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Quasi Una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music (Verso Classics)

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Quasi una Fantasia contains Adorno’s own selection from his essays and journalism over more than three decades. In its analytical profundity it can be compared to his Philosophy of Modern Music, but in the range of its topics and the clarity of its arguments it stands alone among Adorno’s writings on music. At the book’s core are illuminating studies of the founders of mod Quasi una Fantasia contains Adorno’s own selection from his essays and journalism over more than three decades. In its analytical profundity it can be compared to his Philosophy of Modern Music, but in the range of its topics and the clarity of its arguments it stands alone among Adorno’s writings on music. At the book’s core are illuminating studies of the founders of modern music: Mahler, Schoenberg and Berg, as well as sympathetic rediscoveries of Alexander Zemlinsky and Franz Schreker. Especially significant is Adorno’s “dialectical portrait” of Stravinsky in which he both reconsiders and refines the damning indictment he gave in Philosophy on Modern Music. In ‘Vers une musique informelle’, an influential essay, he plots a course for a music of the future ‘which takes up the challenge of an unrevised, unrestricted freedom’. More unexpectedly, there are moving accounts of earlier works, including Bizet’s Carmen and Weber’s Der Freischutz, along with an entertainingly caustic “Natural History of the Theatre.” Which explores the hierarchies of the auditorium, from upper circle to foyer. ‘The positive element of kitsch’, Adorno remarks, ‘lies in the fact that it sets free for a moment the glimmering realization that you have wasted your life.’ Musical kitsch is the target of several of the shorter pieces: on Gounod’s Ave Maria or Tchaikovsky’s ‘clumsy naivety’; on the ‘Penny Serenade’ of the transformation of Mozart into chocolate-box rococo. Yet even while Adorno demolishes ‘commodity music’ he is sustained by the conviction that music is supremely human because it retains the capacity to speak of inhumanity and to resist it. It is a conviction which reverberates throughout these writings. For Adorno, music and philosophy were inextricably linked: Quasi una Fantasia will enlarge our understanding of both.


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Quasi una Fantasia contains Adorno’s own selection from his essays and journalism over more than three decades. In its analytical profundity it can be compared to his Philosophy of Modern Music, but in the range of its topics and the clarity of its arguments it stands alone among Adorno’s writings on music. At the book’s core are illuminating studies of the founders of mod Quasi una Fantasia contains Adorno’s own selection from his essays and journalism over more than three decades. In its analytical profundity it can be compared to his Philosophy of Modern Music, but in the range of its topics and the clarity of its arguments it stands alone among Adorno’s writings on music. At the book’s core are illuminating studies of the founders of modern music: Mahler, Schoenberg and Berg, as well as sympathetic rediscoveries of Alexander Zemlinsky and Franz Schreker. Especially significant is Adorno’s “dialectical portrait” of Stravinsky in which he both reconsiders and refines the damning indictment he gave in Philosophy on Modern Music. In ‘Vers une musique informelle’, an influential essay, he plots a course for a music of the future ‘which takes up the challenge of an unrevised, unrestricted freedom’. More unexpectedly, there are moving accounts of earlier works, including Bizet’s Carmen and Weber’s Der Freischutz, along with an entertainingly caustic “Natural History of the Theatre.” Which explores the hierarchies of the auditorium, from upper circle to foyer. ‘The positive element of kitsch’, Adorno remarks, ‘lies in the fact that it sets free for a moment the glimmering realization that you have wasted your life.’ Musical kitsch is the target of several of the shorter pieces: on Gounod’s Ave Maria or Tchaikovsky’s ‘clumsy naivety’; on the ‘Penny Serenade’ of the transformation of Mozart into chocolate-box rococo. Yet even while Adorno demolishes ‘commodity music’ he is sustained by the conviction that music is supremely human because it retains the capacity to speak of inhumanity and to resist it. It is a conviction which reverberates throughout these writings. For Adorno, music and philosophy were inextricably linked: Quasi una Fantasia will enlarge our understanding of both.

30 review for Quasi Una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music (Verso Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Edwards

    Here Adorno surveys the landscape of musical modernity which serves as the battleground for Philosophy of New Music. Not only do we get 'A Dialectical Portrait' of Stravinsky, carrying on the critique elaborated in the aforementioned title, but we get much needed studies of the work of Zemlinsky and Schreker, who are both often neglected figures. The enthusiastic studies of Mahler and Berg are fantastic, and should prove to anybody that Adorno is not only at his best when operating in the realm Here Adorno surveys the landscape of musical modernity which serves as the battleground for Philosophy of New Music. Not only do we get 'A Dialectical Portrait' of Stravinsky, carrying on the critique elaborated in the aforementioned title, but we get much needed studies of the work of Zemlinsky and Schreker, who are both often neglected figures. The enthusiastic studies of Mahler and Berg are fantastic, and should prove to anybody that Adorno is not only at his best when operating in the realm of scathing critique. In the last and most intriguing essay, 'Vers une musique informelle', Adorno seems to sketch out a manifesto of sorts, for an 'informal music'. Through philosophical encounters with the works of all significant composers from the Schoenberg school up to Stockhausen and Boulez, Adorno elucidates the problems posed by New Music, and tries to find a way forward. The whole weight of his knowledge and insight is channeled through questions of form, subjectivity and musical material, integral composition, and the primacy of the note. Weaving together all of these complex threads, Adorno produces one of his definitive statements on New Music, but most importantly, one that acts as a theoretical intervention. Onward to Aesthetic Theory.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Reference book for an article... Well if you like dense music theory, Adorno is you whip master.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alessandro

    the musique informelle chapter is really good

  4. 4 out of 5

    GONZA

    Bellissimo, complesso ma ben scritto, una visione dell'arte e della musica in particolare resa con parole semplici e profonde, un respiro per l'anima. Bellissimo, complesso ma ben scritto, una visione dell'arte e della musica in particolare resa con parole semplici e profonde, un respiro per l'anima.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emil E

    Always a joy to read, even when Adorno is at his most scornful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Luas n(mendozaluas10)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adam Lowy

  8. 4 out of 5

    George

  9. 4 out of 5

    Noah Wiese

  10. 5 out of 5

    Yaqoob Beg

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ted

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

  16. 5 out of 5

    Johnny MacMillan

  17. 5 out of 5

    André

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Schiffman

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Lischewski

  20. 4 out of 5

    Yanni

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

  22. 5 out of 5

    Damian

  23. 5 out of 5

    Graham

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jakob

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julio

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christian Plaul

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  28. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Ziva Frappollo

  29. 4 out of 5

    stuart

  30. 4 out of 5

    Iván Méndez González

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