Adorno on Popular Culture

Adorno on Popular Culture - 1 Kyle Lubieniecki 2505877609...

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1 Kyle Lubieniecki 2505877609 MIT 2200F John Mayiga October 3, 2011 Theodor Adorno from ‘On Popular Music’ Theodor W. Adorno was one of the most significant philosophers and social critics in Germany after World War II. The range of Adorno's influence comes from the interdisciplinary nature of his research and the Frankfurt School to which he was associated with. There he tended to describe the working forces in the world in terms of Marxist theory. In his article On Popular Music”, Adorno conceptualized three specific claims regarding popular music in society. The claims implicate the idea that popular music is standardized, that it promotes passive listening and it operates as what he calls, “social cement”. (Adorno, 220) Although Adorno wrote during the Second World War, I believe that his conceptualizations are accurate and remain relevant within society today. Furthermore, the object of this essay is to summarize Adorno’s major arguments delivered through his article and to discuss why I agree with his statements and how his concepts and ideas are applicable to the world in which we live in today. The first claim Adorno makes on popular music is that it is standardized. He argues “once a musical and/or lyrical pattern has proved successful it is exploited to commercial exhaustion, culminating in ‘the crystallization of standards.’” (Storey, 65) More so, once a song becomes a hit, the pattern of that song becomes the framework for many other hit songs to follow. Being standardized, a feature from one song can be interchangeable and have the ability to be placed within another song without much effect on the song as a whole. Adorno states that the constant repetition we hear through popular
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2 music is “pre-digested” in the sense that consumers have already heard it allowing them to feel on safe ground. (Adorno, 218) Furthermore, the differences amongst cultural goods make them seem different, but they are in fact just variations on the same theme. Adorno states that "the same thing is offered to everybody by the standardized production
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Adorno on Popular Culture - 1 Kyle Lubieniecki 2505877609...

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