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Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969), one of the principal figures associated with the Frankfurt School, wrote extensively on culture, modernity, aesthetics, literature, and—more than any other subject—music. To this day, Adorno remains the single most influential contributor to the development of qualitative musical sociology which, together with his nuanced intertextual reading Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969), one of the principal figures associated with the Frankfurt School, wrote extensively on culture, modernity, aesthetics, literature, and—more than any other subject—music. To this day, Adorno remains the single most influential contributor to the development of qualitative musical sociology which, together with his nuanced intertextual readings of musical works, gives him broad claim as a continuing force in the study of music. This long-awaited collection of twenty-seven essays represents the full range of Adorno's music writing. Nearly half of the essays appear in English for the first time; all of the essays are fully annotated; and the previously translated essays have been corrected and missing text restored, making this volume the definitive resource on Adorno's musical thought.


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Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969), one of the principal figures associated with the Frankfurt School, wrote extensively on culture, modernity, aesthetics, literature, and—more than any other subject—music. To this day, Adorno remains the single most influential contributor to the development of qualitative musical sociology which, together with his nuanced intertextual reading Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969), one of the principal figures associated with the Frankfurt School, wrote extensively on culture, modernity, aesthetics, literature, and—more than any other subject—music. To this day, Adorno remains the single most influential contributor to the development of qualitative musical sociology which, together with his nuanced intertextual readings of musical works, gives him broad claim as a continuing force in the study of music. This long-awaited collection of twenty-seven essays represents the full range of Adorno's music writing. Nearly half of the essays appear in English for the first time; all of the essays are fully annotated; and the previously translated essays have been corrected and missing text restored, making this volume the definitive resource on Adorno's musical thought.

30 review for Essays on Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This guy. His book lacks any evidence to back up its claims. And besides that, it's incredibly insulting. And on many occasions, just wrong. This guy. Let's let the book speak for itself: "The listener of normal musical intelligence who hears the Kundry motif of Parsifal for the first time is likely to recognize it when it is played again because it is unmistakable and not exchangeable for anything else. If the same listener were confronted with an average song-hit, he would not be able to distin This guy. His book lacks any evidence to back up its claims. And besides that, it's incredibly insulting. And on many occasions, just wrong. This guy. Let's let the book speak for itself: "The listener of normal musical intelligence who hears the Kundry motif of Parsifal for the first time is likely to recognize it when it is played again because it is unmistakable and not exchangeable for anything else. If the same listener were confronted with an average song-hit, he would not be able to distinguish it from any other unless it were repeated so often that he would be forced to remember it." (447) Um, wrong. The person of "normal musical intelligence" would probably state that all classical music sounds the same to them, and would find more differences between a Katy Perry song and a Rhianna song. You can pick out more differences between things you are familiar with. Just because this guy dislikes a genre, he is basically projecting his own thoughts and feelings onto the rest of the general population. When he's not doing that, he's insulting us and comparing us to children.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jawad

    Adorno's musical theory is part and parcel of the unrelentless efforts in the destruction of sense and reason and heart in music, the great music of the western tradition, and the praise of so called 'atonal' music of his fellow academicians like Webern, Schoenberg, and so forth, that is, destroying, denigrating, undermining, and trashing everything great in westren tradition. Adorno's musical theory is part and parcel of the unrelentless efforts in the destruction of sense and reason and heart in music, the great music of the western tradition, and the praise of so called 'atonal' music of his fellow academicians like Webern, Schoenberg, and so forth, that is, destroying, denigrating, undermining, and trashing everything great in westren tradition.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Taneli Viitahuhta

    Monumental book. Having translated Adorno, I admire anyone who is willing to take on the challenge of delivering his bewildering philosphical prose into another language. The translations are good, while they obviously can never achieve the punch of his original German. Leppert's contextualising essays are informative, and they should be studied in detail to begin the read. The book's groupings of essays could be questioned, but the most important matter of the book is that it achieves to x-ray Monumental book. Having translated Adorno, I admire anyone who is willing to take on the challenge of delivering his bewildering philosphical prose into another language. The translations are good, while they obviously can never achieve the punch of his original German. Leppert's contextualising essays are informative, and they should be studied in detail to begin the read. The book's groupings of essays could be questioned, but the most important matter of the book is that it achieves to x-ray the whole of Adorno's ouvre. This is no small accomplishment. To have on one's disposal the important early essays, "Why is the New Art So Hard to Understand?" (1931), "Late Style in Beethoven" (1937), short essay on Schoenberg, "The Dialectical Composer" (1934), and especially the magisterial "On the Social Situation of Music" (1932) is essential. These pre-WW2 essays have a form of their own, merging criticism of capitalism and historical analysis of tonality. They are politically progressive, and Adorno manifests an open-mindedness that he is not famous for. One can perceive the shift in Adorno's notorious "On Jazz" (1936) and "On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening" (1938). These texts are the source of Adorno's reputation as an unforgiving hardliner, bashing against popular culture. This carries on to his most famous book written together with Max Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944/47). The argument can be read in "On Popular Music [With the assistance of George Simpson]" (1941), in this book. Somewhat tragic is the fact, that Adorno's early analysis, though quite difficult, have a lot more depth than these caricaturish attacks on the culture industry and "the masses". It's not that there isn't a grain of truth in Adonro's thesis about modern mass culture being manipulative and applicable for political misuse, but the claim is so massively prejudiced and one-sided, that it loses its strength. After return to Germany, Adorno again gets into new gear with his texts on serialism and other new developments in modern music. He takes part in Darmstadt summer schools and becomes the philosophical voice of the next generation, quite an accomplishment. This comes through in "Toward an Understanding of Schoenberg" (1955/1967) and "The Aging of New Music" (1955). Again, these texts are quite interesting, but will never rival the popularity of Adorno's mid-period, which is a pity. In 1960s, his philosophy moves into anti-Hegelian direction, which Negative Dialectics (1966) maps out. For my money, many of his best insights on history, form and dialectics, are however located in these late essays on music, especially the long and ponderous "Difficulties" (1964). If Beethoven is for music what Hegel is for philosophy, as Adorno claims, Adorno clearly is to philosophy what Schoenberg is for music. In the end, I think, his Hegelian balance is nonetheless left uneven: Adorno's "negative dialectic" does not credit Hegel enough, and moves somewhat hastily towards transcendental thought of Kant, instead of revolutionary dialectic of Marx. For Adorno's set of questions I think the only true direction could have been to truly tackle Marx, but Adorno's mid-20th century situation weighs him towards "anti-totalitarian" and at times quite bland liberal position. Historical-structural problem that Adorno never settled is the fact, that while Marx followed Hegel in "realising" philosophy, Wagner "realised" Beethoven in merging anti-semitism with music that is found popular. Stupendously, Adorno saw the latter development to carry on into jazz, which says something revealing about his inability to transgress the narrow limits of Western art music as source for artistic development. This ambivalence he never solved. All in all, I highly recommend the book for anyone who has an interest in Marxism, culture and the modern music. It's not easy, nor is it perfect, as I have argued above. Still, as an introduction to modern music from an Hegelian-Marxist point of view, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Bernhagen

    Love it. Re-reading again if only for the sheer of joy of seeing what a sympathetic and patient reading of Adorno by Leppert can do for one's sense of possibility. Love it. Re-reading again if only for the sheer of joy of seeing what a sympathetic and patient reading of Adorno by Leppert can do for one's sense of possibility.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diamond

    A wonderful set of essays. I particularly like when he talks about military music and the beat. The essays in this book are one of the first attempts to understand musical aesthetics within modernity.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Richard Anderson

    Strong on the Second Viennese School, ridiculous on jazz and popular music.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    great

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bojana

  10. 4 out of 5

    Burcu Sarar

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brian Jenkins

  13. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paula Tlr

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kostas

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sean11

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dania

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thusspokejeremy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nate

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Case

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nour Tohme

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  25. 4 out of 5

    Skopofil

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  27. 5 out of 5

    André

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Gontar

  29. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

  30. 4 out of 5

    Frankles23

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