Music and Fascism Fifty Years After Adorno

Andrew Marzoni at The Baffler:

Adorno was known for his skill at anticipating apparent contradictions, gymnastically reframing objections to his theses as their necessary conclusions, and he would not have been shocked by the cultural capital afforded his byline any more than the ongoing devaluation of the art he held above all else. An insufferable elitist who championed art for refusing to conform to the standards of public consumption, his bad takes on jazz—attributing its popularity to sadomasochism, comparing the jitterbug to St. Vitus’s dance—are lamented, and sometimes excused for their ignorance: the only jazz Adorno knew, which he pronounced more like “yatz,” was the kind played by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and increasingly derivative (mostly Caucasian) dance bands that entertained the Weimar bourgeoisie. As Stuart Jeffries notes in Verso’s Grand Hotel Abyss, Adorno spent the 1940s only a few miles from the clubs on Central Avenue where Dexter Gordon, Eric Dolphy, and Charles Mingus inaugurated a bop renaissance on the West Coast, but there’s no record of the critic going anywhere near them. According to New Yorker critic Alex Ross, Adorno “shows no sympathy for the African-American experience, which was finding a new platform through jazz and popular song. The writing is polemical, and not remotely dialectical.”

more here.