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 experiences in tune. As his attractiveness has grown lately, even if, Adorno’s paintings on song has remained a missed sector as a result of its musicological complexity.

This is the 1st exact account of Adorno’s texts on song from a sociological point of view. In transparent, non-technical language, Robert Witkin courses the reader in the course of the complexities of Adorno’s argument concerning the hyperlinks among tune and morality and among musical works and social constitution. Separate chapters handle 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 tune will be understood. It used to be via those works greater than any others that Adorno confirmed the perfect of the humanities to be said as an ethical and demanding strength within the improvement of a contemporary society. by way of convalescing them for non-musicologists, Witkin provides immeasurably to our appreciation of this immense of twentieth-century suggestion.

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If the novel recorded the individual's struggle and effort to achieve an identity between individual and society, it also registered the failure to achieve that identity, indeed the illusory nature of any attempted reconciliation between individual and society, between subject and object. The authors of Don Quixote or Crime and Punishment could, through the use of irony, deconstruct their characters and make the illusory nature of their efforts visible . There were limits, however, to the compass of their irony.

In chromaticism, where all the possible notes are used, the functional hierarchy of notes established by diatonicism breaks down and, with it, the key system. Chromaticism is, in this sense, the antithesis of diatonicism and is associated with the development of modern music and the destruction of the principle of centricity constituted by diatonicism. In the functional hierarchy of the diatonic scale the first note - the tonic - is the most important. The gravitational pull of the music, experienced as tension and as resolution of tension, is towards the tonic.

It was not really until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that bourgeois societies might be said to have more or less decisively gained the ascendancy over traditionalist thought and practice (which is not the same as eliminating it) and in their internal relations to have reached some degree of equilibration between individual freedom and social constraint. Any such approximation to equilibrium was only partial and only transient. As bourgeois societies develop , the problems of constructing 'second nature' grow more complex and the organisational process develops to the point where it threatens to submerge individuals and to bring about an end to the antinomy of indi vidual and society: not through an equilibration between the two, as sought in the earlier phase of bourgeois development, but through penetrating the boundaries of the individual and entirely subsuming its constitutive elements in the collective order - in other words, through becoming totalitar ian.

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