Faculty of Art Philosophy Lecture: Adorno and popular music


Adorno and popular music
Professor Alison Stone
Adorno is one of the most savage critics of popular music.In this talk Professor Stone re-examines his criticisms. In essence, he complains that popular songs have a top-down structure in which a fixed form is selected and then individual parts are slotted into that form. The parts are thus interchangeable; any part can be taken in and out without this substantially affecting either the other parts or the whole form. This contrasts to the kind of musical structure Adorno favours, in which parts generate form.Although Adorno made this criticism of popular music in the 1930s, she argues that it broadly applies to popular music since rock-‘n’-roll too, or even better, using the example of the doo-wop hit ‘Sh-boom’ by the Chords. However, she then questions the claim that musical ‘parts’ (e.g. individual notes, chords, bass-lines, percussion rhythms) are interchangeable. While it is true that they can to a considerable extent be swapped in and out these alterations fundamentally change the whole song to which the parts belong.She explains this using the example of Gary Numan and Tubeway Army’s ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’ This suggests that after all popular songs are a kind of whole in which all the parts reciprocally affect and qualify one another. Given Adorno’s own valorisation of musical wholes, then, there are grounds to value popular music. Adorno’s criticism of popular music can be turned on its head.
   Free public lecture, everyone welcome. About the Speaker
Alison Stone is Professor of European Philosophy at Lancaster University. She is the author of Petrified Intelligence: Nature in Hegel’s Philosophy(SUNY Press, 2004); Luce Irigaray and the Philosophy of Sexual Difference (Cambridge University Press, 2006);Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and Maternal Subjectivity(Routledge, 2011) besides an introductory textbook on feminist philosophy and several articles on a range of continental philosophers. She is currently finishing a book called An Aesthetics of Popular Music.Free public lecture, everyone welcome
Wednesday 9 December 2015
5:15 pm – 7:00 pm

(Wine and cheese at 4.45pm)
MC228, Millennium City Building, University of Wolverhampton
For further enquiries
Please contact Dr Meena Dhanda,
Phone 01902 323503
Email: M.Dhanda@wlv.ac.uk
Visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/philosophy