Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 January 2007
Franz Schreker's opera Der ferne Klang is usually discussed using the term ‘phantasmagoria’, as a guiding thread. This article argues that this term names not one but two phenomena: as used by Theodor W. Adorno in his analysis of Wagner, the term denotes the repression of musical production in order to create a music without origin. In a lesser-known piece Adorno uses the term slightly differently, in a sense pioneered first by his friend Walter Benjamin. This second sense is interested in the repression not of musical production, but of the acoustic means of production that conspire to create a unified, synaesthetic experience (rather than an aesthetic object). This second sense, the denial of any sense data outside of the one experience to be had in an opera house, is exceedingly fruitful when applied to Der ferne Klang, since its hero is questing for the titular sound which is located in that very space the aural phantasmagoria has to pretend does not exist. Reading Schreker's opera keeping both senses of the term in mind may allow us to overcome Adorno's own somewhat negative assessment of Schreker's modernism and to locate within the opera a certain self-consciousness of phantasmagoric production.