Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Adorno’s Social Critique of Radio Music

(Posted on behalf of Kelynne)

I thought that this clip fit well with the reading on “Adorno’s Social Critiques of Radio Music”. This youtube clip shows the comedy group Axis of Awesome singing 65 popular songs using four chords. This video could perhaps be an argument for Adorno’s belief that mass produced music promotes passive listening and social domination.  Adorno believed that popular music was consumed as a commodity and required little to no effort on the listeners’ part.  Almost as if our ears become "trained" to like specific chords and certain patterns in music. Adorno argued that over time, popular music would begin to repeat itself and would ultimately lead to music that lacks original content (standardization).  Patterns and chords (melodies) would be re-used, repeated and replicated leading to music that lacked artistic substance. Afterall, there are only so chords that exist within the realm of music and there are only so many ways to use those same chords in different patterns. 

Adorno  believed that classical music was the only true form of music that actively challenged and engaged the mind.  Unlike popular and mass produced forms of music, true classical music does not follow a repeated pattern of chords and rhythms (i.e. intro, chorus, bridge, climax, etc.).  Classical music incorporates individual vignettes of music that make up the piece as a whole. Adorno was a proponent of high art and felt that mass produced music was a product of low culture. He believed that in creating music that appealed to the masses, the quality of genuine art is compromised.  Adorno questions, "Does a symphony played on the air remain a symphony?," implying that the very essence and experience of music is altered (perhaps degraded) by means of mass communication. Adorno also argued that when listening to music, people should focus their minds entirely on the composition in order to truly appreciate it as an art form.  Radio has made it possible for people to be doing multiple things at once and thus, has lead to the passive listening I mentioned above.  The ability to mass communicate such music (via radio or other means) further perpetuated his fear of passive listening and the passive engagement in media culture that (Adorno believed) ultimately lead to social domination. 

In the least, this clip brings to light an underlying theme in the mass culture music industry. I found it both interesting and entertaining. 

1 comment:

  1. I finally had a chance to watch that video--and it is pretty awesome! Nice tie in to Adorno's critique.