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Theodor Adorno and Popular Music

Theodor Adorno and Popular Music
March 16, 2010, 06:11:32 AM
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Serious music, for comparative purposes, may be thus characterized: Every detail derives its musical sense from the concrete totality of the piece which, in turn, consists of the life relationship of the details and never of a mere enforcement of a musical scheme. For example, in the introduction of the first movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony the second theme (in C-major) gets its true meaning only from the context. Only through the whole does it acquire its particular lyrical and expressive quality that is, a whole built up of its very contrast with the cantus firmus-like character of the first theme. Taken in isolation the second theme would be disrobed to insignificance. Another example may be found in the beginning of the recapitulation over the pedal point of the first movement of Beethoven's "Appassionata". By following the preceding outburst it achieves the utmost dramatic momentum. By omitting the exposition and development and starting with this repetition, all is lost.

Nothing corresponding to this can happen in popular music. It would not affect the musical sense if any detail were taken out of the context; the listener can supply the "framework" automatically, since it is a mere musical automatism itself. The beginning of the chorus is replaceable by the beginning of innumerable other choruses. The interrelationship among the elements or the relationship of the elements to the whole would be unaffected. In Beethoven, position is important only in a living relation between a concrete totality and its concrete parts. In popular music, position is absolute. Every detail is substitutable; it serves its function only as a cog in a machine.

[...]

Glamor. A further requirement of plugging is a certain richness and roundness of sound. This requirement evolves that feature in the whole plugging mechanism which is most overtly bound up with advertising as a business as well as with the commercialization of entertainment. It is also particularly representative of the inter-relationship of standardization and pseudo-individualization
   
It is musical glamor: those innumerable passages in song arrangements which appear to communicate the "now we present" attitude. The musical flourishes which accompany MGM's roaring lion whenever he opens his majestic mouth are analogous to the non-leonine sounds of musical glamor heard over the air

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/SWA/Some_writings_of_Adorno.shtml


This Frankfurite is right.

Art is Weltanschauung. Where classical music is about the whole and the eternal, pop music is uncaring about the universe and so it focuses its sparks unto the stimulus of the moment, anal or phallic, conveying fragmentation and atemporality,

 

Also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xd7Fhaji8ow

Re: Theodor Adorno and Popular Music
March 16, 2010, 01:41:32 PM
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Every detail derives its musical sense from the concrete totality of the piece which, in turn, consists of the life relationship of the details and never of a mere enforcement of a musical scheme.

This makes sense to me. I thought this was what people meant when they spoke of gestalt and other trendy terms.