Guest Blog- Peter Davison, How music speaks to power? The doubtful legacy of Theodor Adorno

How music speaks to power? The doubtful legacy of Theodor Adorno


Readers of this blog will know that Ken is a great enthusiast for composers like Shostakovich, Sibelius, Elgar and Schumann – among many others. His taste is catholic, and he is even open to composers found on the fringes of musical history like Hans Gal and Havergal Brian. And why not? These are unusual talents who, in other circumstances, might have reached much greater prominence. But there is one influential personality who, if he were alive today, would consider such taste highly regressive, and that person is Theodor Adorno (1903-69) the German philosopher and occasional composer. His influence was keenly felt by a whole generation of composers through texts such as Philosophy of Modern Music and his short book on Mahler. His polemic in favour of Schoenberg and against Stravinsky set the agenda for much academic debate in musical circles after 1945. He drew the ideological battle-lines which still to some extent persist today. Composers are meant to be either avant-garde or traditional, and only the former was considered politically correct. Adorno’s endorsement of serialism as the only morally legitimate method of composition ensured that Schonberg and his music would remain centre-stage through the latter part of the 20C.

Adorno’s views grew out of the deeply pessimistic outlook of the German Naturalistic movement, which was a philosophical approach derived partly from Hegel and Schopenhauer. This Weltanschauung was best represented by Büchner’s play about the tragic everyman Woyzek, later realised to perfection in Berg’s opera, Wozzeck. Adorno had been taught composition by Alban Berg and had great respect for him, although he was uncomfortable with the lyrical side of his music. The Naturalistic School looked at Nature objectively and, while not denying its spiritual aspect, they observed that Man was essentially Nature’s victim. Vast impersonal forces, hostile and brutal, create a world devoid of any feeling and compassion, where beauty is routinely crushed and the individual inevitably misunderstood. The human predicament is thus hopeless, because our struggle for survival warps truth, warps society and warps our souls.

It is an unpromising basis for musical aesthetics, but Adorno argued that new music must reveal this repugnant social order. He believed that we live in a society corrupted by greed, lies and the abuse of power. Vulgar commercialism, manipulative sentimentality and empty fantasy thus obscure our understanding. We are all addicted to these distortions because we cannot bear to face the truth they conceal about our moral emptiness and soulless lives. In his opinion, only Schonberg really had the courage to tell us how it really is, because he was willing to accept the humiliation and aesthetic failure which would inevitably follow from speaking truth. Adorno sets the bar very high in defining what it is takes truly to affront common taste. Even music as harrowing as Shostakovich is dismissed as a “feeble mixture of compositional facility and helplessness”. Stravinsky, Britten and Sibelius are dismissed in the same way, while Elgar is beneath contempt. Adorno argued that music which achieves any kind of popularity or critical consensus must by definition be flawed, because it can only succeed by succumbing to bourgeois values. Writing symphonies in traditional forms, using tonality and making extra-musical references were ways to appease the collective. For this reason, he made no apology for preferring Schonberg’s “inhuman coldness” to Berg’s “magnanimous warmth”.  Adorno was the condemning voice of the puritan; Moses berating Aaron with his tablets of stone.

Adorno of course was a Hegelian and a Marxist, who liked a good argument and believed that there could be no middle way. Blandness, he suggested, i.e. the spirit of compromise, was evidence of exactly the feeble mindedness which makes human society a mess. As a Hegelian, he believed that the artist of genius had to adopt an extreme critical stance, because progress could not otherwise be made. His motivations were idealistic, even Utopian, in aspiration. Like all demagogues, Adorno held out a vision of the perfect music which would be written in the perfected society, and condemned the rest.

Adorno was at the height of his influence just after the Second World War, when German culture was still in shock after the Nazi debacle. His case for a polemical kind of new music was very much part of the soul-searching of the day. The German people were asking – where did it all go wrong? His diagnosis was simple. Beneath the veneer of high civilisation lurked ugly barbarism which needed only a little encouragement to come to the surface. The pleasing veneer of popular Romantic music – with its worn out formulae and beauty of sound blunted the critical faculties and encouraged delusion. Hitler could listen to Parsifal and dream absurd visions of racial purity but validated by great art.  Adorno, like many Germans, felt considerable guilt that the nation’s wonderful tradition of music had not saved the German soul from calamity. If music had given Hitler a picture of his damaged soul instead of filling his head with Romantic fantasies, then perhaps he would have seen the error of his ways. Yes, this all seems very convincing, playing upon collective guilt and our general distaste for many aspects of the contemporary world. There is plenty to provoke misanthropic feelings, and if you are a German, the Nazi experience would trouble your conscience indeed. Adorno felt justified in his belief that music should express anxiety and despair, because it was the natural human condition. Any hint of optimism, any harmonious resolution or positive conclusion would thus have been a falsification of reality. The composer, he argued, must be resolute in standing against consensus and be prepared to suffer accordingly.

But how should music speak to power? How should composers speak to power? It has never been an easy question with a simple answer. Only in the Romantic period did composers begin to imagine that they had the right to speak to power at all. Before that they were hired lackeys, who might only dare, like Haydn, occasionally to make a joke at their patron’s expense. But generally, whether a composer’s salary was paid by Church, State or an aristocratic patron, he did as he was told. But then came Beethoven, who rewrote the contract between composer and society, adopting a more visionary and critical stance. By the end of the 19C, the tensions between the individual artist and society had reached a point of rupture. Oddly, it was the breaking down of old power structures that finally set the artist adrift. He had once had a clear focus for his rebellion, but in more liberal societies, there was often just incoherence and aimlessness to attack. New freedoms descended into the vulgarity of consumerism; probably a worse settlement for the composer than working as a hired hand. In a society governed by market economics and the interests of the masses, holding up high aesthetic values became increasingly difficult. This was the problem foreseen by the Naturalist movement and which Adorno used as the basis of his moral arguments.

But let us lay the ghost of Adorno to rest. Some of his assumptions are just wrong. The most glaring error is the assumption that music has to be moral at all. That was something grafted on to it by Beethoven and the Romantics. Music can certainly be used in that way, but moral music is not a guarantee of good music. Debussy and Chopin were morally neutral in expression, yet their music is still wonderful. Sibelius’ music became greater, the more he moved away from expressing nationalistic aspirations, turning a distinctively national voice into a profoundly personal one. Shostakovich often expressed deep ambivalence about the society around him, yet he was a patriot in a time of war. Still there was plenty of nihilistic feeling in his music and a not-so-hidden agenda of social critique. Yet Adorno could hear in this music only evidence of pandering to popular taste and fatuous traditionalism. But is that in any way fair? Composers are not superhuman. They have to exist in the real world, and it is often a mean real world. This means making compromise, sometimes quite cruel compromise. There are limits to what any individual can do to redeem the flaws of the society around them. If they want to communicate with the public, they have to speak intelligibly, but if they end up banned, in jail or dead, then their voice will have been very effectively silenced. Music may well need a higher purpose to justify itself in our modern world, but it cannot be judged by moral absolutes. Composers and artists are not solely responsible for the moral condition of their society, nor is it necessarily their job to change it. The composer as Messiah bearing a Utopian vision has a strange echo of Hitler’s desire to redeem a nation. Arguably Shostakovich’s very human stance – full of equivocation and inner torment, or Berg’s “magnanimous warmth” are much more appealing to us than any abstract idealism, because we can share compassion for their predicament. We recognise in them our own flawed humanity, for they do not wag the finger at us, chiding us for our impotence before authority. This is closer to our experience. We struggle to know what is right – and sometimes survival has the greater priority.

Moral absolutism can become as much a tyranny as any lack of morality. That is the message of Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron. The same applies to our judgements about the relative merits of composers and the saintliness or otherwise of their lives? Hans Gal and Schoenberg were both Viennese Jews forced into exile. Gal was humiliated by internment, but went on to have a long and successful life as a musicologist and composer living in Britain. Gal did not succumb to serialism, but is he then to be accused of being a regressive bourgeois? Are we to say that Gal was feeble-minded for holding to tradition, despite his suffering, while the saintly Schoenberg risked all? Yet their day to day lives were more or less the same, for Schoenberg was also a university teacher in California, bringing up a family and playing tennis with Gershwin. So for all his angry protests against bourgeois values, his hair-shirt was worn only part of the time. He thoroughly enjoyed his notoriety, just as Gal was content with his obscurity. Schoenberg‘s music has its place. He explores a territory of psycho-pathology which is unique and very much of its time, but there is also a lot of posturing mixed up with it. In his complexity and self-contradiction, he is no different to Shostakovich. The problem with Schoenberg is his claim to martyrdom, when in truth he was just as vain and just as fond of bourgeois comforts as everyone else. Perhaps Gal was just less ambitious and more honest about what kind of life he wanted to lead.

It is perhaps inevitable as creative artists are no longer tied so closely to social authority, that they find themselves speaking for marginal voices in complex societies. Yet composers and musicians are not obliged to be social activists, great political leaders or heroic resistance fighters. Our society is nothing like the totalitarian world of Shostakovich or Germany under the Nazis, and it is wise to remember that before we criticise Richard Strauss or any number of artists who ever became badly entangled in the rotten politics around them. Our own times reveal a society made up of many backgrounds, shades of opinion, levels of experience and stages of development. From these groups we may define many possible audiences for new music. Adorno’s branding of all but the most intellectually enlightened as enslaved to false consciousness is a tad judgemental and not likely to win many converts. If Adorno were correct, then there would be no appetite for tragic works of art at all, because audiences would want only diversion, entertainment and blandness. There are a lot of people who do, but the current high level of interest in music by Mahler, Shostakovich, Britten and Sibelius shows that there are many individuals grappling with deep questions who consider music one way to explore them. Labelling all listeners as vacuous is just an angry gibe diverting from awareness of one’s own moral failings by projecting them upon others. The puritan is usually a hypocrite.

Finally, while anxiety and despair are frequent experiences for modern Man, they cannot be considered his natural condition. We instinctively seek harmony and balance, and it is not surprising therefore that art which claims to speak only of an unbearable truth finds little sympathy with the public. Mahler, who speaks to power with great eloquence, may show us despair, but also the path that leads away from it – with the single exception of the Sixth Symphony. But in that work, the tragic outcome elicits our compassion and not simply horror, because Mahler resists the onslaught so stubbornly. To sing of life’s pain with such heroic defiance requires that he does not abjure the possibility of redemption, until his last energy is spent. After all, it is the totality of human experience which feeds creative impulses, not just the positive or the negative in isolation. So we should lay the ghost of Adorno to rest, and speak to the divisive power of his polemical writings. Let music be a humane art, expressed honestly between flawed creatures. May it be filled with as much “magnanimous warmth” as we can muster!


Peter Davison

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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9 comments on “Guest Blog- Peter Davison, How music speaks to power? The doubtful legacy of Theodor Adorno”

  1. GW

    You wrote: ” Adorno’s endorsement of serialism as the only morally legitimate method of composition ensured that Schonberg and his music would remain centre-stage through the latter part of the 20C.”

    Neither the premise nor the conclusion of this sentence is true. Adorno, himself a student of Berg and his own compositions very much in the Berg orbit, was highly skeptical about post-war serialism (see, for example, his essay on “The Aging of the New Music”) and, if his advocacy was truly so effective, why was Schoenberg’s music so little played in the latter part of the 2Oth century in comparison with that of Stravinsky? Adorno did, in fact, take a strong position of advocacy for a particular tradition, and we should welcome the simple fact that here was a philosopher who dared to take music seriously, but his influence is very much overstated here. On the music world in general, his influence was close to nil, in German academic philosophy and sociology, his influence was limited, increasing only towards the end of his life, but even then cut off by the student revolts of ’68. In general, I scarcely recognize Adorno’s ideas in your precis here and would have much preferred an actually engagement with his texts than your critique of a few scattered lines.

  2. Bryan-Kirk Reinhardt

    Oh this is going to be a very very good debate. I must reach for my popcorn 🙂

  3. Peter

    I meant by centre-stage – central to debate and discussion about the future of new music, so apologies if that has caused any confusion.I agree Schonberg did not receive many performances, although his ideas about music and the analysis of music were much admired at my University, and Adorno was widely read, though little understood.

    I didn’t want to delve too deeply into Adorno’s philosophical ideas, because the whole basis of discussion is wrong. He may well have been an excellent philosopher and theoretician, but music does not derive from aesthetic theories, but from creative impulses, and those need to be free from ideological constraint.

  4. Kenneth Woods


    Hi GW. Welcome and thank you for your comment.

    I respectfully disagree with you about Adorno’s influence within a certain, extremely important segment of the classical music world. For instance, his advocacy of the music of Mahler was incredibly important, and there was a whole gamut of Mahler interpreters who found in Adorno permission to love Mahler, on the grounds he was the first modernist, or that he paved the way for Schoenberg. Boulez, Chailly, Gielen and Sinopoli were all influenced by his attitude to Mahler.

    Likewise, his advocacy of the music he believed in could be effective and influential, and I’m glad he stood up for the importance of serial music. I find much of Schoenberg’s music thrilling and moving, and anything that helps me to program it is welcome.

    What Peter rightly points out is that Adorno did a huge amount of damage by dismissing or denigrating the works of other composers in other styles. You don’t have to read very far into Adorno’s writings on music (page 7 in the introduction to “Philosophy of Modern Music” to encounter a completely idiotic statement like “Twenty years ago the trumped-up glory surrounding Elgar seemed a local phenomenon and the fame of Sibelius and exceptional case of critical ignorance.” It’s hard to think of a dumber statement about music ever made. The sad thing is that I’ve known numerous people in my career who thought that anyone who knows so much about Schoenberg must also know just as much about Sibelius. Of course, Adorno’s statement makes clear he knew next to nothing about Sibelius. Adorno’s dismissal of Sibelius was hugely influential in post-War Germany, where his music completely fell out of the repertoire.

    Peter mentioned Hans Gal. Because his music was tonal and lyrical, Gal was often asked to speak out against serial composers, something he always refused to do. He fully recognized the importance and value of Schoenberg, the New Vienna School and the post-War high modernists, and would not be drawn into denigrating the works or aesthetics of others. His music came from within, and he had to be true to his own inner voice, and to his credit, I think he always assumed that all other composers were equally honest in their work.

  5. Bryan-Kirk Reinhardt

    @ Peter: “but music does not derive from aesthetic theories, but from creative impulses”

    Please don’t tell music how it needs to come into being. It has its own free will and can come from any source including “aesthetic theoretics”.

    @ KW and ALL:

    Totally agree at the dumb statements in reference to Sibelius and Elgar – especially with the latter who is extremely technical if you deconstruct. But, there are other ways to experience the value of art – there are “relational” and “non-relational” methods. The “relational” we all know in that germanic path. The “non-relational” intentionally avoids those balances and strives to present the experience of it’s art as a “whole” and with its own universal intent – non-referenced to anything around it except itself.

    Disclaimer: mmmmm….I use “sets” quite a bit.

  6. Peter

    @Bryan-Kirk Reinhardt

    I am not sure you can have it both ways. If an aesthetic theory says something is not permitted (as Adorno suggested) then it is against liberal principles that music can emerge from many sources. It is true that there is some very interesting music which has arisen from people theorising first about possibilities – Messiaen for instance, or you could even say that the early composers of opera invented the form in theory before doing it in practice.

    However, my experience is that most theories are post-rationalisations of irrational impulses, and that the effect of good music, even with a mathematical or theoretical derivation is not due to that derivation. Schonberg is a case in point – when it works, it is not because of serial technique, but rather despite it or for reasons that have nothing to do with it. Berg is perhaps the best example of all, where the composing system is inaudible and where the music sounds as if it is not there.

    I am rather less convinced by Schonberg than Ken is, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt because he clearly had a good pair of ears and knew how to write music. But he opened the way to a lot of people who don’t have music in them because it gave license to others to suggest that it no longer mattered what music sounded like. This is dangerous, because then you really enter the hell described by Adorno where it is impossible to tell the difference between good and bad.

    Adorno on Mahler – I am again very ambivalent. He said a lot of startling things and took this music very seriously when others did not, but there was a lot of Mahler he couldn’t take because he found it too naive…or else he could only assume Mahler was being ironical. Yes, there is a lot of irony in his music, but Mahler was very from a cynic or pessimist. Mahler clung to a belief in transcendence and the power iof music to express transcendence. Adorno did not believe that this could be so and thus, regarding Mahler, he entirely misses the point.

    Not sure that aesthetic value and complexity have any direct connection.

    Why did Adorno hate Sibelius so much? I think it is because it is irrational in its power, depite the tautness of its logic. Thus its success as music cannot be understood in terms of rational analysis or theory. You either feel this music’s awesome presence and magnificence or you do not, and if you don’t then indeed, the interest of others would seem a mysterious aberration.

    Music can never end up in a situation where C major is always going to be a cliche. the question is how does Sibelius manage to make a C major chord seem as fresh as the dawn. It is impossible to say for sure, but it is possible to hear that it is so. Schonberg was avoiding the question through his peculiar form of negation, but I will take a leaf out of Hans Gal’s book and stay silent about Schonberg, or shall we say, let the silence speak for itself.

  7. Bryan-Kirk Reinhardt

    There is absolutely no “necessity” to judge music as good or bad. Absolutely none. Why is it a hell? Its trivial and absurd. Judging music as good or bad is nothing but a projection upon sound by a made up aesthetic derived from some artificial limited human boundary. Music and sound have no mind in the matter, because music and sound have no brain. It just exists without knowledge of boundaries. And it can come into existence from anything, including randomness, from systems and even unfortunately or fortunately from Mahler.

    Music can come from systematic means, and can be in itself just as valid a cultural experience as anything coming from traditional “emotional” misconceptions. And just simply on the level of an anthropological definition which comes to mind, culture is only that defined which is passed from generation to generation.

    I can think of music that is carefully derived without emotional reference. Webern works because his systems work. Cage can work by avoiding it (or trying). Boulez works. Minimalism works (purist minimalism, not that systematic process crap). Algorithmic music can work and be spellbinding. And Sibelius IS absolutely a systematic composer. His genius there is as frightening as Webern if you know how to analyze it. He didn’t just will it up while soaking in a bath of hot milk and vodka with a gun in his hand.

    Many many many “absolute” musical works work! All that emotional working stuff is simply a byproduct. And boy, sometimes that byproduct is surprising even to the composer who had no intention of it as a result. But its still a byproduct that is imposed on the music by the listeners and sometimes the composers interpretation after the work is completed. I’m not saying all works are absolute theoretical derived and valuable, but they do exist in large lots.

    As for the creative touch, lets consider a hypothetical set of works which can come into being all its own. All the following can happen today:

    A programmer writes some code. The code utilizes systems to create musical sonic events in time. The programmer doesn’t specify when or how these events and constructs will come into being, or what they are…only some general characteristics on how to create them. The programmer just sets up a beginning state. He has no idea how it will change or how it will become. He just sets some starting boundaries, just like a parent would for their children. Non emotionally, using mathematics, stochastic, and cold theoretics he learned in a few soft computing and AI courses at Berkeley, as well as some open source code and applications he downloaded from the internet.

    The program when run creates events in time. It has the ability to specify and judge on its own when a piece begins and ends, and when to start a new one. It has item ability to generatively derive hierarchal semantic structures. It has the ability to generate events based on sensors in the room – who is there, parameters of what they are doing and physical characteristics of the room itself. The audience in some way can participate in the event without knowledge. A live musician can come into the performance at any time – instrumentation is unimportant. Kenneth Woods is in town with his cello and chooses to enter the platform on a Monday morning at 8:03 AM, the computer program will brew a cup of coffee for him and create a score on the fly based on the temperature, the heartbeats of the room, the weather and any number of other non-deterministic events, what is lined up to occur, and has occurred. He decides to catch a cab around 11:43 am and steps off the platform. The music continues without him and without generating a score.

    To make human associations, random nouns, adjectives, and verbs are displayed on a screen from time to time for the audience. A title is randomly created for each work that is generated.

    The computer program can modify its own routines to improve itself in the next piece that it decides to create. It can also randomly or systematically choose from a number of algorithms based on genetic and neural criteria.

    The application is never the same as its previous state and there is no means to retrieve its previous code state. Even if you could, the application would never produce the same work again. Each work is unique. All sounds are uniquely derived.

    The audience is mesmerized and emotionally moved by the music works that are created, and find value in its existence. Some are moved to tears because the music sounds painful and sorrowful. Some are moved to joy because the music sounds transpirational. Sometimes regal. The computer has no feeling in the matter. The programmer had no intent of emotion in creating the original application, and the application has no resemblance to the original code base.

    The program is moved by a truck to a museum where people can come and go. Over the years, parents bring their children to hear the installation and they too are mesmerized and find joy. It wins a Pulitzer Prize for Music and a National Book award (for a book that was created on the project by a caretaker at the museum).

    The programmer takes the millions in license money from the museum and retires to the northern shore of Kauai, and buys a 42 foot Beneteau to live on. He never writes a line of code again.

    * * *
    But at last I digress: Adorno is an idiot for trying to be limiting, as much as the projectile emotocons try to be limiting from a different emotional viewpoint. There are many roads to art- the only requirement (if even that) is some imagination.

  8. Peter

    @Bryan-Kirk Reinhardt
    Well this is a brilliant thought-experiment, and it makes a point, namely that a lot of reaction to music is subjective projection which may or may not have anything to do with the composer’s intentions. But if a composer begins from the starting point of a narrative about the inner life, then we must deal with it on that level. Music can be directed in that way and operate at many levels. Abstraction is just one of them.

    This is the problem of all human communication – what is real, what is illusion? How do we express inner subjective states so that other people can understand what we are feeling and be sure that understand what we mean? It gets harder, the further from practical exchange we get. Indeed, it can be argued that music is the only means that begins to get close to expressing our interiority , and that falling back on words and emotional projections is already to diminish the musical content and its meaning.

    But we have surely to make judgements – either practical or moral – about the things we allow to get under our skin. If I eat too much chocolate, I get heart disease and die, so it is in my interests not to eat too much chocolate, or to allow thieves into my house or confidence tricksters to sell me insurance. The same exists in art – where there are plenty of charlatans, phoneys and seducers vying for our attention. Add to that the deranged and deluded, and there’s plenty of scope and necessity for aesthetic judgement.

    It is best to judge music (as people) against the claims they make for themselves. If they are what they say they are, we are free to like or dislike according to our own taste, and I would not dismiss anyone who has honest intent. However, if they puport to be something like an exclusive track for all music, but are in fact merely being intolerant and abusrdly judgemental, we have grounds to say – no thanks!

    Adorno is about like someone who observes that there is a lot of chocolate-eating damaging the health of a culture, so insists on banning everything but branflakes; and then branflakes made according to one manufacturer. Now we can agree with him there is too much chocolate-eating, but his solution is not going to work because it is unenforcible and unreasonable. under his regime there would be a lot of secret chocolate-eating. It would raise eating chocolate to the status of a religion. It would create pathology around chocolate, and soon everyone would want to be a junkie. Then you find out that even the regime’s hardliners are all secret addicts too. A campaign for a balanced diet would have been so much more successful.

  9. Bryan-Kirk Reinhardt

    “How do we express inner subjective states so that other people can understand what we are feeling and be sure that understand what we mean? ”

    You can’t. It’s an illusion. The only thing an audience can respond to are the cold events in the work as prescribed by the composer and that is if the composer decides to leave any of these markers for semantic and episodic memory. Everything else is up to “interpretation” or “non-interpretation”. There are many ways to listening to music and sound. Not all of them need to be from the perspective of an acoustical space with seating, a program and white gloves on hand, and the prescribed social approaches of intent listening. Another way is to just let it pass through you without any judgements or deconstructing agendas. Again, there are no laws that it has to be memorable or not. It can just exist and your gestalts come by your own unique interacting with it.

    Besides, you can never be sure that a composer starts from the narrative of an inner life. He can and most often lies and says he did. Or someone else imposes their will on the work. Moreover, to interpret from a perspective of another life experience can never be 100% sure that his intentions are honest ones or are exactly yours. Besides, why should we really give a [moderator edit] about his angst or life experiences anyway? If you DO want to judge, look for the memory markers. Personally, I don’t read the program notes and steer away from Meet the Composer interviews before the concert anymore. They are deflecting from the music. Worried about charlatans or tricksters? Why bother? You still have to listen to it to judge and then its too late anyway! Read the testimonials; samples from iTunes. There are too many outlets of entertainment looking for your attention today to be able to criticize each one in a lifetime. Its a minefield.

    Music and sound are not chocolate. Music and sound expresses nothing but the vibration of a light spectrum between 20 hz and 20 kHz. Everything else is a matter of taste, a matter of infinite human experience, and maybe nothing at all.

    The bottom line is you choose what it is or what it isn’t from the basis of your own experiences. You get to choose what is or what isn’t in your life. You do this through unmusical means. Adorno doesn’t get to do it for you.

    UPDATE: The computer application described in the above has been improved to provide specific brands of coffee based on who is playing with it. For example, if Kenneth Woods decided to show up, it would grind a good italian bean from Stumps Coffee. If I showed up it would grind a mean Sumatra from Peets. This also has an effect on the performance. I personally believe Peets is more intense. As the music and playing evolved the scores generated on the fly would become more complex. A pastry module I hear is in the works.

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