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Essays on Music by Theodor Adorno, Richard Leppert - Paperback - University of California Press
Adorno is best known for his association with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, he began his career as a composer and successful music critic. Night Music presents the first complete English translations of two collections of texts compiled by German philosopher and musicologist Adorno— Moments musicaux , containing essays written between and , and Theory of New Music , a group of texts written between and His extensive philosophical writing ultimately prevented him from pursuing the compositional career he had once envisaged, but his view of the modern music of the time is not simply that of a theorist, but clearly also that of a composer.
Though his advocacy of the Second Viennese School, comprising composer Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils, is well known, many of his writings in this field have remained obscure. Music: General Music. You may purchase this title at these fine bookstores. Outside the USA, see our international sales information. In combination, two of the essays provide a particularly rich exploration of the manner in which a specific kind of music will facilitate a specific range of expressiveness, thereby offering a specific vision of human flourishing.
Methodologically, Levinson may be criticized for being inconsistent when arguments depend on empirical claims. He cites empirical studies when it is in his interest to do so. Observing that "the empirical has a way of trumping the logical" p.
However, Levinson sometimes builds his own arguments on generalizations that are likely to fail a similar test in a controlled experiment. As a case in point, the argument of "Popular Song as Moral Microcosm" holds that repeated exposure to music of admirable "ethical quality" will have at least some positive effect on listeners: "in fact it is difficult to believe that repeated exposure to music that is ethically superior.
But the level of Levinson's credulity is not a firm foundation for any argument.
I, in response, find it very easy to believe that repeated exposure to such music has no effect on character. I admit to being influenced by Frank Zappa's response to a United States Senate inquiry into violent and "immoral" music: "There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we'd all love one another.
Essays on Music 1928-1962
On this matter, I can locate some evidence that music alone may have some positive effect on shaping character, but no evidence that popular song does so. Finally, Levinson could do more to work out the implications of several of his most important claims. For example, I have noted that the essay on shame makes the important concession that "readily" heard expressive qualities may be supplemented, in a correct interpretation by a "suitably backgrounded listener," by recognition of qualities that the listener "does not readily or spontaneously" hear.
It must be more than just the internalization of stylistic norms.
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His position on artistic indication, so neatly explained in "Indication, Abstraction, and Individuation," holds that work individuation and thus legitimate appreciative response ultimately "rest[s] on the unique identity of the artist. Contrasting the musically pretty with the musically beautiful, Levinson offers the beauty of Chopin's nocturnes in contrast to the "merely pretty" ones composed by John Field, which were the immediate model for Chopin's compositions. This contrast calls attention to the creative context, but makes nothing special of it.
Five pages later, Levinson asserts that some degree of novelty is required "in the music's evolution" if it is to be beautiful and not merely pretty and that to recognize novelty we must attend "beyond the bounds of what one would normally consider a structural feature of music. He invented the type; there were, practically speaking, no nocturnes until Field published a work with that title in
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