Dennis, Christopher Books

Adorno's Philosophy of Modern Music
1997 0-7734-8434-5
Examines Adorno's principle theme: the historical demise of tonality as the basis for the valid practice of musical art. This theme proceeds from his dialectical view of reality, and from the consequences of the historical change that began with the ascendancy of the bourgeoisie. Responses to these circumstances by the principal composers of the period span a continuum from authenticity, in acknowledgment of the end of musical art, achieved in the objectifying constructions of Schoenberg's 12-tone principles; to inauthenticity, in the pretence of Stravinsky's works to maintain a traditional tonality which is really dead. The consequences of this history for contemporary music are presented as Adorno described them in publications subsequent to Philosophy of Modern Music. Inconsistency is noted in Adorno's understanding of what tonality is, and where it actually applies: this casts doubt upon the notion of tonality from which its historical demise supposedly derives. Adorno's characterization of present historical trends is read as negative, and an interpretation of this apparently essentialist position is offered.