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Adorno Text/lecture

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Adorno Text / Lecture

Crystal Grijalvo

Adorno begins by tackling the dissimilarities between “popular” and “serious” music.  Musical individuals are able to recognize the difference between each of the terms provided, however, Adorno makes it obvious that there is more to the difference than dictating that popular music is “simple” and serious music is “complicated.”  For Adorno, the distinctive feature of popular music is known as “standardization.”  Throughout many distinct genres of music, one could obtain the “verse-chorus-verse-chorus” pattern as well as many alternative patterns in which “nothing fundamentally novel will be introduced.” Songs are generally recognized by the particulars provided such as the admission into the chorus (we call it “the hook”), instead of the theoretical entity within the song – since all of these songs are identical in conceptuality.  

While “serious music” does not have a theoretical composition, and each component of the song has a significance that relies on the connection to other components of the song.  He gives examples of Beethoven’s music, and how the individual components are futile and unaccompanied by the circumstances of their environments.  Adorno recognizes that in serious music there are many examples of conventional behavior, however, he expresses that there is a crucial distinction between these phenomenon and the standardization of popular music; in serious music, they are working with a considerable objective in mind.  For example, the “minuet-like” scherzo in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is very conventional, and its intention is to produce tension, and an appreciation of apprehension leading up to the finale.  In popular music, there appears to be no devotion towards “concrete totality” since the particulars are not authorize to overstep their capacity within the theoretical composition of the song.

Thus, in serious music, there is little feasibility of replacing components of a song – the significance of a song would be missed.  In popular music, as we are regularly reminded, components of songs from totally distinct genres can be undoubtedly exchanged into other songs.  Adorno then inquires the question of “who sets the standards?”  It is the “cartelized agencies” of the media.  There are standards that appear to be crucial for all popular music in order to capture the listener’s awareness, but nothing so unusual that it questions individuals’ belief of “natural” music:

“That is, the sum total of all the conventions and material formulas in music to which he is accustomed and which he regards as the inherent, simple language of music itself, no matter how late the development might be which produced this natural language.”

Adorno describes the “standardized” music capable of remaining popular as “pseudo-individualization:” a delusion that lets the listener harvest the pre-digested music they “prefer.”  There must also be a like-dislike contrast, regardless of the “fundamental identity of the material” in order to authorize the listener to experience control.  The objective is to acquire neglect for the listener so that they believe that everything they perceive is pre-digested.

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