Friday, October 12, 2007

Teddy A. in da House.

Adorno: old-school marxist who detested both western capitalism and stalinist bureaucracy. A classically-trained musician (violinist, ah believe) Adorno also wrote some interesting things on the "culture industry", and how popular entertainment de-sensitizes consumers all over the globe. TA was a proverbial snob, though one still interested in socialist reform. His writings are often rather speculative, and Karl Popper was not entirely mistaken in criticizing Adorno (and most of the "structural" marxists) for his somewhat hasty conclusions and generalizations: i.e. many european scholars are not too keen on empiricial evidence, and verification. At the same time the Frankfurt marxists called the Popperians and positivists on their lack of any meaningful politics, their innate skepticism, and their subservience to the monarchy of Capital.

""""""The frame of mind to which popular music originally appealed, on which it feeds, and which it perpetually reinforces, is simultaneously one of distraction and inattention. Listeners are distracted from the demands of reality by entertainment which does not demand attention either.


The notion of distraction can be properly understood only within its social setting and not in self-subsistent terms of individual psychology. Distraction is bound to the present mode of production, to the rationalized and mechanized process of labor to which, directly or indirectly, masses are subject. This mode of production, which engenders fears and anxiety about unemployment, loss of income, war, has its "non-productive" correlate in entertainment; that is, relaxation which does not involve the effort of concentration at all. People want to have fun. A fully concentrated and conscious experience of art is possible only to those whose lives do not put such a strain on them that in their spare time they want relief from both boredom and effort simultaneously. The whole sphere of cheap commercial entertainment reflects this dual desire. It induces relaxation because it is patterned and pre-digested. Its being patterned and pre-digested serves within the psychological household of the masses to spare them the effort of that participation (even in listening or observation) without which there can be no receptivity to art. On the other hand, the stimuli they provide permit an escape from the boredom of mechanized labor.""""""

Full O'Sound and Fury, dewd


"""""The emotional listener listens to everything in terms of late romanticism and of the musical commodities derived from it which are already fashioned to fit the needs of emotional listening. They consume music in order to be allowed to weep. They are taken in by the musical expression of frustration rather than by that of happiness. The influence of the standard Slavic melancholy typified by Tchaikovsky and Dvorak is by far greater than that of the most "fulfilled" moments of Mozart or of the young Beethoven. The so-called releasing element of music is simply the opportunity to feel something. But the actual content of this emotion can only be frustration. Emotional music has become the image of the mother who says, "Come and weep, my child." It is catharsis for the masses, but catharsis which keeps them all the more firmly in line. One who weeps does not resist any more than one who marches. Music that permits its listeners the confession of their unhappiness reconciles them, by means of this "release", to their social dependence."""""

This seems quite rich and suggestive: ""Emotional music has become the image of the mother who says, "Come and weep, my child." It is catharsis for the masses, but catharsis which keeps them all the more firmly in line."""

The emotional catharsis of schmaltzy sad music then sort of reinforces the consumer's own misery--their own status as losers. Yass Teddy. However, there is kitschy melancholy (like Tchaikovsky, as TA notes, or all sorts of pop "gothic" music), and there is authentic melancholy--late Scriabin, Chopin, Bach organ concertos, a bit of Satie, Bill Evans playing Autumn Leaves. In terms of narratives, there are soap operas, mafioso dramas, tearjerkers; rather more powerful and perennial are Macbeth and Othello, or EA Poe, Shelley, etc. The authentic melancholy concerns not only one individual or one family's tragedy, but a nation's tragedy, a continent's tragedy---a corpse-strewn battlefield, and rats taking lunch break.

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