Adorno's Philosophy of modern music

Dennis, Christopher J. (Christopher John) (1992) Adorno's Philosophy of modern music. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Adorno's Philosophy of Modern Music is examined, and its principal theme is presented: the historical demise of tonality as the basis for the valid practice of musical art. This theme proceeds from Adorno's dialectical view of reality, and from the consequences of the historical change that began with the ascendancy of the bourgeoisie. Tonal music constitutes the most characteristic art form of an age dominated by bourgeois ideology: in the illusion of its closed organically developing form, it is aesthetically experienced as miming the bourgeois view of the world as a rationally graspable totality. However, since the effect of the bourgeois ideal of enlightenment is a drive to the total rationalization of human reality, the human subject becomes alienated, reality becomes objectified, and the reified subject loses his understanding of reality as involving himself in the same way as other subjects. Therefore reality for him no longer includes the collective subjectivity which makes the convention of tonality possible. The illusion of the organicity of tonal works can no longer be sustained. -- Responses to these circumstances by the principal composers of the period span a continuum: from authenticity, in acknowledgment of the end of musical art, achieved in the objectifying constructions of Schoenberg's twelve-tone principles; to inauthenticity, in the pretence of Stravinsky's works to maintain a traditional tonality which is really dead. Inconsistency is noted in Adorno's understanding of what tonality is, and where it actually applies; this casts doubt upon the notion of totality from which its historical demise supposedly derives. Adorno's characterization of present historical trends is read as negative, and an interpretation of this apparently "essentialist" position is offered.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5730
Item ID: 5730
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [146]-152.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 1992
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Adorno, Theodor W., 1903-1969. Philosophie der neuen Musik; Schoenberg, Arnold, 1874-1951; Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971; Music--20th century--History and criticism; Music--Philosophy and aesthetics

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