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February 19, 2006

Thieves in the temple

For some bizarre reason, Theodor Adorno's name seems to be coming up a lot in conversation lately. Stranger still, he seems to have a lot of unlikely defenders, including Robin Varghese of 3 Quarks Daily and saxophonist Josh Rutner.

My position on Adorno the composer/critic is pretty simple -- I think he's an insufferable wanker whose toxic influence on music and music cricitism lingers still. I highly recommend this very sharp, entertaining piece by Alex Ross (originally published 2003). Ross harbors considerably more sympathy for the guy than I do, but nevertheless cuts to to the heart of the matter.

As for Adorno the social philosopher, I'm well out of my element there, but perhaps some of the philosophers in the crowd are up for a good old-fashioned food fight?

[xposted at Secret Society]


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Can it be necessary to refute Adorno in detail? No: stand that on its head: can it be useful? His outlook was a political one, which is merely to say that he knew nothing and would have preferred to know still less. He would have ranted identically on any topic that seized his fancy. So, God help poor Music for having come to Adorno's hand; but that is not all. Foremost, it is an indictment of the incredible intellectual sloppiness of musical discourse that it offered Adorno such a distinctive wealth of opportunities. If music were chemistry, we would still be talking about caloric and phlogiston. It should be no surprise that mountebanks rush in where no sort of rigorous-yet-deep explanatory apparatus has yet been put forward. (I will grant Schenker depth.)

My amateurish summmary of Adorno: "I am too fucking cool for ya'll music. But I can't show you mine."

If I were ever to meet him, I'll yell at him. Yo' show me yours. mister. or shut up.

on similar line, I never can understand why people are so enamored with conceptual music performance. Music is still about sound wave, not just the thought of sound wave. Show me the sound pal or get off the stage.

Lizard brain: that song for some reason wants me to play one of those kracfive record IDM piece. (they are pretty interesting bunch. to me at least)

lo neolin

okay I am bored, sue me.

short sunday evening list. (too edgy to be posted in regular blog.)

"Lizard Brain" by secret society

"lo neolin" by colongib & octopus inc

"basta con cerrar los ojos" by Ursula

I thought his loathing for jazz and African-American musical traditions was indistinguishably racist from the Nazis'. He couldn't abide Stravinsky, either. It's one thing when a philosopher of little acquaintance with first-rate art and music does aesthetics, as Kant did, another when the philosopher sees and hears marvels and then proceeds to insist they aren't any good.
Btw, I remember hearing that the psychology of The Authoritarian Personality does not stand up to empirical studies when it is even falsifiable.

Posted by: Dabodius | February 20, 2006 at 12:53 PM

I got term for that.

"gigantic mental masturbation"

(actually, my italian friend says it the best with her accent, when she is right, scoffing at rediculous idea)

That someone says very ignorant r uninformed things on some topic is not, by itself, grounds for utter dismissal. One reliably sound measure of a thinker is: what's the ratio of his or her valuable insights to his or her verbal masturbation?

Considered in that light, I think that Adorno's insights into other philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Marx, Heidegger), his understanding of the psychology of fascism, and his writings on "the culture industry" substantiate his reputation as an important philosopher. He ties together epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of history in ways that remain illuminating. And even when it comes to music: even if he's wrong about Armstrong and Ellington, he's right about Wagner.

Adorno's certainly not the first philosopher to mistake his own expertise for the license to pontificate, and he's not the last. From which it follows . . . . not very much, I'm afraid.

Posted by: Dr. Spinoza | February 20, 2006 at 02:39 PM

depends what adorno means by "industry". I got the feeling, he just bitter his crap doesn't sell and nobody wants to publish it. I bet if somebody pays good money and make him famous, he is all for that 'industry'. Of course I can be accused of trying to read his mind. But I have not met a single composer who doesn't like his work received wider recognition yet. And I doubt Adorno is superior.

Secondly, everything is a product of 'industry' by that I mean, organisation that utilize capital. Even Adorno's book is a product of the industry, without it, nobody will publish him. Hell, I'll make a wankery claim that his entire idea develop after industrialization era, hence probably incubated by it, despite apparent rejection of it's idea.

He wouldn't be hanging around in the US if he indeed rejects the whole thing. Tahiti or India were fashionable. The mofo is full of it.

That someone says very ignorant r uninformed things on some topic is not, by itself, grounds for utter dismissal.
Posted by: Dr. Spinoza | February 20, 2006 at 02:39 PM

I think it does. Because without discoursive context, an utterance might as well be a nonsensical ramble. Comprehension and intention count in my book.

I might be able to blurb something that appear insightfull about Jazz composition. But at the end of the day it has nothing to do with Jazz composition nor adding anything to the discourse of jazz composition. It's just hot air.

I really buy the idea of craftmanship. (eg. okay you make your big theory talk, now show us. otherwise, shut up.)

yeah yeah...pragmatic materialism is my middle name. pfff...

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