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Inaudible Music, Invisible Conducting Some Sociological Reflections.

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Presentation on theme: "Inaudible Music, Invisible Conducting Some Sociological Reflections."— Presentation transcript:

1 Inaudible Music, Invisible Conducting Some Sociological Reflections

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3 Heard melodies are sweet … … but those unheard Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on, Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeard, Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone … John Keats (1795–1821), Ode on an Grecian Urn

4 The Reality Music isolated –e.g. Toscanini on the Eroica Conductors idolized –e.g. Incongruity between social/financial prestige and artistic performance

5 Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957) B. Walter A. Toscanini E. Kleiber O. Klemperer W. Furtwängler Berlin 1929

6 Toscanini on the Eroica To some it is Napoleon, to some it is a philosophical struggle, to me it is allegro con brio.

7 cf. Guernica (1937) in Taipei 101 as Front Door Decoration of a Restaurant Pablo Picasso 1881–1973

8 Incongruity between social/financial prestige and artistic performance 80 years vs. 4 months!

9 Norman Lebrecht, The Maestro Myth: Great Conductors in Pursuit of Power (Secaucus, NJ: Carol Pub. Group, 1991),

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11 Great music is inaudible good conducting is invisible The present problems and their consequences –star system: wrong model for us and the next generations –unnecessary dislike of music and music making music as craft, not art musician as career, not vocation masters, masterworks, maestri –Land of hope and glory (and power, and money…?)

12 Some Sociological Reflections 1.Adornos Critique Background The paradoxical nature of conducting 2.Some Practical Suggestions

13 Further Reading Adorno, Theodor W. Introduction to the Sociology of Music. Translated by E. B. Ashton. New York: Continuum, [translation faulty!] Bowen, José Antonio, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Conducting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

14 Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (1903–69) early training included study of piano in Frankfurt and of composition with Alban Berg in Vienna ( ) returning to Frankfurt in 1927 to study philosophy, nevertheless wrote extensively about music as editor of Anbruch ( ) taught philosophy at the university in Frankfurt from 1931, but was removed by the Nazis and went first to Oxford in 1934 and then, in 1938, to the U.S. at the invitation of Max Horkheimer, who had earlier moved the Institute for Social Research to New York from Frankfurt.

15 Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (1903–69) 1949 returned to Frankfurt with Horkheimer to reestablish the institute there a central figure in the Frankfurt School, refused to be associated with any practical political program, and his sociology of music championed the music of Schoenberg and related composers while disdaining mass culture –except from The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (2003)

16 The Frankfurt School Max Horkheimer (1895–1973) from left to right: Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) Theodor Adorno (1903–69) Jürgen Habermas (1929–)

17 The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory […] to uncover the structure of underlying social practices and to reveal the possible distortion of social life embodied in them (Shawn Rosenberg) ultimate goal […] is to link theory and practice, to provide insight, and to empower subjects to change their oppressive circumstances and achieve human emancipation […] (James Bohman)

18 Introduction to the Sociology of Music Lectures 1961/62, new edition 1968 Chapter 7, Conductor & Orchestra: Aspects of Social Psychology –conductors, orchestra and their relationship as microcosm in which social tensions recur and can be concretely studied –aesthetical problems as symptoms of social wrong (macrocosm, bigger picture) also implications for us, though difference between orchestra/choir, professional/amateur

19 Conductor as Imago of Power for the Audience conducting figure and striking gestures –provide fantasies of power for the audience costume –as whip-wielding (the baton) ringmaster in a circus –as member of the master class –as head waiter (What a gentlemanand here at our service) back towards audience –deceptive detachment (cf. Berliner Philharmonie 1963 for Karajan)

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21 Conductor: Unnecessary for the Musicians Just air magic –the orchestra […] distrust him as a parasite who need not bow or blow an instrument and makes music at the expense of those who do play the notes. –e.g. Vienna Philharmonic under dilettante conductor in Mahlers 2 nd test with mislabeled records

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23 Conductor: Necessary for the Musicians paradox: polyphony demands monocracy –complex division of labor –spatial distance between parts –alienated, deceptive unity rendering audience amenable to authoritarian rule –e.g. the young Wagner: not to be an emperor or king, but to stand like a conductor.

24 Critique of Adornos Critique only ideal types, unsupported by empirical studies prescriptive, risks being authoritarian? –but the readers are challenged to see the phenomena with new eyes and then free to decide for themselves

25 Some Sociological Reflections 1.Adornos Critique 2.Some Practical Suggestions air magic yes, leadership unavoidable, but…

26 2. Some Practical Suggestions Hans Swarowsky (1899–1975) –conductor and pedagogue, studied theory with Schoenberg and Webern and conducting with Weingartner and Richard Strauss –director of the conducting class at the Vienna Music Academy, 1946–75 students included Mehta and Abbado

27 2. Some Practical Suggestions Swarowsky: 4 requirements for a conductor –knowledge of the texts and their contexts –understanding of the performing forces –identification with the composer in form and expression –personality Wahrung der Gestalt (1979)

28 2. Some Practical Suggestions professional in standard, amateur in heart –from Latin amator lover, from amare to love know each members, develop a non- instrumental and non-dominating relationship we instead of you and I invite participation in programming humane rehearsal schedule and realistic performance expectation stage etiquette share the podium …

29 Fazit As perfect music is inaudible, ideal conducting is invisible make music and make sense of music make music and make friends with music –Vom Herzen, möge es wieder zu Herzen gehen (Beethoven, Missa solemnis op. 123)


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