Adorno described Wagner’s leitmotives as ‘over-inflated’, and characterised the sense of totality the composer aspired to as ‘mere illusion’. Describe Adorno’s ‘sociological’ critique of Wagner’s leitmotivic practice and compare this with the rather well-disposed judgments that he made in his analysis of Berg’s string quartet, op. 3. Discuss the merits as well as the limits of Adorno’s aim to decipher the sociological content of the work.
In ‘The Artwork of the Future’ (1850) Wagner explored the idea of a collective artwork, a Gesamtkunstwerk. His vision of ‘all - embracing art’ involved the ‘collective impulse of all the arts’ in order to create a unified communication with the ‘collective public’. This vision of a union of music and dramatic text, along with elements of scenic design, staging and poetry, re-imagined the conventions of a typical opera. In Wagner’s early aesthetic, music functions as the medium and drama as the expression and this manifests itself predominantly through the consistent use of leitmotives which create a web of allusions that run throughout the work. The association of the leitmotiv is often established by the sounding of the musical theme alongside the initial appearance of the subject. As the leitmotif recurs, it creates a dramatic thread throughout the work that accumulates further meaning as it appears in new contexts and in combination with other motifs. So, as the audience becomes familiar with these musical ideas and their implications, it enables Wagner to subliminally link past or future ideas and emotional states to the drama occurring in the present. Wagner himself described the motives as ‘emotional guideposts through the whole labyrinthine edifice of the drama’ (in his work Opera and Dra.
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. to ascertain the commodification of art as arising from aesthetic modernism itself. Adorno’s reception of Wagner has received critical attention from scholars in various disciplines and many musicologists disagree with Adorno’s combination of aesthetic and ideological criticisms – although ironically this method mirrors Adorno's argument that in the artwork aesthetics and ideology are inseparably intertwined.
Theodor W. Adorno, In Search of Wagner, trans. Rodney Livingstone (London/New York: Verso, 1981), Ch. 2 (‘Gesture’)
Theodor W. Adorno, Alban Berg: Master of the Smallest Link, trans. Juliane Brand and Christopher Hailey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 53ff. (the section entitled ‘First String Quartet’)
Theodor W. Adorno, Introduction to the Sociology of Music, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Seabury Press, 1976), pp. 1-21
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Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment Essay - Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment 'Myth is already enlightenment; and enlightenment reverts to mythology' (Dialectic of Enlightenment XVI) Adorno and Horkheimer's obscure and nihilistic text Dialectic of Enlightenment (DoE) is an attempt to answer the question 'why mankind, instead of entering a truly human condition, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism' (DoE, p.xi). The result is a totalising critique of modernity; a diagnosis of why the Enlightenment project failed with no attempt to prescribe a cure. [tags: Mythology Literature Adorno Horkheimer Essays]
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Theodor Adorno’s Versuch über Wagner stands after Nietzsche’s assorted polemics as perhaps the most sophisticated, provocative, and enduring critique of Wagner and his oeuvre, certainly from what we might loosely term the political Left. Yet it remains much misunderstood, often taken, from Carl Dahlhaus’s initial review onward, for a far more unremittingly hostile attack than it was either intended as or actually became. 1 Thomas Mann wrote that he had always believed Nietzsche’s Wagner critique to be an “inverted panegyric” (Panegyrikus mit umgekehrtem Vorzeichen ), “another form of celebration.” 2 Much the same, though not quite in the same way, might be said of Adorno’s book too, and not only because Nietzsche’s critique so often provides its starting points. It helps to understand Adorno’s Versuch within the German tradition, initiated at the latest by Nietzsche, of offering a “case of Wagner,” a case that must be addressed. 3 That there is a “problem,” a “case,” few would deny. After all, one of Wagner’s greatest interpreters, Wilhelm Furtwängler, provided his “case of Wagner, freely after Nietzsche” as an essay, opening with the estimable claim that Wagner was “the most highly controversial figure in the entire history of the arts.” 4 Adorno and Furtwängler had more in common than one might necessarily expect, though they were hardly kindred spirits; nevertheless, both in their different ways were attempting both an exploration of Wagner and his rescue (Rettung ), to employ a term of which Adorno was fond. 5
Adorno’s book was published by Suhrkamp in 1952, although it had for the most part been written between autumn 1937 and spring 1938 in London and New York, and four chapters had appeared previously in the 1939 Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. He later explained that he had “endeavoured to combine sociological, technical-musical, and aesthetic analyses in such a manner that, on the one hand, societal analyses of Wagner’s ‘social character’ and the function of his work would shed light upon its internal composition. On the other hand—and what seemed to me more essential—the internal-technical findings in turns should be brought to societal expression and be read as ciphers of societal conditions.” 6 The [End Page 205] paperback edition, published in 1963, brought minor changes, but nothing substantive.
Adorno admitted, however, in his preface to that edition that “the author’s more recent views on Wagner would not have fitted into the framework of the present study.” For those views, he pointed to an essay, “‘Zur Partitur des Parsifal,’ found in the Moments Musicaux,” and to his “talk, ‘Wagners Aktualität,’ given during the September 1963 Berliner Festwochen, [which] has not yet appeared in print.” 7 In the latter, which soon did appear in print, he conceded that he would “today. formulate many things in the book differently. Its central problem, that of the relation between societal aspects on the one hand and compositional and aesthetic aspects on the other, might have to be argued more profoundly within the subject matter than it was then.” Nevertheless, he continued, “I am not distancing myself from the book, nor am I abandoning the conception.” Indeed, if anything, his association, however partial, of Wagner with National Socialism was stated more baldly: “As the National Socialist potential continues to smoulder within the German reality now as then, so it is still present in Wagner.” 8 Wagner had certainly not been neutralized by the passing of time.
Reception in the English-speaking world has not been helped by Rodney Livingstone’s strange translation of the title as In Search of Wagner. when Essay on Wagner would have been more accurate. 9 Experiment upon Wagner or An Approach toward Wagner might even have laid some claim to partial validity, given the senses in which the composer is tested as a case of “enlightenment”—in good part avant la lettre. There is little sense of seeking after his antagonist; indeed, John Deathridge, in his astute 1983 review of the English edition, went so far as to say that Adorno was “definitely not ‘in search of Wagner.
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"You want me to stand next to. who?"
Well, in the case of Kaufmann, it was a special "critics award" (Ed: one assumes that having had to admit to having worked on the Brits they must try and save their reputations in some manner?).
In his first Brits award, Jonas Kaufmann won Critics Choice for his album "Wagner" Alas, he was unable to attend and thus was not able to appear on stage (or slurp cheap wine in the greenroom afterwards) with other noted classical music greats, and some winners, such as: Lang Lang, Andre Rieu, Alfie Boe, Andrea Bocelli, Katherine Jenkins (and her immortal classical masterpiece, that must surely sit alongside some of Wagner's finest works, This Is Christmas ) Myleene Klass and Richard Clayderman - among other great classical artists (Ed: Are you sure about this?).
Alas, Kaufmann failed to gain the Artist Of The Year Award which was given instead - and considering many of the other winners, probably in error - to Daniel Barenboim
Watch this only if you are really feeling brave - trust us on this.
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