Friday, July 14, 2017

"Night Music: Essays on Music 1928-1962 by Theodor W. Adorno (Seagull Books)

ISBN: 978-0857424501 Seagull Books
What I know of classical music is what I hear on record/vinyl/cd.   Beyond that, almost nothing.  My reaction to Classical it totally musical, and the occasional liner note on the back cover of the album.  With curiosity, I picked up Theodor W. Adorno's "Night Music," in the hopes of learning more about this form of music as well as dipping into the brain of Adorno, one of the leading 'thinkers' of the Frankfurt School of critical theory.  Adorno was also a composer, and what is interesting about "Night Music" is that it was written from the late 1920s to 1962.  The essays are not organized in chronicle order, but in a manner that is very readable.  The book consists of two collections of texts "Moments musicaux" and "Theory of New Music."  When Adorno speaks of new music, he's not talking about Cage (who does get a brief mention in a later essay) but composers of his generation and time, for instance, Schönberg, who is the main figure in these series of writings, along with Berg, Webern, and Ravel.  There is also the commentary on Beethoven, Wagner, and Bach, but the heart of the book is on the Second Viennese School of music.  For one, it's interesting to read these essays knowing that they were written during a time when Schönberg and Ravel were active and doing music.  One is not looking back, but at the present when these essays were written.   The writing for me is readable, but also difficult due to its density and Adorno's knowledge of music.  People who are either serious fans of Classical (especially 20th-century) or musicians will jump on this book with no problem, but for the guy or gal, it's a serious journey into the rabbit hole that is music.   Seagull Books who published "Night Music" should get special notice for the design of the book, and their great taste in titles.  Also, Wieland Hoban did a fantastic job in doing the translation from German to English.

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