Adorno's Criticism On Popular Music

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In his 1941 essay On Popular Music, Theodor Adorno describes popular music as “cheap commercial entertainment, (…) patterned and pre-digested” (in Storey, 2009: 70). He compares his time’s popular music, such as jazz, to what he defines as ‘serious’ music – classical works. He claims that the listeners of popular music “are distracted from the demands of reality by entertainment which does not demand attention either” (in Storey, 2009: 70). Is he by this stating that the listeners are simply just following the stream without paying attention to what they are really listening to? In this essay I will in relation to examples and critics of Adorno’s work show what he means by this quote from his essay - which is perceived as a crass criticism of the Western popular music in contrast to the ‘serious’, classical music. Adorno describes popular music as “standardised, pre-given and pre-accepted” (2009: 64), and furthermore says that “popular music divests the listener of his spontaneity and promotes conditioned reflexes”. He claims that in difference to classical…show more content…
In their everyday boredom, people crave a simulant for new experiences, which is what “popular music comes to offer” (in Storey, 2009: 71). According to Adorno this stimulation is only met with the incapability to invest effort in what he thinks is identical music – the popular music. “This means boredom again. It is a circle which makes escape impossible. The impossibility of escape causes the widespread attitude of inattention toward popular music” (in Storey, 2009: 71). Adorno writes that the listeners does not have anything to miss if he or she is not paying attention to the actual melody or music. “Distraction is not only a presupposition but also a product of popular music. The tunes themselves lull the listener to inattention. They tell him not to worry, for he will not miss anything” (2009:

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