2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

On Adorno’s Music Historiography and “Monadic” Historical Time

Chien-Chang Yang

Graduate Institute of Musicology, National Taiwan University

This paper argues that Adorno’s apparently subjective value judgments on artworks are  actually based on his historical premises. By way of Carl Dahlhaus’ critical remarks, this paper traces Adorno’s discussions on the dialectic relationship between music and society; in particular, this paper examines Adorno’s term of musical materiality that constitutes a “monadic,” that is, fragmentary yet continuous historical time. In addition to his musical writings, this paper also investigates Adorno’s major philosophical works such as Negative Dialectic, Aesthetic Theory, and his later class lectures on History and Freedom. This paper argues that past understandings of Adorno’s music historiography were informed by a linear model of progressive historical time. Instead, it is essential to reconsider Adorno’s history from the relationship between part and whole, general and particular, individual and society. For Adorno, the meaning of musical art is displayed not as a historical totality, but only in fragmentary expressions of human subjectivity mediated through materials.

Keywords: Adorno, fragments, historiography, music, materiality