5 - Social content and social function  pp. 184-217

Social content and social function

By Max Paddison

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Music is not ideology pure and simple; it is ideological only insofar as it is false consciousness. Accordingly, a sociology of music would have to set in at the fissures and fractures of what is actually going on within the music [des musikalisch Geschehenden]. … Sociology of music is social critique accomplished through the critique of art.

Adorno, Introduction to the Sociology of Music (1962)

In his essay ‘Thesen zur Kunstsoziologie’ (1967) Adorno writes: ‘Sociology of art, according to the meaning of the words, embraces all aspects of the relationship between art and society. It is impossible to restrict it to any simple aspect, such as the social effects of works of art. This effect is itself only a moment in the totality of that relationship. ’ Thus there is a sense in which the concerns of Adorno's sociology of art permeate all levels of what is here, for convenience, being called his ‘aesthetics’. However, as was suggested in the earlier part of this study, Adorno's ‘sociology of music’, in the narrower sense of the term, does also have a very specific focus of its own: that is, it seeks to reveal the ideological dimension of music. Music's claim, since the Enlightenment, to be autonomous, is false consciousness when seen in relation to its social function as commodity. As ideology critique Adorno's approach is twofold: to examine the social content of musical material, and to consider the social function and context of music and musical works.