2nd International Congress of Musicology

Athens Concert Hall, 4-6 November 2003

Paper Abstracts

Olympia Psychopedis-Frangou

The Actuality of Adorno’s Aesthetics. Approaches to his Theory Today

The foundations for the reflection of a modern theory that tries to escape from the “Skylla of dogmatism” and the “Harybdis of relativism” has been Adorno’s inquiry mainly at the field of the Aesthetics. According to his Aesthetic Theory, the duty of criticism has to do with the understanding of the substance of truth in works of art. This truth is associated with the correct solution to the problem of the enigmatic combination of the mimetic with the rational elements, of the social character and its transcendence, embedded in any particular work of art. Only philosophical reflection can have access to this substance, a reflection that is in interaction with the criticism of historical evolution of works. Thus, the concepts of interpretation and hermeneutics in Adorno refer to the decoding of the historic-philosophical character of the works and tend to the correct, that is objective, solution to the problem of their character in itself, that is, to the relation of their social content and function to their structures.
Interpretation in that sense, a demand of all great works of art, is related to the concept of “technical analysis” and, more than this, is a prerequisite for it, as well as a prerequisite for any Theory of Art and Musical Aesthetics. Having as a starting-point Adorno’s doubt whether “positive science” and the philosophy that derives from it have the capability to approach the substance of the truth of a work and to establish musical aesthetics, this lecture concentrates:
On the one hand, on an attempt of examination and critical reconstruction of basic concepts, such as the concepts of analysis, interpretation, understanding, aesthetic experience, musical material, the character of the negative, the “excessive”, and the “non identical”.
On the other hand, based on Adorno’s already classical and highly controversial treatise The Philosophy of the New Music that refers to the historic-philosophical content of the work of Schönberg and Stravinsky, this lecture will concentrate to the detection of the criteria of this Hermeneutic (subject, expression, intention, “seismographic” character, historical evolution of musical material and, in general, analytical, sociological and psychoanalytical concepts) and will examine the consequences of Adorno’s analyses to these criteria, underlining the fact that the criteria of this philosophical interpretation have as their starting point the musical phenomena themselves.
Finally, the lecture will attempt an account of the ways Musicology and Sociology of Music have perceived Adorno’s theory, the influence of which is all the more evident on these sciences, especially today.

© Musicology