Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Stephen P. Turner, Ph.D.


Aesthetics, Critical theory, Cultural studies, Musicology, Social thought


Theodor W. Adorno, the towering twentieth century German intellectual figure and distinctive musical thinker, was legendary for being over-critical of jazz music. Through a consideration at his admiration for avant-garde chamber and symphonic music, I plan to develop a position that, surprisingly, points towards a theory of unacknowledged acceptance of jazz. The style of jazz that will be the newly constructed musical idiom of admiration for Adorno will be of the heterodox variety. My method of reconstruction will be to interrogate the inconsistencies in Adorno's critical musical writings, and negate such negations with factual evidence of affirmation found in the avant-garde jazz community. This Hegelian approach to musical scholarship has not been as common in the field's published literature as it should be.

A linear motive that will be initiated by this treatise's unfolding will be to restore the integrity to jazz culture which Adorno ravished in the realm of critical theory from the 1930's through the middle part of the twentieth century. Adorno's two primary interests will undergo a type synthesis in this study that will render justice to both music and philosophy. Early in the study, Adorno's youth experiences with Simmel and Kracauer (as well as his later apprenticeship with Walter Benjamin) will be discussed and an effort will be made to determine how such studies altered Adorno's aesthetic values. I am particularly interested in mapping the development of the theory of aura from Benjamin to Adorno, and how auratic art differs from aura-exuding music. Next, an avant-garde jazz composer will be looked at. This will be done to enforce the point that the next generation of jazz musicians who Adorno disliked so much had firmly committed aesthetic values of their own.

The modern social philosophical thought that informed these values, which include Kant's Third Critique up to Anthony Giddens' concept of a double hermeneutic, intersect with Adorno's intellectual background. Thus the scholarly aesthetic distance between the 'new jazz' musician and Adorno, I will show not really that wide.