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English (U.S.)
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Theodore Adorno's Criticisms of Jazz and Pop Music Social Essay (Essay Sample)


Critically evaluate Adorno's claims about jazz. In light of problems with his argument, does anything about his general claims about jazz or pop music apply to popular music today?


Theodore Adorno’s Criticisms of Jazz and Pop Music
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Theodore Adorno’s Criticisms of Jazz and Pop Music
In his “Essay on Jazz” (1936), Theodore Ardorno, offers harsh criticism of Jazz based on three interpenetrating claims: His criticism centers majorly on his rejection of the sense of improvisation and spontaneity that characterize jazz compositions and a demonstration of the entwinement of jazz with modern technologization of life. Additionally, he disliked pseudo-individualizing tendencies in jazz and pop music. Based on these criticisms, deconstructed jazz music as a commodity within the culture industry and a perverted symbolic pursuit of social justice. However, Adorno’s criticisms about jazz seemed oblivious of the dynamism and relevant detail that characterized the transformation of jazz in the 20h century. Adorno’s views on jazz neglects the socio-cultural significance of jazz as a form of expressive sociality and a powerful tool against racial oppression.
Adorno’s major critique of jazz focused on the aesthetical value of its composition and performance as opposed to its inherent social and cultural intents. He contended that while the core elements of jazz such as blue notes, solos, vibrati, and syncopies emphasized freedom of expression, freedom was constrained by the form of jazz music, which comprises 4 times and 8 beats. Adorno considered this formal constraint a significant setback as it made jazz less constructive if compared to the more fluid structural compositions such as dodecaphonic and the sonata forms (Hamilton, 2020). The danger of overgeneralizing jazz music based on the ornamental features of its performance was that limited Adorno’s ability to understand the popular slang used in jazz composition and how the genre responded to the social, racial, and ethnic tensions of the American society at the time.

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