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Philosophy of Modern Music - Book Report/Review Example

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Theodore Adorno, a philosopher and critical theorist of the Frankfurt school, is a simultaneously beloved and derided character. Notoriously hateful of jazz and popular music, his theories are heavily influenced by Marx, and Hegel. In this work, the Philosophy of Modern Music offers an integration between his first field of study, musicology and his philosophical studies…
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Philosophy of Modern Music
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Download file to see previous pages The dialectic that he presents here has ramifications for not only understanding music, but for understanding society because their personas and their music are inextricably bound up with the reactionary and radical social forces, which created them. Moreover, these forces are naturally and intrinsically opposed to one another, and that opposition manifests itself with a certain mathematical elegance found in the contrasting musical styles between these two masters. In the introduction, Adorno sets up the philosophical and sociological ground that is required to launch this critique of modern music. In this paper, I will briefly review the initial gestures that Adorno deploys in order to set up his project.
Using Walter Benjamin's example of the "meaningful juxtapositions of such antithesis" applied in the field of German tragedy, Adorno hopes to do the same in the field of music. As will become clear in later chapters the choice of Stravinsky and Schoenberg as the representatives of antitheses will be a good one, though that philosophical decision as little to do with the quality of work that lies in the middle, such that of Bela Bartok. Nevertheless, this choice does not merely represent a simple juxtaposition between Stravinsky's neo-classicism and Schoenberg's serialist twelve-tone technique, but how the "concrete crystallization" of these categories manifest themselves in the fundamental structure of music. That is to suggest that the fundamentally dialectic structure and process only reveals itself in that generation epiphenomenally through the categories of neo-classicism and serialism. Adorno critical of the culture industry, the process by which capitalistic forces mass produce and commercialize products resulting in alienation and orgiastic consumption, also deteriorates the musical realm by dividing music into kitsch and the avant-garde. This division creates what Adorno refers as "false musical consciousness" and as a result we accept kitsch as some kind of cute pastiche to be patronized, while resenting the avant-garde as incomprehensible and alien, blaming it for its inability to be understood instead of acknowledging our own shortcomings. These shortcomings are generated by a deadening commercialization process enacted by the culture industry that generated a false consciousness that regress everything towards the mean. Take for example, the television or entertainment industry and the plethora of "reality tv" programs that occupy the airwaves. Our ability to distinguish one from the other only highlights the fact that our media tastes are so watered down that we can only tell the differences between various forms of dross, and fail to recognize the sad state of visual media sources. One criticism of such an argument, one that has often been levied against Adorno and other members of the Frankfurt School, is that it may be nothing more than particular elitist preferences dressed up in technical and savvy philosophical language, rather than a genuine critique against social forces which are being manipulated by the so-called culture industry. Adorno's salvos against mass media are excoriating and intelligent, and it seems therefore that such an critique, while it does have some traction, cannot explain away all of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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