Adorno as composer

Deterritorial Investigations

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Despite Adorno’s hope for social transformation, his influence is (by design) primarily in the academic and cultural spheres, and his critiques of popular culture and music were scathing and sometimes just plain weird. He had a notoriously irrational dislike of jazz, for example. (Historian Eric Hobsbawm said that his writing contained “some of the stupidest pages ever written about jazz.”) Adorno also disliked “protest music,” as you can see from the interview above, in which he slams the folky, hippy stuff for its “cross-eyed transfixion with amusement” that renders it safe. Protest music, Adorno says, takes “the horrendous,” the Vietnam War in this case, and makes it “somehow consumable.” Maybe Dylan felt the same way when he gave up his Woody Guthrie act and started writing those brilliantly arcane, poetic lyrics.

But Adorno didn’t just preach the virtues of difficult art. He practiced them. In addition to championing the twelve-tone…

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