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volume 10
november 2007

From technique to technology


  A reinterpretation of Adorno's concept of musical material
by Floris Velema
  The introduction and development of electronic musical equipment meant a fundamental change of the material with which composers work and, consequently, led to a rethinking of the nature of sound and the role of the composer. Recognizing this shift, Theodor W. Adorno tried to answer this problem with the propositions of his Musique Informelle. These, however, fail to contain the possibilities of the "new music," Floris Velema argues. In this respect Adorno's concept of musical material will have to be reinterpreted and expanded to fit in with the current exigencies of Critical Theory.
1 Right: Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969)

Introduction. The writings of Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969) stand out for their original and unifying approach to social theory and philosophy of music. Adorno, both composer and philosopher, envisioned for music as an autonomous art form the task of finding an expression for the contradictions of an alienated society. In his Philosophy of Modern Music (1949), Adorno describes how the atonal and serial music of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) which he greatly admired, succeeds in this task.

The question that comes to mind is how instrumental music can have anything to say about empirical reality, let alone anything critical. A central concept that Adorno uses to answer this question is the concept of musical material. It is the composer's way of dealing with this musical material, as the sum of all handed-down genres and forms that originate out of music's historical development of expressive needs and technical means, that gives music its critical potential.

  Although not mentioned in the Philosophy of Modern Music, musical material underwent a radical transformation around the time of its writing. The introduction of the tape-recorder made it possible for the first time in history to cut a sound loose from its natural bearer and play it over and over again, even backwards, at different speed, or in continuous loops. Just like Schoenberg unchained a revolution in musical technique by abandoning the traditional tonal system, the composers of the early studios of Paris and Cologne unchained a revolution in musical technology. Through the use of electronics, composers were no longer limited to the traditional timbres of the orchestra. Suddenly, every sound imaginable was at their disposal.
  Remarks on electronic music are scattered throughout Adorno's later work and show that his attitude towards this new music became more approving during his lifetime. Still, there do not seem to be any passages in which he applies the actual state of musical material to his former philosophy of music. This is odd, musical material being such a central concept in Adorno's work. Obviously, the concept of musical material is a dynamic concept, in the sense that it depicts an historical development. A change in musical material is therefore nothing more than a confirmation of Adorno's theory. Nevertheless, the introduction of electronic musical equipment seems to be more than just the next step in a continuous development: it alters the meaning of the concept of musical material itself. The historical development of expressive needs and technical means seems to become a historical development of expressive needs and technological means. This could have consequences for Adorno's philosophy of music as a whole, especially regarding music's critical potential.
  The central question of my thesis can thus be stated as follows: Is Adorno's philosophy of music in need of reinterpretation after the severe changes that occurred to the musical material with the introduction of electronic musical equipment?
  To answer this question, I will start out by clarifying some basic concepts from both Adorno's social theory and his philosophy of music in chapter 2. Chapter 3 is fully reserved for the problem of form. I will investigate the possibility of autonomous music's formal qualities becoming a critical reflection of society, after which I will describe the difficulties of dealing with the state of musical material at the beginning of the twentieth century for Schoenberg and later serialist composers. Chapter 4 makes clear how revolutionary the introduction of electronic musical equipment was. First I will show that the mentality of broadening the musical material to every audible sound can be traced back to the work of Luigi Russolo (1885-1947), who wrote about this change even before the introduction of electronics. Then, I will examine the relation between musical material and the industrial society after the "liberation of sound," a phrase introduced by Edgard Varèse (1883-1965).
  Although the liberation of sound seems to increase music's potential to reflect society, chapter 5 shows that the opposite has actually occurred. Composers of electronic music have been focusing more on the "inherent form" of audible sounds, abandoning the dichotomy between historically developed musical material and compositional form, which I will make clear using the writings of Karlheinz Stockhausen (b. 1928). Before doing so, I will show that the statement by John Cage (1912-1992), that form is "our constant connection with the past" may not be as self-evident as it appears. Finally, I will conclude that these developments lead further away from Adorno's thesis that problems of society appear immanently in music as problems of form. Still, from Adorno's observation that progress in avant-garde music occurs at the highest technical level of the musical material, it can be argued that in the age of electronic musical equipment, progress occurs at the highest technological level of the musical material.
  The conclusion will have the form of an affirmative answer to my central question. This should in no way be seen as a weakening of Adorno's work. On the contrary, reinterpreting his philosophy of music, as part of his broader Critical Theory, is a legitimate way of dealing with his writings in our time. As I will show in section 3.1.3, it is inherent to Adorno's (self)reflective writings that they depict the spirit of the time in which they came into existence. Reinterpretation is only a way to make those ideas come alive and meaningful to us. As Max Paddison wrote:
  "That his [Adorno, FV] critical aesthetics of music cannot be understood, interpreted and reapplied to changing historical conditions without us actively entering that debate and, in the process, very likely changing its terms is a sign of its authenticity. As critical theory, it exists and develops only as a continuing reinterpretation and critique of existing systems of thought. It is in this spirit that Adorno's incomplete project itself demands continuing reinterpretation and critique: not in order to systematize and "complete" it, but, through locating its terms and revealing its lacunae, to go beyond it" (Paddison, 1997: 278).
  2. Music's promise of happiness
2.1.1 Left: Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951; photo © 2004 Milken Family Foundation))

The concept of Enlightenment. Instead of describing the Enlightenment as the historical period covering the seventeenth and eighteenth century in which the emancipatory ideals of modernity came into being, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno describe this concept in their Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) as an ongoing process of rationalization, evolving out of the magical conception of the world into the fully rationalized world of today. The magical conception of the world is characterized by practices that attempt to understand and to dominate the forces of nature through mythology and symbolic rituals. Although unsystematized in their procedures, these practices have the same fundamental goal that provides continuity to the whole process of Enlightenment, namely that "Enlightenment has always aimed at liberating men from fear and establishing their sovereignty" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 3). Both the magical and the scientific worldview are ways to represent and manipulate empirical reality in such a way that its threats to mankind can be neutralized. Therefore, both have a fundamental character of domination, and can be defined in terms of power relations. The difference is that "Enlightenment is mythic fear turned radical" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 16), because of the all-embracing and rigid procedures with which science dominates and objectifies nature. Moreover, Enlightenment has forgotten its original character of domination after having replaced symbolic rituals with formal systems.

  This should not be interpreted as a craving for a return to the magical worldview: the disenchantment of the world is a necessary step in the course of progressive rationalization. Instead, it should be interpreted as a criticism of the stern belief in modern science's objective neutrality: "Magic is utterly untrue, yet in it domination is not yet negated by transforming itself into the pure truth and acting as the very ground of the world that has become subject to it" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 9).
  In order to portray the condition of mankind in this process of rationalization, Horkheimer and Adorno (1947: 43) use Homer's epic tale of Odysseus, who "shows himself to be a prototype of the bourgeois individual" as he takes advice from the sorceress Circe in order to navigate safely past the deadly Sirens:
  "Drive your ship past the spot, and to prevent any of your crew from hearing, soften some beeswax and plug their ears with it. But if you wish to listen yourself, make them bind you hand and foot on board and place you upright by the housing of the mast, with the rope's ends lashed to the mast itself. This will allow you to listen with enjoyment to the Sirens' voices. But if you beg and command your men to release you, they must add to the bonds that already hold you fast" (Homer, n.y.: 158).
  The violent surroundings in which Odysseus is about to find himself force him to bring a sacrifice: Only by being bound to the mast of his ship is he able to resist the natural and fatal course of events. Odysseus' precarious situation is exemplary, as "men have always had to choose between their subjection to nature or the subjection of nature to the Self" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 32). In Odysseus' case, he chooses to subject nature at the cost of his estrangement from nature. He rises above the natural order of events and becomes a spectator of that which he was once part of. This estrangement from nature is inherent to men's struggle for self-preservation, as "men pay for the increase of their power with alienation from that over which they exercise their power" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 9). Just like Odysseus hears the Sirens sing, but pays the price of being bound to the mast of his ship, modern man watches lions, but only on the National Geographic Channel.
  To make clear the extreme state of alienation that Horkheimer and Adorno ascribe to modern society, they proceed from their statement that myth is already Enlightenment to the statement that Enlightenment reverts to mythology (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: xvi). This means that Enlightenment has brought an undifferentiated belief in its own rational principles, thereby betraying the emancipatory ideals it was supposed to bring about. The ideal of rationality has become a totalitarian and irrational ideology, as it has led us into a society which is unreflexive and uncritical in its understanding of reality. Capitalist economy and empirical science are described as contemporary institutional correlates of progressive rationalization that have lost sight of the human goals that such practices are supposed to serve. The struggle for self-preservation has not brought freedom, but a fully organized and administered society in which people are treated as objects by coercive institutions. The individual has lost control, and finds himself alienated from nature, himself and others. This paradoxical conclusion, that man in his search for freedom and emancipation ends up bound and uncritical, reveals the contradictory character of the concept of Enlightenment.
2.1.2 The concept of Dialectics. The power relations in which man has always found himself entangled, are characterized on their most fundamental level by the separation of Subject and Object. This separation is first of all a general determination of the concept of human consciousness. As a conscious being, man perceives a difference between himself and his surroundings, thereby introducing himself as Subject facing the opposing Object. This is not a neutral perception, but the first step in his struggle for self-preservation and domination over nature, due to his precarious position in the external world as he now perceives it. This perception of the world changes gradually, as human consciousness acts on nature in an attempt to dominate it. In this way, "nature" becomes a historical concept that changes along with the increasing power that mankind has achieved over it through scientific modelling. The Object thus becomes objectified subjectivity which has forgotten its origins in subjectivity.
  The dynamics that occur here show that the concepts of Subject and Object cannot be known as statically postulated entities: the meaning of both terms becomes clear in their interconnectedness. The Object can be known only as it entwines with subjectivity, just as the Subject would not exist without the moment of objectivity. This distinctive method of releasing concepts from their isolation and showing how their meaning derives from their immanent relation to the whole is called Dialectics and goes back to the writings of G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831). Adorno clearly stands in this tradition, although his approach is more antagonistic. While in Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind (1807) the interaction of concepts as opposites takes place through reconciliation of the extremes into a totality that encapsulates both sides of the contradiction, Adorno tends to focus on the unresolved contradiction between concepts. The interaction or mediation between contradictory concepts never leads to a homogeneous totality, but remains a fractured whole. All the central concepts that Adorno uses make this contradictory movement, and can only be understood in the tension with their antipole: Subject and Object, nature and history, rationality and irrationality, myth and Enlightenment. As will become clear later, there exists a similar tension between the concepts of art and reality.
  The reason for Adorno's use of the dialectical method instead of the scientific method is that discursive logic and universally valid concepts, which are used in the scientific method, are claimed to be tools that serve the process of rationalization. Universal validity is achieved through abstraction from individual phenomena in order to assemble them under a common denominator, thereby creating a distance between Subject and Object. As the distance between Subject and Object leads to domination, the scientific method itself becomes an object of critique.
  The consequence of using the dialectical method is that static or immediate concepts are avoided at all cost in Adorno's work. This is not only true for his social theory, but also for his philosophy of music, as Adorno (1949: 15) writes in the introduction of his Philosophy of Modern Music:
  "The doctrine of the phenomenology of the mind is to be applied to art; and according to this doctrine, all immediacy already represents a mediation in itself. In other words, it [immediacy, FV] is only a product of domination."
2.1.3 The concept of a Critical Theory. In order to make more explicit the dialectical nature of Adorno's work, we will now turn to the concept of a Critical Theory. This concept originates out of the tradition of the Frankfurt School, of which Adorno was a founding member, and will be made clear by contrasting it with the concept of a scientific theory. As Adorno's philosophy of music can be viewed as part of his broader Critical Theory, it is relevant to give a general characterization of such theories.
  In The Idea of a Critical Theory by Raymond Geuss (1981: 55-58), three main features are described in which Critical Theories differ from scientific theories:
  First, they differ in their aim or goal: while scientific theories aim at manipulation of the external world, Critical Theories aim at emancipation of the individual by revealing the ideological character of certain common beliefs in society.
  Second, they differ in their "logical or cognitive structure." Scientific theories are objectifying, as they model empirical reality and try not to interfere with it. Critical Theories, on the other hand, are reflective and self-referential, because they are part of the object-domain they describe. This means that they give an explicit account of their own context of origin and context of application. In Adorno's case, his writings originate in modernity and should be read by members of modern society in order to become aware of its ideological foundations.
  Third, they differ in that they require different kinds of confirmation. While scientific theories require empirical confirmation through observation and experiment, Critical Theories must demonstrate that they are "reflectively acceptable." This means that Critical Theories should convince the members of a society that their worldview is ideologically false according to their own rational, epistemic principles. By demonstrating that rationality has turned into irrationality, Critical Theories confront members of a society with the "unfree existence" that Enlightenment has brought them.
  Nevertheless, the alternative that is offered in Adorno's Critical Theory is utopian in character: it has the form of a socially unrealizable yearning, due to the power relations that are fundamentally tied to the process of Enlightenment. Adorno's reaction to the New Left student movement in the 1960s — "I had set up a theoretical model, but I could not suspect that people would want to put it into action with Molotov cocktails" (Adorno, 1969: 125) — makes especially clear that he pursued a change in consciousness instead of political action.
  These three features of Critical Theory all ask for a dialectical approach. The attempt to reveal the ideological character of certain common beliefs in society is an attempt to reveal the subjective nature of things that were thought of as objective. The reflective cognitive structure demands that a Critical Theory should always be in the process of interacting with its Object: instead of insisting inflexibly on its own criteria, it should be reinterpreted along with the historically changing object-domain. The confirmation of Critical Theory comes about by demonstrating that the rational ideals of society have turned into their dialectical opposite. This makes clear that the dialectical method lies at the core of Critical Theory, and that it is only through this method that its critique can be expressed.
  As mentioned above, Adorno's philosophy of music is rooted in Critical Theory. This is established by interpreting the artwork as a fait social: although the act of composition may seem a highly personal and individual matter, the piece of music always bears a mediated relation to the social circumstances in which it comes about. It is in this sense that music has a certain meaning that is in need of interpretation to reveal its truth content. The dialectical method plays a central role in this process, as the act of interpretation is itself historical and therefore reflective in nature.
  An example of how the Critical method functions in the interpretation of music is given by Paddison, who suggests that "a Critical Theory would consider music particularly in the context of the power relations which underlie the relations of musical production [...] It would also consider the effect of developments in technology and communication on the practice of the arts." Especially the latter is a central theme in this thesis, which makes it relevant to have some knowledge of Adorno's broader social theory in the following chapters. But first, an investigation of Adorno's interpretation of Homer's Sirens is needed.
2.2.1 An excerpt from Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947: 59-60). Cunning [...] is defiance in a rational form. Odysseus does not try to take another route that would enable him to escape sailing past the Sirens. And he does not try, say, to presume on the superiority of his knowledge and to listen freely to the temptresses, imagining that his freedom will be protection enough. He abases himself; the ship takes its predestined, fatal course; and he realizes that, however consciously alienated from nature he may be, he remains subject to it if he heeds its voice. He keeps to the contract of his thralldom and struggles in his bonds at the mast, trying to cast himself into the destroyers' arms. But he has found an escape clause in the contract, which enables him to fulfill it while eluding it. The primeval contract does not provide for the possibility of the seafarer listening bound or unbound to the bewitching voices. Bonds belong to a stage when the prisoner is not put to death on the spot. Odysseus recognizes the archaic superior power of the song even when, as a technically enlightened man, he has himself bound. He listens to the song of pleasure and thwarts it as he seeks to thwart death. The bound listener wants to hear the Sirens as any other man would, but he has hit upon the arrangement by which he as subject need not be subjected to them. Despite all the power of his desire, which reflects the power of the demi-goddesses themselves, he cannot pass over to them, for his rowers with wax-stopped ears are deaf not only to the demi-goddesses but to the desperate cries of their commander. The Sirens have their own quality, but in primitive bourgeois history it is neutralized to become merely the wistful longing of the passer-by. The epic says nothing of what happened to the Sirens once the ship has disappeared. In tragedy, however, it would have been their last hour, as it was for the Sphinx when Oedipus solved the riddle, fulfilling its command and thus disenchanting it. For the right of the mythic figures, being that of the stronger, depends only on the impossibility of fulfilling their statutes. If they are satisfied, then the myths right down to their most distant relation will suffer for it. Since Odysseus' successful-unsuccessful encounter with the Sirens all songs have been affected, and Western music as a whole suffers from the contradiction of song in civilization — song which nevertheless proclaims the emotional power of all art music.
2.2.2 The contradiction of song. The dilemma of the Sirens episode is not only that of choosing between either subjecting nature by rational means or being subjected by nature's superior power. It is also a dilemma in which pleasure is simultaneously yearned for and denied. Odysseus hears the Sirens' call and longs for freedom, but his bonds protect him from his fatal desire "at the price of the abasement and mortification of the instinct for complete, universal and undivided happiness" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 57). This sacrifice of happiness in return for his survival makes his encounter "successful-unsuccessful," and creates a dialectical tension that has provided Enlightenment with its distinctive course. However, the yearning for happiness endures. The allurement of the Sirens is that of "losing oneself in the past" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 32), in a pre-historical point in time of non-identity that preceded the separation of Subject and Object, in which the struggle for survival did not yet occur. Odysseus' bonds turn this allurement into a maddening mindgame with the duration of a boatride. It is here that Homer's epic tale becomes a metaphor for the artistic experience:
  "The bonds with which he has irremediably tied himself to practice, also keep the Sirens away from practice: their temptation is neutralized and becomes a mere object of contemplation — becomes art. The prisoner is present at a concert, an inactive eavesdropper like later concertgoers, and his spirited call for liberation fades like applause" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 34).
  What once was an irresistible and fatal temptation, has now become an object of contemplation. The same fate as Odysseus awaits modern man as he is allured to the concert hall: on the one hand, art music has the emotional power to realize a yearning for freedom and non-identity, as "the liberation of form, which genuinely new art desires, holds enciphered within it above all the liberation of society" (Adorno, 1970, 12: 331). On the other hand, progressive rationalization has blocked the possibility of real freedom forever. The "contradiction of song in civilization" comes down to these irreconcilable moments. Still, freedom's neutralized residue can be experienced for a moment in music, as an "ever broken promise of happiness" (Adorno, 1970, 7: 178).
  This experience can only occur through music, if music has a certain meaning or truth content. In the next three paragraphs will be investigated how this truth content comes about, by describing how music is simultaneously opposing, derived from, and pointing beyond society.
2.3.1 Music opposing society. First of all, the term "music" as it is used here refers to the tradition of autonomous art music that originates in the early eighteenth century. Adorno claims that "in establishing the independence of its tasks and techniques, traditional music removed itself from its social basis and became "autonomous"" (Adorno, 1949: 129). While music had traditionally been closely tied to specific practices such as work, dance, ceremony and ritual, music became "focused inward" and independent of the world of everyday reality. At the same time, the increasing commodification of the autonomous work, both as score and as performance, made it necessary for musicians to operate independently on the open market. This tendency caused the separation between popular and art music, as a piece of music could either submit to market conditions or resist them. The resistance to market conditions and the focus inward constitute what I will call the "twofold isolation" of autonomous art music.
  Adorno interprets this isolation as a form of mimesis. Max Paddison (1997: 140) describes Adorno's concept of mimesis as "a form of copying, or identifying with, the outside world in order to protect oneself from a threatening environment, as a means of survival." Mimesis has its roots in primitive magic, where it was used to withstand domination by nature: "Like science, magic pursues aims, but seeks to achieve them by mimesis — not by progressively distancing itself from the object" (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947: 11).
  The "threatening environment" to music is constituted by the process of rationalization, because purposeless art music is irrational from the perspective of means-ends rationality. Autonomous art music can be seen as mimetic, as it mimics the external threat of rationality through taking it into itself as an inner "law of form": The progressive rational control over the material of music — a process that has led from polyphony to twelve-tone technique and multiple serialism — is a retreat into music's own formal problems that separates and protects music from the outside world:
  "The rationality of artworks has as its aim opposition to empirical existence. [...] The opposition of artworks to domination is mimesis of domination. They must assimilate themselves to the comportment of domination in order to produce something qualitatively distinct from the world of domination. [...] [A]esthetic rationality wants to make good on the damage done by nature-dominating rationality" (Adorno, 1970, 13: 370).
  By interpreting music's twofold isolation as mimetic adaptation, music can be seen as generating a dynamic of its own that resists the prevailing instrumental rationality. It is through the internalization of the rationality of society that music can oppose society.
2.3.2 Music derived from society. In order to make clear how music is derived from society, we will now turn to the concept of musical material. Adorno introduced this concept in his article On Twelve-Tone Technique (1930) (Müller-Doohm, 2005: 112). Between 1928 and 1930, Adorno was involved in editing the Viennese journal Anbruch, in which this article was published.
  In its most general sense, musical material can be described as the "stuff" that composers compose with. It is the totality of technical means, consisting of all the harmonic, rhythmic and melodic possibilities available to a composer. This is not a natural, neutral phenomenon. Instead, it is moulded by the dialectics of a historical process:
  "The assumption of an historical tendency in musical material contradicts the traditional conception of the material of music. This material is traditionally defined — in terms of physics, or possibly in terms of the psychology of sound — as the sum of all sounds at the disposal of the composer. The actual compositional material, however, is as different from this sum as is language from its total supply of sounds" (Adorno, 1949: 32).
  The historical tendency in musical material is constituted by the fact that the technical means available to a composer have the form of handed-down genres and pre-formed schemata, that vary according to the historical stage in which the composer finds himself. Every composer acts on this material from his own socio-historical situation, thereby participating in the ongoing process of technical development.
  Adorno (1949: 33) describes musical material as "a crystallization of the creative impulse": Although genres and schemata are subjective inventions, they reach subsequent composers in crystallized, objectified form. Just as the concept of "nature" in section 2.1.2, the concept of musical material can be seen as objectified subjectivity which has forgotten its origins in subjectivity. A composer participates in the "unfolding" of the musical material by dealing with the objective problems in musical material in his socio-historical context:
  "But at this point the picture of the composer is also transformed. [...] He is no longer a creator. It is not that the times and society impose external restrictions on him; it is rather the rigid demand for compositional accuracy made upon him by his structure which limits him. The state of technique appears as a problem in every measure which he dares to conceive: with every measure technique as a whole demands of him that he do it justice and that he give the single correct answer permitted by technique at any given moment. [...] His efforts find fulfilment in the execution of that which his music objectively demands of him. But such obedience demands of the composer all possible disobedience, independence, and spontaneity. This is the dialectical nature revealed in the unfolding of the musical material" (Adorno, 1949: 36-37).
  Adorno claims that composing is actually solving technical puzzles. However, the puzzle and its solution exist only at a particular moment in history. Through this historical context, the puzzle is not a purely formal one. Instead, it becomes a puzzle in which mediation between music and society takes place, by the subjective recontextualization of handed-down genres and schemata within the structure of an autonomous work. "That which seems to be the mere self-locomotion of the material is of the same origin as is the social process, by whose traces it is continually permeated" (Adorno, 1949: 33). It is within the musical material that music is derived from society.
2.3.3 Music pointing beyond society. Not only is music simultaneous in opposition to, and derived from society; it also has a critical potential that can address social problems. It is through this potential that music points beyond society:
  "It is not for music to stare in helpless horror at society: it fulfills its social function more precisely when it presents social problems through its own material and according to its own formal laws — problems which music contains within itself in the innermost cells of its technique. The task of music as art thus enters into a parallel relationship to the task of social theory" (Adorno, 1932: 393).
  In order to acquire this critical potential, music must be expressive in a meaningful way. Adorno (1970, 6: 147) confirms this, by claiming that music is a "nonsignificative language." This means that music has both a universal frame of reference and communicative value.
  The universal frame of reference of music is constituted by its "roots in gesture." Musical gestures are associated with bodily gestures, and these have a further association with previous, extra-musical functionality: Although music freed itself from practices such as work, dance, ceremony and ritual — see section 2.3.1 — it still derives its gestures from these practices: "What are taken to be the purest forms (e.g., traditional musical forms) can be traced back even in the smallest idiomatic detail to content such as dance" (Adorno, 1970, 1: 6). Adorno also uses the concept of mimesis in this context, as the mimicking of bodily gestures and the miming of inner, subjective feelings. With this mimetic impulse, music identifies with the outside world but also expresses resistance to it.
  The communicative value of music is constituted by its rational construction: Through the internal consistency and narrativity of compositions, they become "syntactically articulated" (Adorno, 1970, 8: 185). While mimesis has a magical connotation, rational construction tends towards disenchantment and full rational control. It is in the dialectical tension between the contradictory concepts of rationality and mimesis that expression is located: "Expression is a phenomenon of interference, a function of technical procedures no less than it is mimetic" (Adorno, 1970, 6: 149).
  Seen in this way, music can be meaningful when universal gestures that carry the meaning associated with their previous functionality are recontextualized in a particular, rationally constructed composition. Expression is not simply the ventilation of subjective feelings. Instead, "Art is expressive when what is objective, subjectively mediated, speaks" (Adorno, 1970, 6: 146). It is here that music obtains a certain truth content. Paddison (1997: 111) describes Adorno's concept of truth content as "the interaction of the socially mediated expressive Subject with the objectivity of the historically mediated musical material, as realized in the concrete structure of particular musical works." This interaction propels the progressive rationalization of musical material, which can be seen in itself as a mimetic process — see section 2.3.1.
  In order to relate the concept of expression, as the tension between rationality and mimesis, to the concept of musical material from section 2.3.2, it should be added that the harmonic, rhythmic and melodic possibilities of which the musical material consists bear the moments of rationality and mimesis within themselves. The musical material is a collection of musical gestures that are both rationally constructed and mimetic in character. The difficulty for every composer is to find a form in which the musical material can become expressive in a new way, that reflects the social situation in which it comes about. This is the topic of the next chapter, in which I will focus mainly on Adorno's analysis of twelve-tone technique — the musical form that Schoenberg devised in the late 1910s.
  3. The problem of form
3.1.1 Right: Thomas Mann next to his grammophone (1922; photo: Thomas Mann Archiv Zürich / Keystone)

An excerpt from Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus (1947: 253-255). A little and a little during his last speech, something else had happened to the fellow before my eyes. When I looked at him direct, he seemed different to me from before: sits there no longer the pimp-master and bawd but rather, begging your pardon, a better gentleman, has a white collar and a bow-tie, spectacles rimmed in horn atop his hooked nose, behind which somewhat reddened eyes shine moist and dark; the face a mingling of sharpness and softness; the nose sharp, the lips sharp, but the chin soft, with a dimple in it, and yet another dimple in the cheek above; pale and vaulted the brow, from which the hair indeed retreats upward, whereas that to the sides stands thick, black, and wooly — an intellectualist, who writes of art, of music, for vulgar newspapers, a theorist and critic, who is himself a composer, in so far as thinking allows. Soft, lank hands as well, that company his speech with gestures of refined clumsiness, sometimes stroking gently over the thick hair at temples and nape. This was now the portrait of the visitor in the couch's corner. He had not grown larger; and above all the voice, nasal, distinct, schooled to please, had remained the same; it preserved identity for the transitory figure. And thus I hear him say and observe his broad mouth, crimped at the corners 'neath the poorly shaven upper lip, puckering to articulate:

  "What is art today? A pilgrimage upon a road of peas. Takes more than a pair of red shoes to dance now-a-days, and you are not alone in being distressed by the Devil. Look at them, at your colleagues — I know well you do not look at them, you do not attend them, you nurse the illusion of solitude and want everything for yourself, all the curses of the age. But do console yourself with a look at them, at your co-inaugurators of new music — I mean the honest, serious ones, who draw consequences from the situation! I speak not of those folklorists and seekers of neoclassical asylum, whose modernity consists in forbidding music to break open and who, with more or less dignity, wear the garb of a pre-individualistic age. Who convince themselves and others that what is tedious has grown interesting, because what is interesting has begun to grow tedious ..."
  I had to laugh, for although the cold continued to press me, I was forced to admit that since his alteration I had grown more at ease in his company. He smiled with me, but only in that the closed corners of his mouth contracted more firmly and he shut his eyes a little.
  "You, too, are impotent," he went on, "but I believe that you and I prefer the estimable impotence of those who disdain to conceal the general malady under a dignified mummery. The malady, however, is universal, and honest men observe the symptoms both in themselves and in those who compose back to the past. Is there not a threat that production will cease? What is of merit and still put to paper betrays effort and reluctance. External social causes? Lack of demand — so that, as in the preliberal era, the possibility of production greatly depends on the accident of a patron's favour? True, but that does not suffice as an explanation. Composition itself has grown too difficult, desperately difficult. Where work and sincerity no longer agree, how is one to work? But so it is, my friend — the masterpiece, the structure in equilibrium, belongs to traditional art, emancipated art disavows it. The matter has its beginnings in your having no right of command whatsoever over all former combinations of tones. The diminished seventh, an impossibilty; certain chromatic passing notes, an impossibility. Every better composer bears within him a canon of what is forbidden, of what forbids itself, which by now embraces the very means of tonality, and thus all traditional music. What is false, what has become a vitiated cliché — the canon decides. Tonal sounds, triads in a composition with today's technical purview — they can outdo every dissonance. As such, they can be used if need be, but cautiously and only in extremis, for the shock is worse than was once the harshest discord. Everything depends on one's technical purview. The diminished seventh is right and eloquent at the opening of Opus III. It corresponds to Beethoven's general technical niveau, does it not? — as the tension between the utmost dissonance and consonance possible to him. The principle of tonality and its dynamics lend the chord its specific weight. Which it has lost — through a historical process no one can reverse. Listen to that defunct chord — even isolated from the whole it stands for a general technical state that contradicts our reality. Every sound bears the whole within it, and the whole history, too. But that is why the ear's judgement of what is right and false is directly and irrefutably tied to it, to this one chord that is not false in itself, quite apart from any abstract reference to the general technical niveau. What we have here is a claim to rightness that the figure places on the artist — a bit harshly, don't you think? Are his endeavours not quickly exhausted simply in executing what is contained within a work's objective requirements? In every bar he dares conceive, the technical state presents itself to him as the problem, demands of him at every moment that he do justice to it as a whole and to the single right answer it permits him at each moment. The result is that his compositions are nothing more than such answers, nothing more than the solution to technical puzzles. Art becomes criticism — a very honourable thing, who would deny it! It involves a great deal of insubordination within strict obedience, much self-reliance, much courage. But the danger of being uncreative — what do you say? Is it truly still a danger, or already a fixed and settled fact?"
  He paused. He gazed at me through his spectacles with moist, reddened eyes, raised his hand in a dainty motion and stroked his hair with two middle fingers.
3.1.2 Work and sincerity. The monologue reproduced above is delivered by the Devil, who takes on different forms during his visit to the composer Adrian Leverkühn, the main character in Mann's novel. The Devil's appearance in this particular passage is frequently interpreted as portraying Adorno, although Stefan Müller-Doohm (2005: 318) argues it should be interpreted as portraying Gustav Mahler. Nevertheless, this colourful description of the state of avant-garde music in the early twentieth century can certainly be identified with Adorno's ideas. In fact, both Mann and Adorno were living in Los Angeles when Mann started working on his novel in 1943, and Adorno had a role as music advisor during the process (Müller-Doohm, 2005: 314).
  For example, the Devil's scornful remarks on "those folklorists and seekers of neoclassical asylum" can be traced back directly to Adorno's polemical approach in the second half of his Philosophy of Modern Music, where he criticizes Igor Stravinsky on the same grounds. Then, after touching the subject of resistance to market conditions — "External social causes? Lack of demand" — the orator explains the issue of sincerity that composers struggle with: whether the work as such, as a harmonically self-contained structure, still stands in a legitimate relation to social conditions; whether the illusion of art has not become a lie in the face of societal horrors.
  The diminished seventh chord which in this context is described in the monologue as "an impossibility," is an important theme in Adorno's work. This dissonant chord, consisting — enharmonically — of two tritones, was often used in the nineteenth century as a pivot chord for modulation, through which the evoked tension of its dissonance would be resolved. Adorno comments upon this technique in harsh terms:
  "Even the more insensitive ear detects the shabbiness and exhaustion of the diminished seventh chord and certain chromatic modulatory tones in the salon music of the nineteenth century. [...] It is not simply that these sounds are antiquated and untimely, but that they are false. They no longer fulfill their function. The most progressive level of technical procedures designs tasks before which traditional sounds reveal themselves as impotent clichés" (Adorno, 1949: 34).
  This is a clear example of the need to recontextualize handed-down genres and schemata — see section 2.3.2 — in order to reach contemporary expressiveness. How "desperately difficult" the task of composing has become in the early twentieth century is illustrated by these feelings of exhaustion towards existing forms. It is through the rejection of an increasing part of musical technique as consisting of impotent clichés, that "art becomes criticism." However, this tendency of disintegration of the musical material is at the same time accompanied by a tendency of integration, which is constituted by the progressive rationalization of the material in twelve-tone technique.
  Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique — and the serial music based on it — is interpreted by Adorno as music's retreat into formal problems. The thoroughly rational structure of this technique, which ensures that all twelve notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another in a piece of music, negates the traditional laws of harmony and the idea of a tonal centre. Its strict rules prevent the composer from inserting habitual ornamentations into the piece and make sure that every note is part of the overall structure. Adorno sees this development as an important step in the history of music, as it solves the problem in which the technical state of the musical material presents itself, thereby acquiring social relevance too:
  "That Schoenberg's solutions to technical problems are socially relevant in spite of their isolation is proven by his replacement within all his works, in spite and because of his own expressive origins, of any private fortuitousness which might have been viewed quite correctly as a type of anarchic musical production with an objective principle of order which is never imposed upon the material from the exterior, but rather extracted from the material itself and brought into relationship with it by means of an historical process of rational transparence" (Adorno, 1932: 399).
  On the other hand, this objective principle of order which is laid on the musical material has the consequence of narrowing the possibilities available to the composer. The dodecaphonic principle can easily degenerate into a mathematically predetermined scheme, which will leave the musical material totally preformed from the outset. This is why the totally organized work brings with it "the danger of being uncreative." The dilemma between the freedom from traditional tonal systems and the restriction to newly found tone-rows is a major theme in Adorno's Philosophy of Modern Music, as will be shown in the next paragraph. Moreover, a similar dilemma for composers of electronic music will be investigated in section 4.2.2.
3.1.3 Freedom and restriction. That Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique set into motion a tendency towards extreme rationalization in compositional technique is shown by the later history of serialism. Composers like Pierre Boulez (b. 1925) extended the principle of composing by row to the fields of dynamics, instrumentation and rhythm. This subjection of compositional elements to rational control is in Adorno's interpretation very similar to the Dialectic of Enlightenment. Just like the fully organized and administered society — see section 2.1.1 — the fully rationalized musical technique is based on ideals of freedom and emancipation. However, at the highest technical level of the musical material, where composers of the avant-garde strive for freedom from objective norms imposed upon music from the exterior, restriction occurs through a growing focus on rigid immanent structure. This is how the dialectical process of liberation that turns into enchainment is also present in the musical material:
  "Twelve-tone technique is truly the fate of music. It enchains music by liberating it. The subject dominates music through the rationality of the system, only in order to succumb to the rational system itself" (Adorno, 1949: 67-68).
  As shown in section 2.1.2, Adorno's concept of nature can be described as objectified subjectivity which has forgotten its origins in subjectivity. Nature in this sense was compared to the concept of musical material in section 2.3.2. This comparison can now be extended, as man's relation to nature as well as to the musical material has a fundamental character of domination:
  "A system by which music dominates nature results. It reflects a longing present since the beginnings of the bourgeois era: to "grasp" and to place all sounds into an order, and to reduce the magic essence of music to human logic" (Adorno, 1949: 64-65).
  This was already touched upon in section 2.3.1, where it was explained that "the opposition of artworks to domination is mimesis of domination" (Adorno, 1949: 32). But now it becomes clear that this mimetic adaptation has a similar development as progressive rationalization. Just like the Dialectic of Enlightenment, the domination of musical material "suddenly turns against the subjective autonomy and freedom itself, in the name of which this domination found its fulfillment" (Adorno, 1949: 66). This is the paradoxical state of musical material at the beginning of the twentieth century, which in its twofold isolation — see section 2.3.1 — mimics the traits of alienation that the society which it opposes has begotten.
3.2.1 Musical form and social reality. Despite the attractiveness of the oppositional qualities of the musical material, Adorno also claims that the music material is in some way derived from society. It is shown in section 2.3.2 that problems of society appear immanently in music as problems of form. However, such a claim can only be confirmed by empirical evidence, in the form of demonstrable connections between particular musical works and the society they originate in. Remarks that try to expose such connections, or try to "crack the social codes of the music" as Alastair Williams (2001: 12) puts it, are scattered throughout Adorno's work. The following quotes are examples of passages in which the connection between musical form and social reality is made explicit:
  First, there is the often cited passage in which eighteenth-century dinner music is identified with the clatter of dishes, followed by an accusation towards composers who still work in this tradition:
  "Dinner music is not inescapable for liberated music, nor was dinner music honest service from which autonomous art outrageously withdrew. The former's miserable mechanical clattering is on no account improved because the overwhelming part of what now passes for art drowns out the echo of that clatter" (Adorno, 1970, 1: 4).
  Second, there are a number of passages on Beethoven. His music "belongs to the revolutionary process of bourgeois emancipation" (Adorno, 1970, 12: 314) which the drum rolls in his work announce:
  "Heard in the corridors of the concert hall, little remains of one of Beethoven's orchestral works than the imperial kettle drum; even in the score the drums represent an authoritarian gesture, which the work borrowed from society in order to sublimate it in the elaboration of the composition" (Adorno, 1970, 12: 329).
  Third, the "industrial procedures in orchestral technique" in the work of Berlioz are identified with the rise of industrial society:
  "Hector Berlioz's innovations are largely unconnected with solving the problems thrown up by Beethoven. They are far more readily explained by the emergence of industrial techniques unrelated to music, but which led to a radically different view of technique from those of classical composition" (Adorno, 1958: 11).
  Fourth, the dissonances in Schoenberg's atonal and twelve-tone compositions are identified with the horrors of modern society:
  "The general public, totally cut off from the production of new music, is alienated by the outward characteristics of such music. The deepest currents present in this music proceed, however, from exactly those sociological and anthropological foundations peculiar to that public. The dissonances which horrify them testify to their own conditions; for that reason alone do they find them unbearable" (Adorno, 1949: 9).
  There are numerous other writings by Adorno that cover — among others — the music of Bach, Wagner, Brahms and Mahler. The examples mentioned above are used here because they are distinctive for the manner in which Adorno hopes to bridge the gap between music and social theory. Taken literally, these examples might seem rather far-fetched. On the other hand, Adorno needs these philosophical interpretations of technical aspects of musical works to make his concept of "truth content" acceptable. The question is if he succeeds in this attempt.
3.2.2 Unresolved issues. It is tempting to understand the examples mentioned in section 3.2.1 in a metaphorical sense. However, Adorno makes a stronger claim: As shown in section 2.2.3, society is "inscribed" in musical works on the levels of autonomous form, musical material and expression. Adorno even claims that "the content of important artworks can deviate from the opinion of their authors" (Adorno, 1970, 12: 333-334). For example, if the retreat into music's own formal problems stems from a subjective desire to distance oneself from society, it is through the objectification of the Subject in the autonomous work that music becomes a mode of conceptless cognition that provides a certain knowledge about that society.
  The question remains if the clatter of dishes in dinner music, the authoritarian gesture in Beethoven's drum rolls, the industrial procedures in Berlioz's orchestra and the societal horrors in Schoenberg's dissonants can really be understood as objective qualities of the autonomous works, or if they originate in the mind of an erudite philosopher.
  On the other hand, putting the question in such a rigid dilemma might be part of the problem. If we interpret these examples as vivid and colourful images that accompany a philosophical oeuvre that is essentially critical in character, instead of interpreting them as empirical evidence for a descriptive system that needs confirmation, the problem might vanish on its own accord. In fact, Adorno claims that "the idea of a value-free aesthetics is nonsense" (Adorno, 1970, 13: 341). If music is seen as a form of unconscious writing of history that is in need of philosophical interpretation to reveal its truth content, one can debate this particular interpretation. This would do more justice to Adorno's writings than questioning the validity of isolated examples that are taken out of their theoretical framework. However, the danger exists that Adorno's aesthetics becomes an instrument to prove a political point — in which case Adorno's own work would turn into ideology — if his interpretation of musical works is coloured too much by the perspective of Critical Theory. This seems a legitimate question in, for example, the case of identifying dissonants with societal horrors. It is for the reader to decide if Adorno manages to interpret musical works in a way that both is in congruence with his broader social theory and treats the work in a rightful manner.
3.2.3 Further directions. So far, three focal points in Adorno's philosophy of music have been investigated: the issue of sincerity, the tension between freedom and restriction, and the problem of musical form and social reality. The first two points involved the simultaneous integration and disintegration of the musical material, while the third point raised questions on the objective qualities of autonomous artworks.
  All of these subjects were interpreted form the perspective of the avant-garde music at the beginning of the twentieth century. The problem of sincerity arose from a dissatisfaction with the musical vocabulary that was handed down from the nineteenth century. Out of the disintegration of these traditional laws of harmony came a new rationalized and integrated musical material into being. But instead of the freedom that was strived for, this new material had a restrictive effect on composers.
  However, new technological developments were soon to expand the sonic resources available in the compositional field. This will be the topic of the next two chapters. From this new perspective, special attention will be given to the dilemmas of integration versus disintegration, and freedom versus restriction. A third dilemma will be added, i.e., the dilemma of development versus regression.
  Also, the problem of musical form and social reality will obtain a whole different meaning as the introduction of the tape-recorder made it possible to implement every day sounds directly into a composition. Although technology made it possible to actually use the sound of clattering dishes in a piece of music, it is still to be decided if this development strengthens Adorno's theory.
  4. The liberation of sound
4.1.1 Left: Luigi Russolo at his Russolophone (1930)

Revolution in musical material. First of all, the term "electronic music" as it will be used here refers to all music which has implemented electronic musical equipment into its compositional practice. This includes music of purely synthetic origins, like the elektronische Musik of Herbert Eimert (1897-1972) and Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as music which makes use of a combination of synthetic and recorded natural sounds, like Edgard Varèse's organized sound or the musique concrète of Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1995) and Pierre Henry (b. 1927).

  What all of these pioneering genres have in common is a central focus on musical timbre, as the introduction of electronics made the spectrum of sounds that could be used for compositional purposes grow enormously. Herbert Eimert, one of the founders of the Studio für Elektronische Musik in Cologne, expressed the innate potential of electronic music this way:
  "The composer, in view of the fact that he is no longer operating within a strictly ordained tonal system, finds himself confronting a completely new situation. He sees himself commanding a realm of sound in which the musical material appears for the first time as a malleable continuum of every known and unknown, every conceivable and possible sound. This demands a way of thinking in new dimensions, a kind of mental adjustment to the thinking proper to the materials of electronic sound" (quoted in: Holmes, 2002: 9-10).
  The state of the musical material as "a malleable continuum" is truly a turning point in the history of music. The oscillator and the tape-recorder made it possible to use respectively every desired pitch and every desired recorded sound in a composition, without being bound to the limitations of human performance. That the first composers to be working with this new material were well aware of the revolutionary character of their music is shown by the numerous writings by these composers in the form of articles and manifestos. A selection of these writings are used here in comparison with Adorno's philosophy of music. It should be noted that Adorno's remark in the Philosophy of Modern Music, that "in the earlier stages of a technique, its later developments cannot be anticipated but at best subjectively envisioned" (Adorno, 1949: 34), holds just as well for the later developments of a technology as for the later development of twelve-tone technique. Still, as the writings of the pioneers of electronic music will be investigated, it will be striking how accurate their predictions were.
  However, the "mental adjustment" of accepting every conceivable sound as part of the musical material can be traced back to Luigi Russolo, an influential precursor of electronic music. The excerpt of his manifesto The Art of Noises illustrates how the change in mentality preceded the change in technological means.
4.1.2 An excerpt from Luigi Russolo's The Art of Noises (1913: 1329-1332). Life in ancient times was silent. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of machines, Noise was born. Today, Noise is triumphant, and reigns supreme over the senses of men. For many centuries life evolved in silence, or, at the most, with but a muted sound. The loudest noises that interrupted this silence were neither violent nor prolonged nor varied, since — if we overlook such exceptional phenomena as hurricanes, tempests, avalanches, waterfalls — nature is silent.
  Noises being so scarce, the first musical sounds which man succeeded in drawing from a hollow reed or from a stretched string were a new, astonishing, miraculous discovery. By primitive peoples musical sound was ascribed to the gods, regarded as holy, and entrusted to the sole care of the priests, who made use of it to enrich their rites with mystery. [...]
  The art of music at first sought and achieved purity and sweetness of sound; later, it blended diverse sounds, but always with intent to caress the ear with suave harmonics. Today, growing ever more complicated, it seeks those combinations of sounds that fall most dissonantly, strangely, and harshly upon the ear. We thus approach nearer and nearer to the music of noise.
  This musical evolution parallels the growing multiplicity of machines, which everywhere are assisting mankind. Not only amid the clamor of great cities but even in the countryside, which until yesterday was ordinarily quiet, the machine today has created so many varieties and combinations of noise that pure musical sound — with its poverty and its monotony — no longer awakens any emotion in the hearer.
  To excite and exalt our senses, music continued to develop toward the most complex polyphony and the greatest variety of orchestral timbres, or colors, devising the most complicated successions of dissonant chords and preparing in a general way for the creation of MUSICAL NOISE. This evolution toward noise was hitherto impossible. An eighteenth-century ear could not have endured the dissonant intensity of certain chords produced by our modern orchestras — triple the size of the orchestras of that day. But our own ears — trained as they are by the modern world, so rich in variegated noises — not only enjoy these dissonances but demand more and more violent acoustic emotions.
  Moreover, musical sound is too limited in qualitative variety of timbre. The most complicated of orchestras reduce themselves to four or five classes of instruments differing in timbre: instruments played with the bow, plucked instruments, brass winds, wood winds, and percussion instruments. So that modern music, in its attempt to produce new kinds of timbre, struggles vainly within this little circle.
  We must break out of this narrow circle of pure musical sounds, and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds. [...]
  Let us wander through a great modern city with our ears more attentive than our eyes, and distinguish the sounds of water, air, or gas in metal pipes, the purring of motors (which breathe and pulsate with an indubitable animalism), the throbbing of valves, the pounding of pistons, the screeching of gears, the clatter of streetcars on their rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of awnings and flags. We shall amuse ourselves by orchestrating in our minds the noise of the metal shutters of store windows, the slamming of doors, the bustle and shuffle of crowds, the multitudinous uproar of railroad stations, forges, mills, printing presses, power stations, and underground railways. [...]
  Every manifestation of life is accompanied by noise. Noise is therefore familiar to our ears and has the power to remind us immediately of life itself. Musical sound, a thing extraneous to life and independent of it, an occasional and unnecessary adjunct, has become for our ears what a too familiar face is to our eyes. Noise, on the other hand, which comes to us confused and irregular as life itself, never reveals itself wholly but reserves for us innumerable surprises. We are convinced, therefore, that by selecting, co-ordinating, and controlling noises we shall enrich mankind with a new and unsuspected source of pleasure. Despite the fact that it is characteristic of sound to remind us brutally of life, the Art of Noises must not limit itself to reproductive imitation. It will reach its greatest emotional power through the purely acoustic enjoyment which the inspiration of the artist will contrive to evoke from combinations of noises.
4.1.3 Adornian themes. Russolo, an adherent of the Futurism movement, wrote The Art of Noises in the same year as he invented and built his intonarumori: instruments for the production of musical noise. The machinery inside these instruments could bring forth a sound of howling, thunder, crackling, buzzing or hissing. There was even a mechanism installed in each of them in order to adjust the pitch of the different noise sounds. Unfortunately, none of these wondrous instruments that were meant to realize Russolo's new musical ideas survived the Second World War.
  When comparing Russolo's manifesto to Adorno's writings, thematical similarities are abundant. Russolo's argument for the acceptation and emancipation of noise in the musical domain brings to mind the serialist's need for freedom from traditional laws of harmony. Russolo's description of the loss of magical connotations which lead to an ever more complicated search for combinations of sounds and timbres, untill modern music today "struggles vainly" within the little circle of traditional means, resembles closely the desperately difficult task of composition described in section 3.1.2. Especially this historical approach that both writers maintain is remarkable: the evolution from "primitive peoples" who made use of musical sound "to enrich their rites with mystery" towards the triumphant noise which "reigns supreme over the senses of men" is congruent with the historical process of the Dialectic of Enlightenment. However, the Futurist Russolo saw this development in a much more positive light than the average Critical Theorist.
  This difference in attitude becomes especially clear in the way Russolo depicts the connection between musical material and the industrial society. As the "musical evolution parallels the growing multiplicity of machines," it is through habituation to societal noise that our ears "demand more and more violent acoustic emotions." Russolo's standpoint seems to be almost behaviouristic when it comes to dissatisfaction with the traditional musical vocabulary. Trained as our ears are by the sound of the modern world, we are in need of harsher sounds to reach acoustic enjoyment. There is no mention of a critical potential of music in his writing, obviously due to a positive evaluation of industrialization, which makes such a potential unnecessary for his purposes.
  On the other hand, Russolo's conception of musical form would probably have earned Adorno's approval. His description of noise as having "the power to remind us immediately of life itself" and being "confused and irregular as life itself" confirms a certain relation between musical form and social reality. That the task of the artist lies in finding new combinations of noises instead of limiting himself to mere "reproductive imitation" comes close to the Adornian perspective on expression — see section 2.3.3 — of making the objective speak through subjective mediation. However, the object in this case is no longer the historically mediated material. Instead, it is replaced by noise which is taken directly from modern society.
  This crucial difference between traditional art music and the music of noise asks for a whole new approach to composition. This will be the main topic of chapter IV, in which the attitude of Cage and Stockhausen towards Russolo's idea of "orchestrating in our minds" the every day sounds of society will be investigated. However, it should not be forgotten that these ideas were all preliminary to the introduction of electronic musical equipment. The consequences of this revolutionary introduction will be explored in the remainder of this chapter.
4.2.1 Domination over musical material. Although Cage had been the first to compose a piece of music for a recorded medium — Imaginary Landscape No. 1 for turntable and recorded sounds, 1939; see: Holmes, Electronic and Experimental Music, 93 — electronic music really took off when magnetic tape became commercially available in the late 1940s (Holmes, 2002: 79). This made it possible to record sounds with far less effort, rearrange sounds by splicing the tape into fragments, reverse sounds by playing the tape backwards, degenerate sounds by repeated re-recording, and create loops, delays and echos by joining the beginning and ending of a tape together. At the same time, the first steps were taken in synthesized music: experiments with waveform oscillators and filters were undertaken in the GRM studio in Paris, the WDR studio in Cologne, and several others. With these new devices, sound waves could be generated by purely electronical means, without the use of sounds found in nature.
  These developments made it necessary to rethink the nature of sound itself, as it became possible to manipulate and, indeed, dominate sound to its very core. Cage described the new situation as follows:
  "The situation made available by these means is essentially a total sound-space, the limits of which are ear-determined only, the position of a particular sound in this space being the result of five determinants: frequency or pitch, amplitude or loudness, overtone structure or timbre, duration, and morphology (how the sound begins, goes on, and dies away). By the alteration of any one of these determinants, the position of the sound in the sound-space changes. Any sound at any point in this total sound-space can move to become a sound at any other point" (Cage, 1957: 9).
  The revolutionary character of this deconstruction of sound into five "determinants" should not be underestimated. As Russolo had foreseen, the compositional practice broke out of the narrow circle of pure musical sounds and conquered the infinte variety of noise-sounds. However, in Russolo's conception, this meant that the artist should combine new sounds found in society. Titles of his works like Risveglio di una città [Awakening of a city, 1913] or Convegno delle automobile e degli aeroplani [Meeting of cars and aeroplanes, 1914] confirm this view. Electronic music took a more abstract turn. All sounds, be it natural, synthetic or instrumental, were regarded as equal, or in Cage's words: as points in a total sound-space. This is clearly visible in Varèse's article The Liberation of Sound (1936), who takes a polemical stance against Russolo's view:
  "Our musical alphabet is poor and illogical. Music, which should pulsate with life, needs new means of expression, and science alone can infuse it with youthful vigor. Why Italian Futurists, have you slavishly reproduced only what is commonplace and boring in the bustle of our daily lives. I dream of instruments obedient to my thought and which with their contribution of a whole new world of unsuspected sounds, will lend themselves to the exingencies of my inner rhythm" (Varèse, 1936: 1339).
  Varèse was well aware of how science increased the power over the musical material. In another article, he elaborates on the qualities of his dream-instruments which are "obedient to thought." Although written as early as 1939, Varèse sums up in detail all the features of the present-day synthesizer:
  "Personally, for my conceptions, I need an entirely new medium of expression: a sound-producing machine (not a sound-reproducing one). Today it is possible to build such a machine with only a certain amount of added research. [...] And here are the advantages I anticipate from such a machine: liberation from the arbitrary, paralyzing tempered system; the possibility of obtaining any number of cycles, or, if still desired, subdivisions of the octave, and consequently the formation of every desired scale; unsuspected range in low and high registers; new harmonic splendors obtainable from the use of subharmonic combinations now impossible; the possibility of obtaining any differentiation of timbre, of sound-combinations; new dynamics far beyond the present human-powered orchestra; a sense of sound-projection in space by means of the emission of sound in any part or in many parts of the hall, as may be required by the score; cross-rhythms unrelated to each other, treated simultaneously, or, to use the old word, "contrapuntally," since the machine would be able to beat any number of desired notes, any subdivision of them, omission or fraction of them — all these in a given unit of measure or time that is humanly impossible to attain" (Varèse, 1939: 1343-1344).
  These ideas on the future of music show how progressive rationalization of the musical material, which was already present in Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, has reached extreme proportions due to technological developments. By disposing of the traditional laws of harmony and any human limitation in performance, full domination over the material is attained. However, as will be shown in the next paragraph, it is striking how the dialectical process of freedom and restriction described in section 3.1.3 can be applied to this new historical stage.
4.2.2 Development and regression. With the help of Cage's five determinants described in section 4.2.1, every sound could, theoretically speaking, be defined and recreated. Although these five fundamental features of sound were known in physics long before the 1940s, it is around this time that they became meaningful in the compositional practice, due to technological developments which made it possible to manipulate each of them separately. In his essay The aging of the New Music, Adorno (1955) comments on these developments in a rather negative way:
  "Music regresses to the pre-musical, the pre-artistic tone. Many of its adepts logically pursue musique concrète or the electronic production of tones. But to date, electronic music has failed to fulfill its own idea; even though it theoretically disposes over the continuum of all imaginable sound colors, in actual practice — similar to the musical tin-can taste familiar from the radio, only much more extreme than that — these newly won sound colors resemble one another monotonously, whether because of their virtually chemical purity, or because every tone is stamped by the interposition of the equipment" (Adorno, 1955: 194).
  It seems odd that Adorno speaks with such low esteem about the results of a technology in its early developmental stage. However, in the same article, Adorno lauds the work of Varèse, to whom he was introduced in Kranichstein in 1950 (Müller-Doohm, 2005: 341):
  "The work of Edgard Varèse bears witness to the possibility of musically mastering the experience of a technologized world without resort to arts and crafts or to a blind faith in the scientization of art. [...] He uses technology for effects of panic that go far beyond run-of-the-mill musical resources" (Adorno, 1955: 194).
  Adorno acknowledges the expressive possibilities of the new technology, while, at the same time, he rejects the focus on timbre, which is crucial to this revolution in musical material, as a regression to the pre-musical. His criticism on electronic music seems to come down to the point of view that focusing too much on the sound while neglecting the form does not produce good music. Adorno condemns this change in focus vividly by describing it as:
  "Infatuation with the material along with blindness toward what is made out of it resulting from the fiction that the material speaks for itself, from an effectively primitive symbolism. To be sure, the material does speak but only in those constellations in which the artwork positions it" (Adorno, 1955: 189).
  There is an interesting analogy here with the dilemma described in section 3.1.3. In music which makes use of twelve-tone technique as well as in music which makes use of technology, the danger of neglecting the form while focusing too much on the rational approach is present. In twelve-tone technique, the creation of tone-rows bears within it the danger of leaving the form predetermined, while in electronic music, the focus on timbre bears within it the danger of leaving the form undetermined. In section 3.1.3, this dilemma of twelve-tone technique was connected to a societal process. A similar attempt will now be made with respect to electronic music.
4.2.3 Mimesis of scientific procedures. Central to Adorno's criticism on electronic music is his attachment to the dichotomy between material and form. Although the relevance of technology in artworks is acknowledged, it is only permitted a marginal role: to create new timbres, preliminary to the actual composing. When it comes to form, the construction of the artwork, Adorno tries to preserve for it a specific domain, separate from the rationality of technology:
  "The growing relevance of technology in artworks must not become a motive for subordinating them to that type of reason that produced technology and finds its continuation in it" (Adorno, 1970, 13: 343).
  The subordination to reason mentioned here comes about by letting the musical construction, whose justification lies solely in the compositional outcome, be determined by the rational principles of technology. In Adorno's words: "Vain is the hope that through mathematical manipulations some pure musical thing-in-itself might come into being" (Adorno, 1955: 194). Although it was shown in section 2.3.1 that the progressive rational control over the musical material has been a part of autonomous art music from the beginning, it is only in the case of electronic music that rational control interferes directly with musical form. Adorno gives few examples of this process, as for instance: "The compulsion towards leveling and quantification seems in electronic music to be stronger than the goal of qualitative freedom and release" (Adorno, 1955: 195). The aesthetic rationality of electronic music seems to be a form of mimetic adaptation that addresses science directly:
  "It [aesthetic rationality, FV] remains the mimesis of scientific procedures, a kind of reflex to the supremacy of science, one that casts into an even sharper light the difference of art from science the more that art shows itself to be powerless vis-à-vis the rational order of reality" (Adorno, 1955: 193).
  The mimesis of scientific procedures in electronic music can, as Adorno comments on Varèse's work, "musically master the experience of a technologized world" — see section 4.2.2. At the same time, technology forms a threatening environment to electronic music, as the means-ends rationality in which technology originates stands in direct opposition to the purposelessness of art. This opposition between the antipoles of art and science reaches a culminating point in electronic music:
  "The vain hope of art, that in the disenchanted world it might save itself through pseudomorphosis into science, becomes art's nemesis. Its gesture corresponds to what is psychologically termed identification with the aggressor" (Adorno, 1955: 193).
  In the fourth and final chapter will be investigated if the interference of scientific reason with musical form has consequences for the dichotomy of material and form, while focusing on the writings of John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
  5. New forms
5.1.1 Right: John Cage in performance (1961)

John Cage's The Future of Music: Credo (1937: 3-6).


Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments. Every film studio has a library of "sound effects" recorded on film. With a film phonograph it is now possible to control the amplitude and frequency of any one of these sounds and to give to it rhythms within or beyond the reach of the imagination. Given four film phonographs, we can compose and perform a quartet for explosive motor, wind, heartbeat, and landslide.

  If this word "music" is sacred and reserved for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instruments, we can substitute a more meaningful term: organization of sound.
  Most inventors of electrical musical instruments have attempted to imitate eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instruments, just as early automobile designers copied the carriage. The Novachord and the Solovox are examples of this desire to imitate the past rather than construct the future. When Theremin provided an instrument with genuinely new possibilities, Thereministes did their utmost to make the instrument sound like some old instrument, giving it a sickeningly sweet vibrato, and performing upon it, with difficulty, masterpieces from the past. Although the instrument is capable of a wide variety of sound qualities, obtained by the tuning of a dial, Thereministes act as censors, giving the public those sounds they think the public will like. We are shielded from new sound experiences.
  The special function of electrical instruments will be to provide complete control of the overtone structure of tones (as opposed to noises) and to make these tones available in any frequency, amplitude, and duration.
  It is now possible for composers to make music directly, without the assistance of intermediary performers. Any design repeated often enough on a sound track is audible. Two hundred and eighty circles per second on a sound track will produce one sound, whereas a portrait of Beethoven repeated fifty times per second on a sound track will have not only a different pitch but a different sound quality.
  The composer (organizer of sound) will be faced not only with the entire field of sound but also with the entire field of time. The "frame" or fraction of a second, following established film technique, will probably be the basic unit in the measurement of time. No rhythm will be beyond the composer's reach.
  Schoenberg's method assigns to each material, in a group of equal materials, its function with respect to the group. (Harmony assigned to each material, in a group of unequal materials, its function with respect to the fundamental or most important material in the group.) Schoenberg's method is analogous to a society in which the emphasis is on the group and the integration of the individual in the group.
  Percussion music is a contemporary transition from keyboard-influenced music to the all-sound music of the future. Any sound is acceptable to the composer of percussion music; he explores the academically forbidden "non-musical" field of sound insofar as is manually possible.
  Methods of writing percussion music have as their goal the rhythmic structure of a composition. As soon as these methods are crystallized into one or several widely accepted methods, the means will exist for group improvisations of unwritten but culturally important music. This has already taken place in Oriental cultures and in hot jazz.
  Before this happens, centers of experimental music must be established. In these centers, the new materials, oscillators, turntables, generators, means for amplifying small sounds, film phonographs, etc., available for use. Composers at work using twentieth-century means for making music. Performances of results. Organization of sound for extra-musical purposes (theater, dance, radio, film).
5.1.2 Form and the connection with the past. When comparing Russolo's manifesto to Cage's Credo, there is an unambiguous continuity from the former to the latter. Although Cage, who by this time had witnessed the rise of the Theremin and the phonograph, incorporates technological advancement into his vision of the future, a shared interpretation of societal sound as something "orchestratable" can clearly be identified. This embrace of noise, together with an optimistic attitude towards technology, "which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard" seem to make Cage the true heir to Futurism.
  Furthermore, Cage handles a notion of musical material in which the process of disintegration described in section 3.1.2 has reached an extreme. Traditional laws of harmony have become wholly inadequate for the composer, who is "faced with the entire field of sound." Where Adorno's concept of material was a historical category — see section 2.3.2 — the concept that is employed here appears to be "naturalized" and removed from history. This becomes even more clear in Cage's later writings:
  "Noises are as useful to new music as so-called musical tones, for the simple reason that they are sounds. This decision alters the view of history, so that one is no longer concerned with tonality or atonality, Schoenberg or Stravinsky (the twelve tones or the twelve expressed as seven plus five), nor with consonance and dissonance, but rather with Edgard Varèse who fathered forth noise into twentieth-century music. But it is clear that ways must be discovered that allow noises and tones to be just noises and tones, not exponents subservient to Varèse's imagination" (Cage, 1959: 68-69).
  A consequence of this naturalized concept of musical material is that form exists as a problem separate from it: where traditionally the material consisted of handed-down genres and schemata, the naturalized material consists of "just noises and tones" — something utterly unacceptable in Adorno's view. How this new material should be constructed into an artwork becomes a question that had never before been so open and urgent at the same time. In dealing with this question, Cage was one of the first to explore the assembly of musical material using composition techniques for which the outcome was not preconceived: he established his own rules based on chance operations derived from the I Ching, which provided a method for choosing random number sequences — for a detailed account, see: Cage, 1952: 57-59.
  From Adorno's perspective, a work that consists of decontextualized musical material, while the composer has given up control over the construction process, can hardly be called a piece of music. It would rather be categorized as a case of "subordination to technology" — see section 4.2.3 — which, by its denial of musical meaning, denies its own raison d'être (Adorno, 1959: 205). Cage, on his part, foresees in his Credo a "definite relation" between new composing methods and Schoenberg's twelve-tone system, and even mentions a strikingly Adornian analogy between Schoenberg's method and modern society. Unfortunately, Cage does not draw this analogy further to electronic music and the society in which it comes about.
  The mentioned relation between old and new compositional techniques exists by virtue of "the principle of form": just like the traditional compositional forms, the new forms will originate in "man's common ability to think." Again, from Adorno's perspective, this would be a rather poor characterization of the concept of form. In his view, form is not something which can be thought of separate from the material, after which it is impressed on it. Instead, form and material evolve together and generate a critical potential through a process of historical dialectics. Therefore, when the musical material is removed from its historical roots, it loses the one thing that realizes a connection between the musical forms of different points in time. Cage's description of form as "our only constant connection with the past" may not be true for electronic music — a music which, by cutting sound loose from its natural bearer, has cut itself loose from the historical process of technical development.
5.2.1 Sonic structure as a unified phenomenon. Where Cage handles a kind of Russolian concept of musical material, Stockhausen represents another strand in the history of electronic music. His concept of musical material can be characterized as more abstract, since sounds that remind the listener of nature or society are regarded as distracting from the compositional qualities:
  "All recognizable sounds were avoided in electronic music: I used to say, don't imitate any traditional musical instrument, don't imitate a car sound or a bird, because then people start thinking of the bird and of the car rather than listening to the music. It was basically a weakness to have to demand a kind of exclusivity for each aspect of music, always to define music in terms of taboos. That's true in the arts as well as in life. It can be magical to discover something familiar in an unfamiliar setting, the more so when the context is completely abstract or informal. But there's always the question of whether it will come to dominate the piece. Whether you make use of quotation, or produce a recognizable sound object, if it is known there is a danger it will make everything else you have composed around it sound like a sauce, mere flavouring. One has to be very careful, introducing the banal into the unknown, because the known always tends to be the stronger and more inviting, like an old chair" (Stockhausen, 1971a: 58-59).
  Stockhausen's ideas concerning musical form deviate as much from Cage's conception as his ideas on musical material. According to Stockhausen, a leading figure in the field of serialism, form should be deduced from the innate qualities of the material:
  "We have discovered a new law of relationship between the nature of the sound and the scale on which it may be composed. Harmony and melody are no longer abstract systems to be filled with any given sounds we may choose as material. There is a very subtle relationship nowadays between form and material. I would even go so far as to say that form and material have to be considered as one and the same. I think it is perhaps the most important fact to come out in the twentieth century, that in several fields material and form are no longer regarded as separate, in the sense that I take this material and I put it into that form. Rather, a given material determines its own best form according to its inner nature. The old dialectic based on the antinomy — or dichotomy — of form and matter has really vanished since we have begun to produce electronic music, and have come to understand the nature and relativity of sound" (Stockhausen, 1971b: 111).
  This interesting idea, that form and material should be regarded as one and the same, is realized in Stockhausen's musical works through a unifying approach to musical parameters. In contrast to Cage, who characterized sound in five determinants — see section 4.2.1 — Stockhausen attempts to merge all the parameters of the compositional domain under the general heading of time:
  "[O]ne must proceed from a basic concept of a single, unified musical time; and the different perceptual categories, such as color, harmony and melody, meter and rhythm, dynamics, and "form," must be regarded as corresponding to the different components of this unified time, as follows:
  1. Harmony and melody correspond to periodic waves (that is, to sound-events of constant pitch) whose individual periods should not be greater than ca. 1/16 or less than ca. 1/6.000 sec. because beyond these limits they are no longer audible as "pitches."
  2. The color of harmonic spectra corresponds to the whole number fractions which, as "fundamentals," refer to periods of between ca. 1/13.000 and ca. 1/16 sec.; the color of nonharmonic or noiselike spectra corresponds to more or less aperiodic successions of periods.
  3. Between ca. 1/30 and 1/16 sec. our perception of duration gradually changes into perception of meter and rhythm; i.e., periodic periods may then be considered as meters, and the internal intervallic relationships of the distances between pulses within any given meter — that which determines the tone color for periods shorter than ca. 1/16 sec. — may here be considered as "rhythm." [...]
  4. Meter and rhythm correspond to the time intervals whose order of magnitude is between ca. 1/8 and ca. 8 secs. At about 8 secs. our ability to distinguish durational relationships gradually breaks down. [...]
  "Form" in a special sense — the time relationships of longer events — corresponds to durations of the order of magnitude of from several seconds to about 15-60 minutes (for "movements" or whole "compositions")" (Stockhausen, 1962: 1369-1370).
  These findings were used for instance in Stockhausen's famous piece Kontakte (1958-1960), in which various sounds have been composed by determining specific rhythms and speeding them up several hundred times (Stockhausen, 1971b: 96). Form, being defined here as a perceptual category which corresponds to one of the components of the unified time, is regarded as an integral part of the material. According to this idea, Stockhausen's compositional method can be characterized as an extreme form of serialism, as the concept of unified time determines all musical parameters in a similar manner as the tone-row did before.
  Among the scattered remarks on these new developments, Adorno's concept of Musique Informelle, which he put forward at Darmstadt in 1961 (Paddison, 1997: 182), stands out as the most distinct attempt to formulate a suitable reply. This concept will be investigated in the next paragraph.
5.2.2 Musique Informelle. In his lecture at the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music in 1961, Adorno defined the concept of Musique Informelle as "a type of music which has discarded all forms which are external or abstract or which confront it in an inflexible way" (Adorno, 1961: 272). It can be seen as an attempt to demarcate a new direction in which the compositional practice could proceed, reactionary to the manner in which total serialism and electronic music were developing. Although Adorno's attitude displays more nuance here than in his article from 1955 — see section 4.2.2 — his criticism of the focus on timbre, or "sonority" as it is called here, still stands:
  "The false emphasis on the idea of sonority in the new music is the sign of the dilettante and of those people who place arbitrary interpretations on what they have failed to understand. The dimension of sonority is perhaps the most prominent element in the new music, having been liberated by it and, though newly discovered, it is less in conflict with older listening habits than anything else. However, in works which count it is never an end in itself, but instead is both functional in the context of the work and also provides an element of fermentation. Schoenberg always stressed that sonority was a means to achieve the adequate representation of the musical idea. If the new music is at all compatible with what preceded it, it is in the absence of sonic attractiveness as a categorical concept. This is still the most popular way into mis-hearing it. This has been confirmed by the most recent development, in which sonority has been integrated into the overall construction as one of its parameters" (Adorno, 1961: 277, note 4).
  On the other hand, Adorno acknowledges that technology has brought a change in the composer's relation to musical parameters, both in the control over the separate determinants, as well as in the interrelatedness between them. He states in this context that the insight that every dimension of musical composition inevitably affects the others, "has now become as deeply pervasive as any compositional technique of the past" (Adorno, 1961: 276). Consequently, he admits that traditional formal categories could be wholly unappropriate for the composition of electronic music:
  "I once accused a composition, which in intention at least had managed to unify all possible parameters, of vagueness in its musical language. Where, I asked, was the antecedent, and where the consequent? This criticism has now to be modified. Contemporary music cannot be forced into such apparently universal categories as "antecedent" and "consequent," as if they were unalterable. It is nowhere laid down that modern music must a priori contain such elements of the tradition as tension and resolution, continuation, development, contrast and reassertion; all the less since memories of all that are the frequent cause of crude inconsistencies in the new material and the need to correct these is itself a motive force in modern music" (Adorno, 1961: 288).
  However, this does not entail that Musique Informelle should have no form at all, only that its formal norms should be found somewhere else. Adorno proposes that its formal qualities should emerge from the direct demands of the musical material, in such a manner that "Musique Informelle would be music in which the ear can hear live from the material what has become of it" (Adorno, 1961: 319). Although rather abstract, this principle should restore transparency in the compositional practice, and save it from being only understandable "with the aid of diagrams" (Adorno, 1961: 269). This way, Adorno hopes to start a new process of development in musical material:
  "But if the materials of music are not static, and if to work with the available materials is to mean more than contenting oneself with a craftmanslike approach which aims at no more than the skilful manipulation of the means available, then materials themselves will be modified by the act of composition. The materials will emerge from every successful work they enter, as if newly born. The secret of composition is the energy which moulds the material in a process of progressively greater appropriateness" (Adorno, 1961: 282-283).
  Notwithstanding how useful these ideas are in understanding Stockhausen's abandonment of the dichotomy of material and form, it seems as if Adorno adheres to his old philosophy of music in several ways. Both his insistence on finding new formal norms and his search for a new progressive material bring back to mind his writings on twelve-tone technique. Adorno seems to look for the solution to the technical problems of the electronic age. However, have these problems not turned into technological ones? In the quotation above, the word "materials" refers to the new musical material, which has gone through a liberation and can theoretically, be manipulated to its core. However, this is itself a process of progressive control through a progressive development of appropriate technology. If the compositional domain would be broadened in such a way that technological developments would be included in it as well, it would take far less effort to find the new progressive musical direction that Adorno searches for. Obviously, a sole focus on technology would be as impreferable as the focus on timbre that Adorno warns against. Still, the relation between the composer and the developer of electronic equipment could be an interesting addition to Adorno's work. If in the quotation above the word "materials" would be replaced by the word "machines," this relation could even acquire a dialectical nature:
  "But if the machines of music are not static, and if to work with the available machines is to mean more than contenting oneself with a craftmanslike approach which aims at no more than the skilful manipulation of the means available, then machines themselves will be modified by the act of composition. The machines will emerge from every successful work they enter, as if newly born. The secret of composition is the energy which moulds the machine in a process of progressively greater appropriateness".
  The consequences of such an addition to Adorno's philosophy of music are not easy to oversee. For example, how would the concept of mimesis function for an art form which cooperates with technology? Perhaps by seeing electronic music as deserter-music. Or as the musical POW. Either way, a reinterpretation of Adorno's concept of musical material is more of a starting point for analysis than a conclusive rephrasing.
6 Left: Edgard Varèse (1883-1965)

Conclusion. When told about the popularity of twelve-tone technique after the Second World War, Schoenberg supposedly replied: "Indeed, and do they actually compose with it?" (Adorno, 1961: 284). This question turns out to have been a visionary insight into the problems the early composers of electronic music had to face after the liberation of sound. Whether the answer to this question was sought, like Cage, in aleatoric principles, or, like Stockhausen, in serialist principles, the need to find new forms was apparent. This led to a rethinking of the nature of sound and, consequently, to a rethinking of the role of the composer. These developments lead to the conclusion that the central question of this thesis — Is Adorno's philosophy of music in need of reinterpretation after the severe changes that occurred to the musical material with the introduction of electronic musical equipment? — should be answered affirmatively. The modification of the musical material consists of four components:

  First, the introduction of electronic musical equipment liberated the musical material in such a way that every audible sound became at the composer's disposal. Although it appears that such a change would make electronic music a better candidate to reflect society, as it has all sounds found in nature or society within its reach, the opposite actually occurred.
  Second, the introduction of electronic musical equipment naturalized the musical material by removing it from the history of progressive technical development. This is why the potential to reflect society has actually decreased, as the critical potential of music depends on the objectivity of the historically mediated material — see section 2.3.3.
  Third, the introduction of electronic musical equipment expanded the musical material in such a way that a new developmental process has entered its domain, i.e., the progressive development of appropriate technology for compositional purposes — see section 5.2.2.
  Fourth, the introduction of electronic musical equipment technologized the musical material in such a way that its expressive power — which arises when what is objective, subjectively mediated, speaks — should not be sought in the recontextualization of objective formal norms, but rather in the recontextualization of technology, through which the composer participates in its historical progress.
  Furthermore, two dilemmas can be identified which the composer of electronic music has to cope with:
  First, the dilemma of integration versus disintegration. Electronic music can in this respect be seen as the culmination point of a tendency that was already present in twelve-tone technique. By its removal from the history of progressive technical development, the disintegration of the musical material has reached an extreme. Likewise, in Stockhausen's music the integration has reached an extreme, as form is turned into an integral part of the material — see section 5.2.1.
  Second, the dilemma of development versus regression. This dilemma has been described in section 4.2.2, and has been compared to the dilemma of freedom versus restriction in twelve-tone technique — see section 3.1.3. The danger of neglecting the form, while focusing too much on the rational approach, be it in the form of timbre or of technological means — see section 5.2.2 — is a possibility that Adorno warns against. However, this should not withhold the composer of electronic music to work at the highest technological level available, as it is here that a new mediation between music and society takes place: the progressive development of appropriate technology for musical purposes.
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