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Sunday, February 24, 2019

RE; ADORNO MENTION in "Reading in an Age of Catastrophe Edward Mendelson"


Reading in an Age of Catastrophe




Dear Ed,

Your commendable Reading in an Age of Catastrophe

that touches on numerous matters that I endorse – e.g., Eleanor Roosevelt is my proudly remembered high-school graduation speaker - however rubs me at the wrong spot with its Adorno jibes . Let me explain.

I might easily have become a pianist or musician of some kind, and a happier person all around.
 We had a grand on the second floor of  our place outside Bremen


My father’s mother Omi Paula Roloff was friends with quite a few of the stars of German classical music; my father was Furtwangler’s ear that he would consult after a performance to get an honest evaluation; the one matter he took pride in  first son was my affinity to Mozart. My mother’s mother Alexandra Einsiedel-Alvensleben was a concert quality pianist married to someone –  Werner von Alvensleben - whose knowledge of music didn’t extend beyond the Radetsky March , so I was told. We had a then 40s state of the art record player and the appropriate collection. All I did was bang around the grand that no one played – Omi A. had left her bombed out apartment in Berlin and, apparently wanting to die, was bed-ridden, a wish I recall as exerting a weird and I imagine forbidding spell, as is appropriate in a child. I eventually taught myself to read music from the scores in the house but failed to ask to be taught and made no effort in that direction. There was no model.

When the US Army liberated us in Spring 1945 and the local chapter of the OSS made our place “off limits” to everybody else’s parties, this residence of long-time Hitler opponents some of whom had survived the siege of Berlin in their respective Gestapo prisons, started to resound to their  music; and there was the Radio in the American Enclave Bremen that played the blues and I was introduce not just to the jiggaboo dance music which Adorno analyzes with such blinding brilliance


but also the work of the auteurs of the time, which are not Adorno’s subject - best as I can tell he only takes a few swipes at the “soloing” that occasionally interrupts the rigidities. Adorno found, and I think it continues to hold true, that everything is syncopated in this country just about anywhere you point your ear for a listen, everything jingles.

Little, badly educated, me who may like scholarship but finds university campuses too arid readied an Adorno Reader in the late 60s as editor at Farrar, Straus, Susan Sontag was going to write the introduction. After I left the firm a nincompoop killed the project. However, I was now acquainted with the author and when we came to discuss the Jazz piece I indicated my reservations and promised to play him some of my individually beloved auteurs.  – Adorno, if you take another look at this utterly brilliant piece – I cannot imagine any American intellectual,  perhaps Fred Jameson, of being  capable of such finely analytic work – it addresses the dance music part of Jazz, and in that respect this dancer must confess to having been as much of a Jiggaboo as any of the so profoundly industrialized of the upper class in hopping around to “the Jerk” – that music's then newest iteration - in the mid-60s – at the first disco, Arthur ‘s,  as was Bobby Kennedy with someone aside Rose hopping next to him, and Jackie with one of those Russian ballet masters – a week during which so memorably I happened onto Bobby two other times, so that by the third time, he running into me waiting in the lobby of the hotel Carlisle, gave me the kind of really hard look that you might to someone who is tailing you: the day or so after Arthur’s  I had come face to face with him - nearly collided - on 8th Street as he was campaigning for Abe Beame for mayor.

An distraught and shaky Adorno while we had lobster at the Frankfurter Hof where I had been once before in fall 1950 just prior to emigrating and seen Orson Wells scoot out the moment he entered as the band struck up “The Third Man” theme that haunted him wherever the so recognizable went in Europe during those days. Adorno was shaken also by German students giving him , one of the theoreticians of their revolt, the kind of hard time that reminded him of the thirties, and so he might not have gone mountain climbing the fall of 1969 and died of a heart attack and never have the opportunity to hear me play MonkBud Powell, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Ornette Coleman, Ron Carter, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, Bud Shank, Guenter Schuller, Horace Silver,Max Roach, Herbie Hancock, Jusef Latif, Dave Brubeck,  John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Red Garland,Ahmad Jamal, Winton Kelley, Charlie Mingus, Marian McPartland, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson,Jimmy Smith, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker,Kenney Dorham, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey and discuss the why and wherefore of atonality in some of that music. –   Negative dialectic prevails. I recall Adorno writing rather favorably of certain American classical music critics .
 I hope you find his Amorbach as touching as do I. Anyhow, what can you expect of a such a serious intellect but to come out looking a bit like Mr. McGoo! The German students knew of Adorno’s proclivity for affair with beautiful young women but apparently not of his near-sightedness, and so when they pressed a balloon figure with breasts into his arms he first thought they were giving him a bouquet. I think that’s how that story goes. Best,  Michael r.

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