Adorno’s writings are often the starting point for the teaching of popular music studies, usually passing swiftly on, after concluding that ‘he didn’t listen to the right jazz’ or ‘he was a snob’. In this book, using Adorno’s aesthetic theory more generally, a viable philosophical approach to the study of idiomatic, non- standard music is constructed. The links between Adorno’s work and its Kantian roots are explored, and a more general and inclusive aesthetic constructed, using the utopian and implicitly political elements in each.
This book will be of interest to critical theorists and musicologists wishing to build a more engaged practice without the pitfalls of a by now outdated ‘postmodern’ turn.
Introduction / 1 – A Reading of Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgement” / 2. Aesthetics into Politics
3. Aesthetic Theory / 4. Kant against Adorno, Adorno against Adorno / 5. (Coda) – Music, Finally.
Neither Kant, because he disparages music, nor Adorno, because he despises the culture industry, seem promising starting points for an investigation into the aesthetics of pop. But Stan Erraught conjures up a very Kantian Adorno to find redemptive value in contemporary commercial sounds and provide useful philosophical ballast for all those who wish to take popular music seriously.
In this subtle and thoughtful book, Stan Erraught stages a dialogue between popular music and the aesthetic theories of Kant and Adorno. Despite Adorno's hostility to popular music, Erraught uses Kant's and Adorno's ideas to argue that popular music has positive value. Erraught also shines new light on Kant and Adorno by re-reading their work in light of developments in popular music. This highly original study will interest readers from popular music studies as well as from aesthetics and philosophy of music.
Erraught contends that popular music—not Mozart or Beethoven—powerfully exemplifies the paradoxes of music’s ineffability. To support his claim, he stages a novel conversation between Kant and Adorno that helps us grasp the philosophical significance of musical genres that transfix us with their intensity. The result is elegant, comparative, and wide-ranging in all the right ways.
Stan Erraught has achieved what was once unthinkable: the productive rehabilitation and extension of Adorno’s aesthetics by means of popular music. Returning to the Kantian foundations of Adorno’s thought, Erraught shows the untapped potential for pop to exemplify and challenge utopian thinking, thereby recovering a promesse du bonheur for these dark times.
Stan Erraught is Principal Lecturer in Media and Creative Industries at Buckinghamshire New University.