Review of Tia DeNora. 2003. After Adorno: Rethinking Music Sociology. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press

Roy, William G.

For musicologists who are interested in what sociologists of music have to contribute to the study of music, there is no better place to look than the work ofTia DeNora. Most recently, her study After Adorno offers a theoretically grounded program for music sociology. The fundamental theme in all her work, fully articulated and elaborated in this volume, is that the distinction between music and society is merely analytical at best. Taking a step beyond Christopher Small’s 1998 prescription that music should be understood more as a verb than a noun-more as an activity than a thing-DeN ora observes that musicking is inherently social. After Adorno seeks to develop this proposition. Theodor Adorno, widely acknowledged as the towering figure of twentieth- century sociology of music, provides the agenda. DeNora argues that despite Adorno’s frequently noted shortcomings, the philosopher provides a solid foundation for theorizing the relationship between the musical and the social, emphasizing the relationship between sounds, texts, and recordings, on the one hand, and the social practices that create and consume those materials on the other. In DeNora’s innovative reading, however, we are now after Adorno-Adorno serves as an inspiration, a fount of insight, but only a beginning. Indeed, the book’s major contribution is DeNora’s own theoretical approach to the relationship of music and society. Eschewing both social reductionism and facile musical autonomy, DeNora demonstrates the reflexive relationship between music and society while affirming the analytical integrity of both.


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August 18, 2022