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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Friday 21 October 2005

Adorno

A trio of Adorno titles worthy of your attention ... From Columbia University Press comes Critical Models (which combines Interventions: Nine Critical Models [1963] and Catchwords: Critical Models II [1969]) and from Polity comes Stefan Müller-Doohm's Adorno: a biography and a nice selection of the Adorno - Berg Correspondence:


Adorno was 21 years old when he travelled to Vienna in March 1925 to study musical composition with Alban Berg. Twenty years later, Adorno wrote: 'How much of my writing will remain is beyond my knowledge or my control, but there is one claim I wish to stake: that I understand the language of music as the heroes in fairy tales understand the language of birds.' It was no less than the desire to learn to speak this language that drew him to Berg. Adorno already knew what he wanted to compose before he came to Berg and the aim of his stay in Vienna and the following years was to learn to put this knowledge of musical compostition into practice.

His correspondence with Berg, who was soon to be world-famous, is partly defined by his engagement with the compositional problems posed for the musical avant-garde by Schönberg's discovery of the twelve-tone technique, for which Adorno was to become an advocate, not least in Vienna and through Berg. This correspondence documents how he wrote numerous essays on Berg, Webern and Schönberg during this time, and tried in vain to establish a platform for the Second Viennese School against 'moderated modernity' in the journal Der Anbruch, where he exerted considerable editorial influence. It also shows how much Adorno - continually admonished by Berg to focus only on his musical composition - strove to reconcile his academic duties and his literary and journalistic work with the constant wish to do nothing more than compose.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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