Culture Rover

#190 - Classical Gas

Oh my dear, Adorno is your problem now. - audience member to American musicologist Richard Taruskin after anti-Adornian lecture in Berlin, 2006

Richard Taruksin's tour de force critique of harangues about the decline of classical music dismissed the obsession with artistic transcendence and authenticity in five paragraphs of breezy historicized hand waving.

Mendelssohn, Kant, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Arnold, Leavis, Adorno, continental philosophy, modernism, abstraction, difficulty, autonomy, transcendence, Great Art: goodbye to all that. So Taruskin quickly proclaimed.

The main tenet of the creed is the defense of the autonomy of the human subject as manifested in art that is created out of a purely aesthetic, hence disinterested, impulse. Such art is without utilitarian purpose (though, as Kant famously insisted, it is 'purposive'), but it serves as the symbolic embodiment of human freedom and as the vehicle of transcendent metaphysical experience.

...[In this creed] artists, responsible to themselves alone, provide a model of human self-realization. All social demands on the artist -- whether made by church, state, or paying public -- and all social or commercial mediation are inimical to the authenticity of the creative product.

In the place of this tradition of the "classical," Turaskin proposed that the mediation of the social always exists. Art ain't pure. It's not universal.

But, to Taruskin, there is one reason for continuing to listen to classical, or any kind of, music: pleasure.

As a team of Texas researchers have recently announced, there are exactly 237 known reasons why people have sex. There are at least as many reasons why they listen to classical music, of which to sit in solemn silence on a dull dark dock is only one.

26 December 2007

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