Secrets of the Studio

As an exponent of organicism, and of the artwork that produces itself, I naturally find these words of Adorno very interesting:

“…you will find that great tonal music actually bears some resemblance to a puzzle. The movements of the greatest composers are based on a discrete number of topoi, of more or less rigid elements, out of which they are constructed. The aspect of the organic, the developing, which is central to Viennese classicism, proves, in light of these topoi, to be largely an art of appearances. Music represents itself as if one thing were developing out of the other, but without any such development actually occurring. The mechanical aspect is covered up by the art of composition, but is incomparably more powerful than believers in culture can feel good about.”

It isn’t fair that an artist turned critic should expose the secrets of the studio in this way. But seriously, this is a clear rationale for abstraction from Pollock onwards. The goal is to have actual development of one form out of another, and so preset schemas have to be abandoned. Adorno goes on: “The discomfort with this aspect of music, kaleidoscopic and mechanistically constructed from individual parts, drove in the direction of a music that wanted to be free of it.” In the fifties, after serialism and contemporary with the turn to chance and the influence of Cage, his own proposal was called musique informelle, (with a clear allusion to informelle painting—abstract expressionism on this side of the water) meaning a music that creates itself as it goes along, without any pre-established forms. This is my method exactly, independently arrived at, and exactly the “theory” taught to me by my own work. Naturally, in both practice and theory it answers the shortcomings of earlier abstraction, making real what was only potential then. But Adorno goes on: “Bourgeois consciousness, on the other hand, always thinks about constructing as much as possible from a minimum of parts, after the pattern of the labor processes that began with the era of factory production. There is a stubborn if unacknowledged pleasure in this kind of procedure—that of regressive repetition.” So he captures the oscillation between free expression and the return to formulae, and acknowledges the demands of technique. But this observation also applies to an earlier post.


Jackson Pollock, #5 1948

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