Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Theodor Adorno and Alban Berg: The Crossroads Between Philosophy and Music
by Rich, Morgan M., Ph.D., University of Florida, 2016, 219; 10679169
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation relies upon primary source analysis, archival research, and music analysis, to understand the role Alban Berg played in Theodor Adorno’s philosophical thought. Contrary to current scholarly opinion, my research and analysis of unpublished sources has proven that Adorno’s conceptions of “new music” were strongly based on Berg’s music and not solely on that of Arnold Schoenberg. By reassessing some of Adorno’s most famous musicological writings this dissertation will give the community a new perspective on formative works.

Throughout this dissertation I connect two overarching arguments. First, I argue that Adorno saw Berg’s method of composition, particularly composition with twelve tones, as analogous to his own ideas for a new approach to dialectic thought, negative dialectics. While this aspect is largely neglected in the secondary literature. Second, I argue that from his first writing on Berg, Adorno worked to craft a narrative of Berg, to establish his identity as an autonomous composer; this resulted in his monograph Alban Berg, Master of the Smallest Link. Yet scholars do not address the significance of Berg in Adorno’s writing and thought. Even Juliane Brand and Christopher Hailey, editors and translators of the monograph do not regard the book as having great significance beyond Adorno’s personal recollections of Berg.

I come to the conclusion that Berg’s music and Adorno’s analyses thereof manifest themselves into Adorno’s most significant musical concepts and books: particularly his concept of composition with twelve tones, new music, and negative dialectics. Adorno’s Berg-influenced ideas make their way into the infamous dialectic between Schoenberg and Stravinsky in Philosophy of New Music. As I demonstrate, even Adorno’s most original contribution to philosophy—his concept of negative dialectics—which would later develop into lectures and a book of the same title, emerged from his conception of modern music, in particular composition with twelve tones, as early as 1926.

My dissertation is the first to address Adorno’s application of negative dialectics, to music criticism. Indeed, PoNM would not have been viable if Adorno had not formulated his conception of negative dialectics according to his understanding of Berg’s music and the possibilities of the twelve-tone technique.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Santos, Silvio dos
Commitee: Kligerman, Eric, Reed, Alexander, Thomas, Jennifer
School: University of Florida
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 79/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Music, European Studies, Aesthetics
Keywords: Adorno, Theodor, Berg, Alban, criticism, dialectics, modernism
Publication Number: 10679169
ISBN: 9780355401899
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