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Title: T.W. Adorno's critique of post-war musical composition
Author: Dixon, M. J. C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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This dissertation offers an analysis and interpretation of Theodor W. Adorno's critique of post-war musical composition with reference to the essays Das Altern der neuen musik (1956), Musik und Technik (1958), Vers une musique informelle (1962) and the posthumously published Ästhetische Theorie. My interest in these particular writings resides in the fact that from them it is possible to construct a picture of Adorno's understanding of what it is to compose. My principal contention is that this understanding depends on a rigorous application of a subject-object dialectic in the context of compositional practice. This dialectic also underpins Adorno's attitude to political praxis. In the course of this dissertation I argue that Adorno's use of 'critique' must be understood within the Western Marxist tradition. Accordingly, Adorno's critiques of post-war composition are more than sophisticated commentaries on current trends and tendencies within the European musical avant garde, but actually attempt to change the attitudes of composers with regard to their activity and to negate prevailing compositional tendencies and ideologies. They are, therefore, theoretical interventions into compositional practice. I demonstrate in particular how the subject-object dialectic is used by Adorno to redescribe traditional compositional concepts such as technique, métier, convention, and genius in terms of the objective requirements of the work. Two issues which arise as part of Adorno's attack on serialism - the 'new' and the integration of technology into the composition - can also be theorised in terms of a subject-object dialectic. I show that Adorno's understanding of the relation of technology and composition is also indebted to the Marxist distinction between the forces and relations of production. Adorno's reliance on conceptual paradoxes can be seen as obstructing the efficacy of his theory in practical compositional terms. I argue against this view and seek to defend Adorno's Aesthetic Theory and his compositional manifesto Vers une musique informelle against critiques by Albrecht Wellmer and Raymond Guess.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available