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1963 __ « Anweisungen zum Hören neuer Musik »
Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969)
Comment : In an unpublished notebook entry from late 1944 Adorno wrote revealingly : "What remains to be written in what I write is beyond my knowledge and my power, but is something to which I lay claim: that I understand the language of the birds". This aspiration indicates the extent to which Adorno considered musical works to be not only meaningful, but revelatory, in that they tell the truth about the world to those who, like Siegfried listening to the birds in Wagner's "Ring", are able to understand what they are saying. Two important conditions can be seen to underlie Adorno's writings on music: 1) that musical works constitute a mode of conceptless cognition ("begriffslose Erkenntnis"), and can be understood, in that they are not only meaningful in terms of their inner relations, but also point beyond themselves to tell us something about the world and our relationship to it; and 2) that particular forms of understanding ("Verstehen") and experience ("Erfahrung") are called for that are adequate to the demands of the music -- that is to say, that some forms of listening are more valid than others, because music, too, has its requirements. Indeed, in his typology of listeners in "Einlatung in die Soziologie der Musik" (1962) Adorno insists that what he calls "the expert listeners" manifests the only adequate form of listening, something which in his essay "Answeisungen zum Hören neuer Musik" (1963) he describes as follows : « The type of listening which would do justice to the ideal of the integrated composition could best be labelled "structural". The advice, that listement should be multi-levelled -- hearing the musical phenomenon not only on the present but also in its relationship to what has already passed and to what is to come within the same composition -- has already identified an essential moment of the listening ideal ». The emphasis on "structural listening" at the same time also indicates the centrality of musical analysis to his thinking, because Adorno regards autonomous artworks as themselves objectively structured and multilayered, with their own demands to which the listener must respond. Musical analysis places the individual musical work as objective technical structure ans as dynamic form at the forefront of our consideration, unlike the aesthetics, sociology, or psychology of music, or indeed at times historical musicology, which may focus on values, ideology, perception, or social and historical context without necessarily addressing the specificity of the individual musical work. (Max Paddison)
Source : Adorno, Theodor W. (1963), “Anweisungen zum Hören neuer Musik”, In Der getreue Korrepetitor, Suhrkamp, 1976, pp. 188-248.
Source : Paddison, Max (2002), "Immanent Critique or Musical Stocktaking ? Adorno and the Problem of Musical Analysis", In "Adorno: a critical reader", edited by Nigel C. Gibson & Andrew Rubin, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002, pp. 209-210.

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