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Expression in the new music: a study based on Theodor Adorno's philosophy of music

Grant number: 18/13098-2
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): October 01, 2018
Effective date (End): September 30, 2019
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Arts - Music
Principal Investigator:Mário Rodrigues Videira Junior
Grantee:Paulo Cerruti de Arruda Sampaio
Host Institution: Escola de Comunicações e Artes (ECA). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


We will discuss the relation, present in Theodor Adorno's philosophy of music, between New Music and the category of musical expression. At least since his Philosophy of New Music (1949), the transformations occurring in such relation are linked to a certain process of emancipation of the musical subject, which represents for Adorno the main goal of avant-garde music. We shall see to what extent such transformation derives from the necessarily problematic character of expression in the context of New Music. For Adorno, New Music emerges from the rebelliousness of expression against the expressive grammar established by the tradition and crystallized in the tonal system. We have here a critique of the current expressiveness in the name of the possibility of another kind of expressiveness, one that is specific to the emancipated musical subject. From the understanding of such relation between expression and New Music, we intend to investigate Adorno's critiques to the neglect of expression and of subjective mediation in general one finds in Post-Second War avant-garde music, represented by integral serialism and by aleatoric music. These were compositional trends that, as a result of theirs critique of expression tout court, tended to create works possessing an objective and systematical character, incurring in a certain enchantment with science and in what Adorno calls "techniques of subjective relief". We shall see how, in texts dating from the 1950's and 1960's, Adorno sustains that the resumption of the emancipatory project of New Music depends on a recuperation of the category of expression, via reckoning the fact that all aesthetic objectivity is mediated by the subject. We intend, at last, to understand the relation between this recuperation of expression and the original potential of New Music and Adorno's proposal of an informal music present in the conference Vers une Musique Informelle.

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