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September 2021

Why did Adorno ''hate'' jazz?

Journal/Book: Sociolog Theor. 2000; 18: 350 Main Street, Ste 6, Malden, MA 02148, USA. Blackwell Publishers. 145-170.

Abstract: Adorno's jazz essays have attracted considerable notoriety not only for their negative and dismissive evaluation of jazz as music but for their outright dismissal of all the claims made on behalf of jazz by its exponents and admirers, even of claims concerning the black origins of jazz music. This paper offers a critical exposition of Adorno's views on jazz and outlines an alternative theory of the culture industry as the basis of a critique of Adorno's critical theory. Adorno's arguments are discussed in the context of his wider theoretical commitment to a model of structuration-in both musical and social relations-that establishes a dividing line between a moral aesthetic praxis that can be approved as having ''truth-value'' and one that betrays and subverts the truth. In Adorno 's analysis, jazz finds itself positioned on the wrong side of that line and accordingly, is condemned. It is argued that it is Adorno's commitment to a formalist model of art works that has been superseded by modern aesthetic practice in both so-called ''serious'' art as well as in the works of the culture industries that binds him to a regressive model of aesthetic praxis. An alternative theory of the culture industry is outlined that explores its positive functions in enhancing the resources available for culture creation through its transmission of aesthetic codes, and in mediating relations between so-called high and low art.

Note: Article Witkin RW, Univ Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QJ, Devon, ENGLAND


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