Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Clash of the Fetishes

It appears that Andrew Ross finally wrote something on his The Rest is Noise blog that prompted me to get out my flame-thrower. The good news is that I put in solid effort into my contrary position, resulting in an article for my national site. However, having taken that position, I realize that it may be situated in a broader context.

The "something" in question consisted only of a single sentence:
Wouldn't it be great if the media were covering significant new works by living composers, instead of reporting the discovery of an exceedingly minor piece by Beethoven?
The crux of my article involved pushing back against what I felt was an unfair attempt to conflate musicology (the discovery of a new Beethoven manuscript) and music criticism.

Ironically, yesterday I was typing up notes I had taken after having read an essay by Theodor W. Adorno entitled "On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening." Basically, the "fetish-character" amounts to taking a consumerist stance on music experiences (including concerts as well as recordings), thinking in terms of the exchange-value of commodities rather than any strictly subjective use-value. From this point of view, Ross might accuse me of fetishizing the newly discovered manuscript, while I would retaliate by accusing him of fetishizing the performance of "new works by living composers." In other words you get to choose the fetish for which you pays your money!

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