Academic journal article German Quarterly

Sound Figures of Modernity. German Music and Philosophy

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Sound Figures of Modernity. German Music and Philosophy

Article excerpt

Hermand, Jost, and Gerhard Richter, eds. Sound Figures of Modernity. German Music and Philosophy. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. 296 pp. $39.95 hardcover.

The volume's editors Jost Hermand and Gerhard Richter open this collection of essays with two bold statements, namely that philosophical investigation of music has come to an end with Adorno, Bloch, and Lukacs, and that musical production these days is no longer philosophical (10/11). Both claims are nonsense. Adorno himself had plenty of opportunity, for example at Darmstadt, to demonstrate that his sociologically grounded philosophy of music could not engage contemporary compositions productively. When he attempted to criticize an electronic work by recourse to the category of the sonata form, a young Karl Heinz Stockhausen attacked: "Mit Verlaub, Herr Professor, Sie suchen ein Huhn auf einem abstrakten BiId." Yet the compositions of the Neutoner were often highly theoretical and philosophical, a fact that is well documented for example in the excellent volume Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music that was edited by C. Cox and D. Warner. And to state that "most current musical production is largely manufactured by corporate boards for the culture industry's consumers" (11) is either an empty statement because Western classical music was always that of an elite minority and hence only a minute fragment of a society's actual music making, or it is ignorant of the highly complex and challenging music of a Ferneyhough, Lachenmann, Pintscher, and a score of others.

Music is arguably the most neglected of the arts when it comes to philosophical aesthetics, hence any volume attempting to fill in a bit of the gap is highly welcome. Sound Figures of Modernity brings together a number of helpful and stimulating texts, yet it could have achieved much more. The volume seems to be intended as a first sketch of an intellectual history of the German philosophy of music from the idealists to Adorno, and it takes a few very laudable steps in this direction. David Krell, for example, presents an excellent examination of the role of music in Schelling's work, and Ludger Lutkehaus summarizes Schopenhauer's passages on music from Die Welt als WiHe und Vorstellung with much lucidity. …

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