Orpheus in the Underworld
Forthcoming in June 2024.
Delves into Theodor W. Adorno’s lesser-known musical career and successful music criticism.
Theodor W. Adorno is recognized as one of the twentieth century’s most prominent social theorists. Though best known for his association with the Frankfurt School of critical theory, Adorno began his career as a composer and successful music critic.
Comprehensive and illuminating, Orpheus in the Underworld centres on Adorno’s concrete and immediate engagement with musical compositions and their interpretation in the concert hall and elsewhere. Here, Adorno registers his initial encounters with the compositions of the Second Viennese School, when he had yet to integrate them into a broad aesthetics of music. Complementarily essays on Bela Bartók, Jean Sibelius and Kurt Weill afford insight into his understanding of composers who did not fit neatly into the dialectical schema propounded in the Philosophy of New Music. Additionally, essays on recording and broadcasting show Adorno engaging with these media in a spirit that is no less productive than polemical and focused as sharply on their potentialities as on their shortcomings.
Orpheus in the Underworld offers a captivating exploration of Adorno’s musical compositions, shedding new light on his understanding of influential composers and his critical perspectives on recording and broadcasting.