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Adorno on Music by Robert W. Witkin

By Robert W. Witkin

Publish yr note: First released February nineteenth 1998

More than 1/2 the printed works of Theodor Adorno have been dedicated to his stories in song. As his acceptance has grown in recent times, despite the fact that, Adorno’s paintings on track has remained a ignored quarter as a result of its musicological complexity.

This is the 1st distinctive account of Adorno’s texts on tune from a sociological point of view. In transparent, non-technical language, Robert Witkin courses the reader during the complexities of Adorno’s argument in regards to the hyperlinks among song and morality and among musical works and social constitution. Separate chapters tackle his therapy of Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler and Berg, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and at last jazz. all through, Witkin develops a sociology of the paintings during which Adorno’s writings on song might be understood. It was once via those works greater than any others that Adorno verified the correct of the humanities to be stated as an ethical and significant strength within the improvement of a latest society. by way of improving them for non-musicologists, Witkin provides immeasurably to our appreciation of this great of twentieth-century proposal.

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In a hunter-gatherer society, for example, the 'distancing' of social 'agency' from nature is relatively low. Such societies do not produce nature or even occasion it ; they organise themselves to make efficient use of what nature produces. In a society based upon settled agriculture, there is a greater degree of distancing of agency from nature. Although such societies do not produce nature, they do 'occasion' it through the practise of settled agriculture, drainage, defence and so forth. Such societies can develop significant urban centres as was the case in all the great agrarian empires.

It makes as much sense to me to see this extraordinarily resourceful and restless thinker as sharing some of the characteristics of a modern Odysseus, rather than as a tragic hero or as a Cassandra prophesying doom. A pessimistic Odysseus, perhaps, and yet I cannot read his late essays withour feeling that the memory of Ithaca is strong. He is sometimes dispirited and he is often far-seeing, concerning the dangers ahead. Bur he does seek to steer around them, to find a way through; he never gives up believing that the knot can be undone, the disaster overcome and the ship steered back on course .

With Lukacs, the situation is quite different. Critical Realism as a method for progressive art and literature did not serve to confirm or validate bourgeois claims concerning organic individuation, as Durkheirn's notion of organic solidarity sought to do. Quite the contrary: a genuinely critical realism served to expose the cracks and fissures, the fundamental contradictions, of bourgeois society; it gave rise to the realisation that subject and object, individual and society, simply don 't add up .

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