Julia Freund, Matteo Nanni, Jakob M. Schermann, and Nikolaus Urbanek (eds.): Dialektik der Schrift. Zu Adornos Theorie der musikalischen Reproduktion [Dialectics of the Written. On Adorno’s Theory of Musical Reproduction] (Theorie der musikalischen Schrift 3), Wilhelm Fink 2022

Theodore W Adorno’s book project Zu einer Theorie der musikalischen Reproduktion (Towards a Theory of Musical Reproduction), which he began but did not complete, arose from musico-philosophical reflection on questions pertaining to a musical score’s (re)translatability into sound. His notes and texts, in part aphoristic and heterogenous in character, refer to his multi-relational contemplation concerning prerequisites for a theory of musical communication involving notation and its interpretation as well as the related aspect of materiality.

© Evelyn Ziegler

It was to this fragment, hitherto viewed as being of secondary importance in research on Adorno, that the initiators of the international D-A-CH project “Writing Music. Iconic, performative, operative and material aspects in musical notation(s)” devoted the 2019 conference “Music, Writing, Difference – An Interdisciplinary Conference on Adorno’s Theory of Musical Reproduction”, which was held at the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna. The outcomes of this conference have now been published in the book Dialektik der Schrift. Zu Adornos Theorie der musikalischen Reproduktion, edited by Julia Freund, Matteo Nanni, Jakob M. Schermann, and Nikolaus Urbanek. This is the third volume of the series Theorie der musikalischen Schrift [Theory of Musical Notation].

This book’s essays, presented within a coherently developed multi-perspectival structure, unite profound readings of Adorno’s text with our present era’s discourses on writing and performativity. In the foreground here, alongside investigations of the nature of musical notation as such, its limits, and its qualities, are questions as to the characteristics of the ephemeral medium that is sound as well as its performative possibilities. Of particular note here are Julia Freund’s contribution on the question regarding possible tie-ins between Adorno’s propositions and forms of graphical notation, Matteo Nanni’s deliberations concerning an understanding of notation as mimesis, and Susanne Kogler’s formulation of questions as to the currency of Adorno’s assumptions pertaining to the intellectual dimension of interpretation and listening’s significance for the present.

As a whole, this volume successfully represents and continues the work begun at the Viennese conference, providing present-day research discourses with valuable new impulses thanks to its multi-layered approaches to Adorno’s theory of musical reproduction and its expansion in the present.

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