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The Differentiation of Modernism

The Differentiation of Modernism: Postwar German Media Arts

Larson Powell
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Differentiation of Modernism
    Book Description:

    After 1945, the purist "medium specificity" of high modernism increasingly yielded to the mixed forms of intermediality. Theodor Adorno dubbed this development a "Verfransung," or "fraying of boundaries," between the arts. TheDifferentiation of Modernism analyzes this phenomenon in German electronic media arts of the late modernist period (1945-1980): in radio plays, film music, and electronic music. The first part of the book begins with a chapteron Adorno's theory of radio as an instrument of democratization, going on to analyze the relationship of the Hörspiel or radio play to electronic music. In the second part, on film music, a chapter on Adorno and Eisler's Composing for the Film sets the parameters for chapters on the film Das Mädchen Rosemarie (1957) and on the music films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. The third part examines the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen and its relationship to radio, abstract painting, recording technology, and theatrical happenings. The book's central notion of the "differentiation of culture" suggests that late modernism, unlike high modernism, accepted thecontingency of modern mass-media driven society and sought to find new forms for it. Larson Powell is Associate Professor of German at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He is the author of The Technological Unconscious in German Modernist Literature (Camden House, 2008).

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-883-5
    Subjects: Film Studies, Performing Arts, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Has the postwar period, its last outburst of utopian energies since exhausted, come to be our modern antiquity?¹ Current popular nostalgia for that age, especially among the younger, might remind one of the aura around the golden twenties, when, as Adorno put it, “as once again briefly after 1945, it looked like the open possibility of a politically freed society.”² Despite warning against this idealized image as more wishful projection than reality, Adorno had to admit that “its own delicacy and fragility presupposed a reality that had escaped from barbarism” (502). The same might be said of the period from...

  5. 1: The Differentiation of Culture
    (pp. 14-40)

    A programmatic piece of Francis Ponge’sLe parti pris des chosesdevoted to “flora and fauna” confronts the difficulty of writing about the vegetal world: “Fauna moves, while flora unfolds to the eye. An entire type of animate being is directly assumed by the ground.” Ponge’s prose poem, mimicking its object, paratactically assembles observations about plants, seen increasingly as an “infernal” self-containment: “They only express themselves by their poses…. No gesture of their action has any effect outside of themselves…. Despite all their efforts to ‘express themselves,’ they can never achieve more than to repeat a million times the same...

  6. 2: The Destruction of the Symphony: Adorno and American Radio
    (pp. 41-63)

    The resonances of Adorno’s stay in the United States in his work are not always easy to isolate and determine, in large part since most of the work he actually completed while in America was of an empirical nature, and tied up with institutional team research projects he did not himself direct. As he himself admitted in a later stocktaking of this period, many of these American projects were then later reworked in essays published after his return to West Germany (Eingriffe, 716).¹ In consequence, the effect of America on Adorno was a delayed and retrospective one, and can only...

  7. 3: The War with Other Media: Bachmann’s Der gute Gott von Manhattan
    (pp. 64-78)

    The inevitable aging of aesthetic modernity (also a theme of chapters 8 and 9, in the context of music) has been particularly unkind to radio art, specifically radio art of the 1950s. Despite the hopes voiced in the 1960s for a renaissance of McLuhan’s “nonliterate modes” (or what Ong would later call “secondary orality”),¹ radio genres such as theHörspielhave continued to be treated as a redheaded stepchild, always taking a back seat to film or more recent questions of information and digitalization. Laments over the neglected or even ill-defined status of the radio play extend from Rudolf Arnheim’s...

  8. 4: Radio Jelinek: From Discourse to Sinthome
    (pp. 79-95)

    Lacan’s famous and witty epigram, “qu’on dise reste oublié derrière ce qui se dit dans ce qui s’entend,”¹ possibly translatable as “that one is speaking remains forgotten behind what is said in what is understood [literally:hears itself],” may summarize a great deal of Jelinek reception, especially within the discourse of the university. Ignoring both the warning of psychoanalysis against the urge to understand too soon and modern aesthetics’ suspicion of hermeneutic resolution, many readers have fallen for the bait of “what is said in what is understood,” namely, the surface appearance of traditional “critique,” and thereby missed the specificity...

  9. 5: Jokes and Their Relation to Film Music
    (pp. 96-118)

    With some notable exception (Chaplin, Twain, the Marx Brothers), Adorno was often suspicious of laughter. The critique of its abuse runs like an Ariadne’s thread through the most varied topics. In the section on mass culture fromDialektics of Enlightenment, “false laughter” is sharply attacked: “Laughing about something is always laughing at it…. The collective of laughers parodies humanity…. The devilish aspect of false laughter lies precisely therein … that it parodies the best thing of all, reconciliation, in compulsive manner.”¹ In thePhilosophy of New Music, too, the Stravinsky ofPetrushkais accused of the same barbarity;² unsurprisingly, this...

  10. 6: Allegories of Management: Norbert Schultze’s Soundtrack to Das Mädchen Rosemarie
    (pp. 119-133)

    Das Mädchen Rosemarie (A Call Girl Named Rosemarie) has regained something of its erstwhile status as “the prestige problem film of German cinema” of the 1950s¹ in recent scholarship, due to the latter’s investigation of postwar redefinitions of gender roles. Film in particular is now seen as “an exploration of contradictions between two conflicting bourgeois models: the model of bourgeois family order pitched against postwar visions of mass participation in bourgeois affluence.”² The problematic boundaries of women’s consumerism were thematized in melodramas such asDie Sünderin(The Sinner, 1951), where a female “single city dweller threatened to sabotage German reconstruction...

  11. 7: Straub and Huillet’s Music Films
    (pp. 134-161)

    It may be an ironic tribute to Straub and Huillet’s perdurable modernity that their work has resisted academic interpretation for so many decades. As recently as 2004, one commentator noted that “there is little indication” of a larger attention to their work, citing others who described their status as “dinosauresque” relative to the cinematic mainstream.¹ Even the discovery of film music as a topic of research has largely passed them by in favor of Hollywood cinema’s “unheard melodies” or New German cinema’s more obviously semantically coded use of music.² The difficulty of Straub and Huillet’s art—its “resistance” (Byg) not...

  12. 8: The Modulated Subject: Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie II
    (pp. 162-180)

    The beginnings of 1960s art, with its shift from austere formalism to performance and politics, appeared to be under the aegis of theater. The first “happenings” of Allan Kaprow in 1958 to 1959 were roughly contemporary with his “environments,” and followed closely on the period of John Cage’s teaching at the New School for Social Research (1956–58). Kaprow consulted with Cage on “how to include tape-machines” and eventually added “electronic sounds from loudspeakers” to the second version of his “Untitled Environment/Beauty Parlor.”¹ This specific coupling to electronic media was noted by Theodor Adorno a few years later (1967) in...

  13. 9: Music beyond Theater: Stockhausen’s Aus den Sieben Tagen
    (pp. 181-210)

    There is a consensus in art history that a certain tradition of modernism ended in the 1960s.¹ The music of the 1960s similarly brought its own tradition of modernity to its conclusion. This took the form of a radical paring down of the musical artwork to its barest minimum, a reduction next to which the movement popularly known as minimalism appears harmless and decorative.² Stockhausen’sAus den sieben Tagen(1968) marked the end point of this tendency, abandoning all conventional musical notation in favor of short verbal instructions to the players, occasionally resembling prose poems (although the resemblance is misleading,...

  14. In Lieu of a Conclusion: Mediating the Divide
    (pp. 211-220)

    A book as polycentric as this can hardly end with a tidy conclusion; nonetheless, a few broader consequences and contextualizations may be drawn. Although, as noted early on, this book does not claim to offer an overall history of its period from 1948 to the 1970s (with a brief foray into the 1990s for Straub and Huillet), it is nonetheless evident that a different periodization is offered here from previous synoptic works on late modernism. A good contrast may be found in Huyssen’sAfter the Great Divide, published at the height of the postmodernism debate in the 1980s. The Differentiation...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-250)
  16. Index
    (pp. 251-254)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)