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Programming Mahler: Meaning, Re-description, and the Post-Adornian Counterlife

  • Jeremy Barham (a1)

In this article Adorno's approach to Mahler is subjected to linguistic-conceptual critique, in order to highlight its ambiguous philosophical and methodological syncretizing of discourses of epistemological commensurability and hermeneutic incommensurability. As a response to this and to Adorno's privileging of authorial production as determinant of meaning, this study invokes Richard Rorty's pragmatist philosophy and aspects of translation theory in order better to understand the world of post-Adornian Mahlerian meaning generated by use of the music in diverse screen works over the last half century. Examples of the ‘re-description’ of Mahler's music resulting from such usage are discussed in relation to the tradition spawned by Visconti's Death in Venice and in various contexts of appropriation, fragmentation and juxtaposition through which radical re-configurations of putative meaning take place.

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Theodor W. Adorno , Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992): 4

Mark Evan Bonds, ‘Idealism and the Aesthetics of Instrumental Music at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 50 (1997): 387420

Patricia Herzog , ‘The Practical Wisdom of Beethoven's “Diabelli” Variations’, The Musical Quarterly, 79 (1995), 3554

Rorty , ‘From Logic to Language to Play: a Plenary Address to the InterAmerican Congress’, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 59 (1986), 747753

Juliane House , ‘Text and Context in Translation’, Journal of Pragmatics 38 (2006), 338358

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Nineteenth-Century Music Review
  • ISSN: 1479-4098
  • EISSN: 2044-8414
  • URL: /core/journals/nineteenth-century-music-review
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