Forgetting and its Aesthetic Consequences

Dearest Seminarians,

Thank you in advance for reading the enclosed attachment for Thursday, which provides a short (very!) description of my book project/chapters and a long (sorry!) thinking document about the chapter that I am currently trying to frame, "Style and Forgetting: Personal, Cultural, and Aesthetic Anxieties about 'Survivor from Warsaw.'"  The raw material for the first two sections of this chapter all derive from my dissertation, so I've summarized the gist of things for you as the stories are a little more historical/straight-forward.  The third section -- the one dealing with Adorno's response to Survivor -- is the newly developed one and I would appreciate any feedback regarding its logic, ideas, and conclusions.

Although the concept of forgetting turns up throughout Adorno's writings, I have limited my discussion of musical forgetting here to those associated either with the problems of Survivor (reification) or with Schoenberg as a composer.  Adorno's theories about cultural forgetting (cultural amnesia; 'coming to terms with the past') are addressed in a later chapter on postmemorials and thus I've excluded them here.  If anyone knows of other references to forgetting and the ideas here, I would appreciate the citations.

Mostly, I am looking forward to feedback that can help develop or clarify my ideas for myself -- writing and sharing facilitates this for me, and I am grateful for your time and consideration.

A few terms to help:

Atonality/Expressionism: Schoenberg's style in the early twentieth century (Erwartung; Pierrot Lunaire) which rejects the standard rules of tonality for a heightened compositional freedom; linked with psychology and modern anxiety; intended to create musical shocks; generally very dissonant (avoids consonance deliberately)

Twelve-Tone Technique: Schoenberg's style from the 1920s forward (with some regressions here and there); here, the composer arranges the twelve notes available to a composer into a single series (the row, consisting of all twelve notes) and uses various forms of that row (normal; retrograde or reverse; mirror inversions) to create all melodic and harmonic materials in the piece.  The composer generally does not deviate from the row.

Integral Serialists/Darmstadt School: Compositional response to Schoenberg after his death in 1951; takes the total organization of the tonal row and applies its formalism to other parameters, such as rhythm, dynamics, articulations, so that there are rows for every musical decision at times.  Often called total serialism, for the application of serial principles to all parameters of a musical work.  Famous for their polemical statement: "Schoenberg is Dead."

If you want, feel free to listen to Survivor (which is on our website) -- but I would suggest saving it for the class period in which we'll discuss it (week six).  It's a twelve-tone piece with expressionistic gestures often compared to a 'movie soundtrack' and a libretto which is certainly lacking in sophistication but not in its political commitment.  Written in 1947 and premiered in November 1948.  The Americans loved it; the Germans, not so much.

With many thanks and great appreciation for your time/thought,
NEH Presentation.doc116.5 KB