Monday, 6 December 2010


Adorno's underlining view on popular music was that it was standardised and that it 'is usually characterised by its difference from serious music.' (Adorno, T, 1941, 'On popular music' p73.)  He believed popular music takes on a standard, pre-structed and predictable attempt at music and that each 'hit will lead back to the same familiar experience, and nothing fundamentally novel will be introduced' (p74) This standard concept of music is a way of controlling the mass culture and controlling their reactions, 'structural standardisation Aims at Standard Reactions'  (76,) their goal is to control.

By limiting yourself to a genre of music, i.e indie, you are limiting your choices and already deciding that you like a song before you even hear it, this is the opposite of individuality, this is conformity and is 'wholly antagonistic to the idea of individuality in a free, liberal society.' (p76)

Adorno compares popular music to serious music and links serious music to the more educated and rich. He describes serious music as 'even the simplest event necessitates an effort to grasp it immediately instead of summarising it vaguely according to institutionalised prescriptions capable of producing only institutionalised effects.' (p77) He believes that no much thought has to be put in to understand popular music, you know what is going to happen as it follows a structure, it 'is planned and, to a certain extent, achieved within the composition itself. (p77)

If the masses know they are being controlled then they will rebel, 'unhidden they would provoke resistance' (p78) so it has to be disguised by manipulating it and they do this by varying the songs slightly but keeping to the same structure and order. Pseudo individualisation is the idea that we think we have free choice but the music stops you listening and thinking and does this for you. Adorno links popular music to those who want' relief from both boredom and effort simultaneously.' (p80) the working class therefore are those who conform to this music as after a busy day working, they want an escape where they don't have to put in the effort of thinking, he is saying this doesn't apply to the rich as they don't live this lifestyle e of being tired and exploited.

Lastly Adorno is making the point that popular culture results in standard lives consuming the same culture over and over as an attempt to escape. Mass culture stops you thinking and actively trying to change.

I picked this video of an x factor winner to represent popular culture because I believe this video conforms to Adorno's thoughts on popular music as it follows a standard procedure every year the video takes the exact same form going through their 'story' of winning through imagery. The song is usual a love song or a song about happiness with a slight change each year.

Quotes taken from:

Adorno, T., 1941, 'On Popular music', Studies in Philosophy and Soial Science, no. 9.

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