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A publishing event—a revealing new translation of Theodor Adorno's manifesto of musical radicalism? In 1947 Theodor W. Adorno, one of the seminal European philosophers of the postwar years, announced his return after exile in the United States to a devastated Europe by writing Philosophy of New Music. Intensely polemical from its first publication, every aspect of this wor A publishing event—a revealing new translation of Theodor Adorno's manifesto of musical radicalism? In 1947 Theodor W. Adorno, one of the seminal European philosophers of the postwar years, announced his return after exile in the United States to a devastated Europe by writing Philosophy of New Music. Intensely polemical from its first publication, every aspect of this work was met with extreme reactions, from stark dismissal to outrage. Even Schoenberg reviled it.  Despite the controversy, Philosophy of New Music became highly regarded and widely read among musicians, scholars, and social philosophers. Marking a major turning point in his musicological philosophy, Adorno located a critique of musical reproduction as internal to composition itself, rather than as a matter of the reproduction of musical performance. Consisting of two distinct essays, “Schoenberg and Progress” and “Stravinsky and Reaction,” this work poses the musical extremes in which Adorno perceived the struggle for the cultural future of Europe: between human emancipation and barbarism, between the compositional techniques and achievements of Schoenberg and Stravinsky.  In this completely new translation—presented along with an extensive introduction by distinguished translator Robert Hullot-Kentor—Philosophy of New Music emerges as an indispensable key to the whole of Adorno's illustrious and influential oeuvre. 


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A publishing event—a revealing new translation of Theodor Adorno's manifesto of musical radicalism? In 1947 Theodor W. Adorno, one of the seminal European philosophers of the postwar years, announced his return after exile in the United States to a devastated Europe by writing Philosophy of New Music. Intensely polemical from its first publication, every aspect of this wor A publishing event—a revealing new translation of Theodor Adorno's manifesto of musical radicalism? In 1947 Theodor W. Adorno, one of the seminal European philosophers of the postwar years, announced his return after exile in the United States to a devastated Europe by writing Philosophy of New Music. Intensely polemical from its first publication, every aspect of this work was met with extreme reactions, from stark dismissal to outrage. Even Schoenberg reviled it.  Despite the controversy, Philosophy of New Music became highly regarded and widely read among musicians, scholars, and social philosophers. Marking a major turning point in his musicological philosophy, Adorno located a critique of musical reproduction as internal to composition itself, rather than as a matter of the reproduction of musical performance. Consisting of two distinct essays, “Schoenberg and Progress” and “Stravinsky and Reaction,” this work poses the musical extremes in which Adorno perceived the struggle for the cultural future of Europe: between human emancipation and barbarism, between the compositional techniques and achievements of Schoenberg and Stravinsky.  In this completely new translation—presented along with an extensive introduction by distinguished translator Robert Hullot-Kentor—Philosophy of New Music emerges as an indispensable key to the whole of Adorno's illustrious and influential oeuvre. 

30 review for Philosophy of New Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    adorno has his head up his ass a little i think but this thing still has some value to the small subsection of the world that is interested in both post-hegelian metaphysics and avant-garde western classical. he says a dumb thing somewhere in there to the effect of "music has always been a bourgeois art form" that i think kind of epitomizes the problems with this book: it has like a really flawed sense of history in that sense and that informs where his attentions are focused. like i agree with adorno has his head up his ass a little i think but this thing still has some value to the small subsection of the world that is interested in both post-hegelian metaphysics and avant-garde western classical. he says a dumb thing somewhere in there to the effect of "music has always been a bourgeois art form" that i think kind of epitomizes the problems with this book: it has like a really flawed sense of history in that sense and that informs where his attentions are focused. like i agree with him on a lot of his points that he makes about just how radically progressive twelve-tone technique is but i think that he kind of takes a rejection of pop music for granted. he doesn't really bring up his irrational anti-democratic hate of popular music forms here but it kind of pervades throughout it. cornelius cardew kind of marks the opposite side of this coin.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Edwards

    Bracing. This work is at once approachable and hermetic. Familiarity with Schoenberg and Stravinsky seems to be the only real price of admission, yet behind the matter at hand is Adorno's broader philosophical battle ground: Hegel and the legacy of German Idealism (through to Marx and the critique of capitalism); arguments with Lukács and Benjamin on the political stakes of art, in production and reproduction; and themes from his (and Horkheimer's) recently completed Dialectic of Enlightenment: P Bracing. This work is at once approachable and hermetic. Familiarity with Schoenberg and Stravinsky seems to be the only real price of admission, yet behind the matter at hand is Adorno's broader philosophical battle ground: Hegel and the legacy of German Idealism (through to Marx and the critique of capitalism); arguments with Lukács and Benjamin on the political stakes of art, in production and reproduction; and themes from his (and Horkheimer's) recently completed Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, which permeate the text. Progress and restoration, enlightenment and myth... there is not, of course, a simple way of mapping one set of concerns onto the other, but as ever with Adorno, brandishing his Hegelian stripes, there is no way of grasping the stakes of what these two composers are doing without articulating the social totality in which they figure. This is Adorno at his most acutely critical. The section on Schoenberg has an eye to his later works and the total serialism of the fledging Darmstadt composers, diagnosing tendencies toward to the domination of the musical materials, an analogue to the domination of nature by reason; on Stravinsky, limb-tearing of the highest order, a philosophical slasher work, condemning the tendency towards sacrifice and regression found within appeals to a previous time: paganism and classicism. Once the attentive reader has found their breath, they should proceed directly towards "Stravinsky: A Dialectical Portrait", which drives the knife in further as much as it applies a tourniquet, and "Vers une musique informelle", Adorno's late meditation on what could be a way forward in this dangerous game of musical creation.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Adorno is my Jesus.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Luiz Barbieri

    Loved it. Of course to get the most of it, like my teacher says, you need to be both a philosopher and a musician, but I am neither and was still able to get a good percentage of the book, at least enough to keep reading and enjoy it. I think its only required to have a certain familiarity with the history of classical music(19th and 20th centuries). To know stuff like what is atonal and tonal music.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jakob

    Very few people are able to write intelligently about music. No one does it better than Adorno. Most people like the chapter about Schönberg and dislike the one on Stravinsky. For me, its opposite.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Simon Lavoie

    La vérité de la musique, écrit Adorno, se livre par l'effort d'embrasser simultanément en réflexion ses orientations les plus opposées. En l'espèce, dans l'entreprise qui décèle l'unité des oppositions entre les compositeurs obéissant le plus complètement qui soit à leurs "impulsions" (p.21). Schönberg a établi une technique de composition qui parachève la soumission de la nature (celle du son en l'occurrence) à la raison, non seulement en brisant la force d'envoûtement de la première par le biai La vérité de la musique, écrit Adorno, se livre par l'effort d'embrasser simultanément en réflexion ses orientations les plus opposées. En l'espèce, dans l'entreprise qui décèle l'unité des oppositions entre les compositeurs obéissant le plus complètement qui soit à leurs "impulsions" (p.21). Schönberg a établi une technique de composition qui parachève la soumission de la nature (celle du son en l'occurrence) à la raison, non seulement en brisant la force d'envoûtement de la première par le biais du calcul, mais plus encore en rendant convergentes et synthétiques les dimensions de la musique développées indépendamment jusqu'ici : contrepoint, mélodie, harmonie, orchestration, forme (p.62). De la réussite présumée de cette synthèse s'ensuit que le dodécaphonisme (la transformation d'une série initiale de douze sons non-répétés) est "véritablement le destin" de la musique (p.77). Stravinsky, à l'opposé, suit la pente du primitivisme, de la régression vers la puissance de l'ancestral et du mythe. Orientation qui ne réalise et ne découvre pas tant le progrès que la prémisse indépassable de toute musique : les rites collectifs (danse et culte) (p.28); et à travers eux, l'empire des gestes, du face-à-face, et de la parole (p.121). Ce qui avantage plus particulièrement Schönberg dans la perspective défendue ici est son élection de la solitude et de l'angoisse comme thème expressiviste d'arrière-plan. Même refusant d'en faire lecture psycho-sociologique, le compositeur de Die glückliche Hand révèle dans l'esseulement et l'impuissance de l'individu le produit et le sort collectifs des sociétés industrielles administrées (p.57-58). Il s'agit, et ce trait est souvent (quoique ironiquement) négligé, d'un exercice de pensée dialectique, non seulement au niveau précédent (embrasser l'unité des deux orientations opposées), mais également au niveau subalterne, où, il me semble, la négativité de la dialectique resplendit avec le plus d'évidence. En effet, c'est à l'intérieur des deux portraits que s'exerce le plus clairement la perspective maîtresse déjà campée avec Horkeimer dans un livre-époque (La dialectique de la raison, édition originale 1944). Rappelons que la ligne de force de l'ouvrage est que la raison émancipatrice détruit concrètement ses conditions de réalisation à mesure qu'elle avance, en élargissant le mythe qu'elle combat et la nature qu'elle veut dominer jusqu'à combattre et dominer son porteur lui-même (selon la célèbre formule : la domination des objets par les sujets devient domination des sujets comme objets). En l'espèce, et ce point vaut comme une critique sévère, le système de Schönberg tombe, écrit Adorno, dans cette dialectique négative en imposant les règles de la technique avec la même obstination englobante qu'une superstition (telle l'astrologie, p. 75). L'intuition qui a donné naissance aux règles (dont on a tiré des règles) a fini par leur succomber comme à une implacable seconde nature (p.76) ; par surcroît, la domination du son par soumission au calcul s'obtient au détriment du sens. Dans un ordre d'idée qui reconduit (tout en diminuant il me semble) cette charge, Stravinsky ne rétablit pas tant la subjectivité authentique par l'englobement collectif, qu'il ne procède de la certitude de la vacuité du sujet moderne (p.155-156). Traduisant l'archaïsme sous un angle davantage parodique que thérapeutique à l'égard de cette vacuité (préservée triomphante), un Sacre du printemps serait l'acceptation comme inévitable de ce dont elle semble(rait) vouloir nous sauver. S'ensuit-il que Stravinsky est plus près que Schönberg de réaliser l'idée hégélienne (qui fournit une prémisse à l'ouvrage) selon laquelle l'art est cheminement de l'esprit vers sa vérité, moyennant l'affirmation de son indépendance par rapport aux formes de son expression entourées des superstition et des pouvoirs en soi de jadis ? Je suis enclin à le croire, d'autant plus que Stravinsky (le Stravinsky de Adorno) opère une synthèse inédite entre la prémisse jugée indépassable de toute musique ("les pratiques collectives du culte et de la danse" p.28) et la découverte apparemment inexorable du vide, sinon de la conscience émancipée, du moins de la force de refus ("l'énergie du négatif") où elle s'abreuve et avec laquelle elle finit par sa confondre. Le style de Adorno rend la lecture de l'ouvrage occasionnellement pénible. La hâte et l'urgence qui l'habitent nous donnent l'impression d'un ouvrage conçu en réalité comme une seule et même phrase (avec un point d'exclamation en coda). Pour quiconque ne se forge pas un solide résumé de la ligne d'argumentation de Adorno, son argumentation prend rapidement une forme de "mauvais infini", échouant à la systématicité à laquelle elle prétend, et référant l'explanandum A à l'explanandum B, lui-même connecté à l'explanandum C, ainsi de suite dans une chaîne sans fin discernable (ne laissant que des éléments à expliquer). Il est surtout permis de nommer les incohérences des incohérences avec Adorno comme avec quiconque n'aurait pas l'autorité et la profondeur de son jugement musical. La musique nouvelle passe de négation d'une société devenue totalement organisée et administrée (p.30) - négation par injection d'un maximum de dissonance - à la négation d'une société complètement désordonnée ("chaos social") prétendant réaliser la liberté humaine - négation en abandonnant toute illusion d'harmonie (p.140). Les cinquante années de recul que nous avons par rapport à Schönberg, Stravinsky et leur époque pour dégager une unité de leur opposition ont-elles favorisé des analyses plus convaincantes que celles d'Adorno ? Des identités plus claires que celles atteintes au terme de son examen (p. 80) ? Je ne saurais me prononcer au-delà de (1) l'hypothèse que tous (ou peu s'en faut) auront abandonné le déterminisme historique qui arme (continue d'armer) certaines déclarations adorniennes ; et de (2) la recommandation de ne PAS croire en l'épuisement des efforts de synthèse nous offrant des vues (au moins des ébauches de vues) d'ensemble de l'évolution de la musique contemporaine (récente, actuelle, nouvelle, etc.). Ce qui est réconfortant lorsque l'on connaît le degré atteint ou conquis dans l'éclectisme et l'auto-référentialité normative (ne seraient valable pour juger d'une oeuvre, que les standards posés de manière immanente par cette oeuvre). Sans synthèse, point de salut.

  7. 4 out of 5

    C. Quabela

    I was disappointed with the first section on Schoenberg. Adorno’s reliance on jargon, both Hegelian and musicological (not to mention his own unique terminology), makes it difficult to follow his reasoning if you are not a polymath specializing in both. Also, why are there no paragraph breaks? Is this just a feature of the edition that I have? This consequent lack of structure burdens the reader’s comprehension. Overall it is an interesting read, what with the distinction between Schoenberg and I was disappointed with the first section on Schoenberg. Adorno’s reliance on jargon, both Hegelian and musicological (not to mention his own unique terminology), makes it difficult to follow his reasoning if you are not a polymath specializing in both. Also, why are there no paragraph breaks? Is this just a feature of the edition that I have? This consequent lack of structure burdens the reader’s comprehension. Overall it is an interesting read, what with the distinction between Schoenberg and Stravinsky a striking study in contrasts. The section on Stravinsky is much easier to follow and contains more of the cultural and psychological investigations one would expect form a member of the Frankfurt School. However, Adorno does himself no favors in his rejection of popular music in favor of such exalted composers with such a dry discourse on the latter. It would seem that his cultural Marxism is much better suited for criticism than congratulations. Given that Adorno’s discussion revolves exclusively around opera, it would be helpful, particularly for today’s reader, to read into that history beforehand to better understand the early 20th century composers discussed (I would recommend Abbate's "A History of Opera).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ola

    Ah. Adorno. Sometimes the sweep of thought leave me baffled. But most of the time the prose leaves me bewildered. His system of values is so despicable, but then again, many of his analyses are so spot on. And no-one can bash people like Adorno: "Universal necrophilia is the last perversity of style; it is hardly still possible to distinguish it from the normalcy in which it finds its affirmation - that sediment, namely, in the conversations of music which is looked upon as its second nature." P Ah. Adorno. Sometimes the sweep of thought leave me baffled. But most of the time the prose leaves me bewildered. His system of values is so despicable, but then again, many of his analyses are so spot on. And no-one can bash people like Adorno: "Universal necrophilia is the last perversity of style; it is hardly still possible to distinguish it from the normalcy in which it finds its affirmation - that sediment, namely, in the conversations of music which is looked upon as its second nature." Poor Stravinsky. How to answer to that?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    on hold

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mickaël A

    Pretty hard to read! I had to stop during the first part.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    This book is "also" about music. Coyness aside, it stands with DoE and In Search of Wagner as a fulsome social critique and ideological demystification.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jdamaskinos

    Schoenberg vs Stravinsky

  13. 4 out of 5

    Felipe

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alex Push

  15. 5 out of 5

    Miguel Angel Serna

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Gontar

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dusan M

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Shelemin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michel

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Austin Green

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kimon Mrkts

  25. 4 out of 5

    Will Watson

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hanna

  27. 5 out of 5

    Franz

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peter Praschl

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tea Susca

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ally

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