Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy

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University of Chicago Press, Aug 15, 1996 - Biography & Autobiography - 178 pages
6 Reviews
Theodor W. Adorno's classic study of Gustav Mahler's music defies traditional thematic analysis, which, according to Adorno, "misses the music's substance in its preoccupation with procedure." He reaches beyond the boundaries of conventional analysis for an understanding of the music through the composer's character, his historical, philosophical, and social background, and his moment in musical history. First published in German in 1960, this ground-breaking work quickly established itself as a bold new form of musical interpretation, expanding the framework in which the composer's character and, through this, his creations are more fully understood. Adorno illuminates his argument through evocative metaphors, vivid images, and unusual comparisons. The result is a densely layered, anti-systematic interpretation that reveals as much about Adorno as it does about his subject. One of the most original and highly regarded of modern musical commentators, and among the first to call himself a sociologist of music, Adorno was a philosopher, cultural critic, and composer. His unique critical method illuminated music by relating it to history and social milieu. He held that music was a nonconceptual language that represented yet transcended the social world; in music and art, aesthetic value and social relevance were necessarily united. The essential themes of his Marxism - reification, fetishism, the emancipatory role of art, and the dialectical relationship of affirmation and negation - were alive in even the most formal works of art. In Mahler's A Musical Physiognomy, Adorno views the composer's works as a continuous and unified development from his childhood response to the marches and folktunes of the Bohemian village where he was born. But despite its traditional roots, Mahler's music intentionally breaks the balance of established musical language.
  

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Review: Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy

User Review  - Laura Bloss - Goodreads

read it for an article I'm writing....lol definitely not "pleasure reading" Read full review

Review: Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy

User Review  - Goodreads

read it for an article I'm writing....lol definitely not "pleasure reading" Read full review

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About the author (1996)

Theodor W. Adorno is the progenitor of critical theory, a central figure in aesthetics, and the century's foremost philosopher of music. He was born and educated in Frankfurt, Germany. After completing his Ph.D. in philosophy, he went to Vienna, where he studied composition with Alban Berg. He soon was bitterly disappointed with his own lack of talent and turned to musicology. In 1928 Adorno returned to Frankfurt to join the Institute for Social Research, commonly known as The Frankfurt School. At first a privately endowed center for Marxist studies, the school was merged with Frankfort's university under Adorno's directorship in the 1950s. As a refugee from Nazi Germany during World War II, Adorno lived for several years in Los Angeles before returning to Frankfurt. Much of his most significant work was produced at that time. Critics find Adorno's aesthetics to be rich in insight, even when they disagree with its broad conclusions. Although Adorno was hostile to jazz and popular music, he advanced the cause of contemporary music by writing seminal studies of many key composers. To the distress of some of his admirers, he remained pessimistic about the prospects for art in mass society. Adorno was a neo-Marxist who believed that the only hope for democracy was to be found in an interpretation of Marxism opposed to both positivism and dogmatic materialism. His opposition to positivisim and advocacy of a method of dialectics grounded in critical rationalism propelled him into intellectual conflict with Georg Hegel, Martin Heidegger, and Heideggerian hermeneutics.

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