This article offers a comparative reading of Theodor Adorno's and Stanley Cavell's philosophies of music. It does not attempt a survey or summary of their respective approaches but rather focuses on one moment in a text by Cavell—namely, his reading and critique, in an essay entitled “Philosophy and the Unheard,” of a particular moment in Adorno's Philosophy of New Music. In reading this moment in Cavell—in reading Cavell reading Adorno—the present article seeks to demonstrate that with this critique, Cavell's philosophy of music swerves from Adorno's precisely at the point of their greatest commonality and thus comes into conflict with itself as well. It does so by placing Cavell's arguments and Adorno's both into the broader contexts of their respective philosophies more generally. On this broader level, it argues that Cavell and Adorno share a common concern with the relationship between ethics and transcendental or quasi-transcendental forms of life and experience. In turn, it argues that for both, this relationship is at stake in the experience of music and that in his reading of Adorno's philosophy of music, Cavell passes over the fact that they share this concern.
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Research Article| April 01 2010
Stephen Decatur Smith; “We Look Away and Leap Around”: Music, Ethics, and the Transcendental in Cavell and Adorno. Journal of Music Theory 1 April 2010; 54 (1): 121–140. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00222909-2010-015
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