scarce concerned, and that the mind was altogether passive in the sympathy which her own goodness has excited. The truth is,—the soul is [so] ... wholly engrossed by the object of pity, that she does not ... take leisure to examine the principles upon which she acts.
    Laurence Sterne (1713–1768)