Adorno and the Life of Art

I’ve always been struck by an article of Adorno’s called “The Aging of the New Music.” The title alone is enough to think about, and it was in my mind when I wrote an earlier post about Ehrenzweig. What he means by “new music” is the second Viennese school of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg, and the aging he refers to is its academicization in the fifties. But what is strongest for me is Adorno’s insight that changes in taste, in subjective perception, correspond to real changes in the object, even though the object doesn’t actually change. The music is still the same notes and procedures, and the art is still the same objects and forms, but they have changed. It’s not just that the way we look at them is different, it’s that our new perception registers a real change in what we are looking at. We could explain it by saying that time has brought something to the surface of the work that wasn’t evident at the beginning of its life, but I would rather keep the paradox. Meanwhile, looking back at the article, I find that he attributes the aging of the new music to the conformism of the post-war world, in other words to an external cause. This idea about art and time might really be my idea, extrapolated from Adorno. A good idea.

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