of being both black and poor. However, anyone with even a little experience of boats knows that when you tow an unstable and heavily laden vessel through heavy seas it is virtually guaranteed to sink. The British MAIB investigators more or less admitted as much in their initial report. There may thus be some grounds for questioning a government that defends such a procedure as ‘standard’, especially when it is applied to scores of terrified and exhausted people in shark-filled waters in the middle of the night, without first trying to offload any of them onto another vessel and without providing them with life-preservers or assistance of any kind.
But what questions were raised in the British press? As far as I can tell, neither the Daily Telegraph nor the Guardian ever mentioned the event. The Observer, the Sunday paper that belongs to the Guardian group, had by 15 July devoted a grand total of 135 words to the story, clipped from a single Associated Press wire, published on 6 May 2007. The Independent has likewise published just one short article about the disaster, on 12 May, a full week after the story broke. The Times dispatched it in a single twosentence snippet from the AP on 11 May. Their coverage reads as follows: ‘Survivors of a sunken boat carrying 160 Haitian migrants said that a Turks and Caicos coastal patrol rammed their vessel, towed it into deeper water and abandoned them. At least 61 people died.’ End of story. So far no British newspaper has bothered to investigate the truth of such claims, let alone consider the implications of this indifference.
Peter hallwardletters i
trust that my pleasure in finding Adorno’s writings on music taken so seriously in a journal of philosophy will not seem dimmed by my referring back to issue 143 (Ben Watson, DJ rottweiler, review of Adorno’s Current of Music: Elements of a Radio Theory, pp. 47–51).
Watson commends Adorno for restricting his analysis to what he knew. Watson’s own domains of expertise are clearly those of the blues, jazz, rock and pop, and it would be good, for instance, to read a detailed analysis of the music of John Coltrane by him. When it comes to Adorno’s ‘polemic against the kind of analysis musicologists call “Schenkerian” (and everyone else calls those deadly dull lists of successive scherzos and rondos in classical sleevenotes)’, however, he is so wide of the mark that one cannot help beginning to question his reliability on other matters, too. Schenker analysis is precisely the antithesis of such descriptive lists, being concerned to strip away the surface of themes, motifs, formal models like ‘scherzo’, even (and for this Schenker has been much criticized) rhythm, in order to uncover the underlying (and often deeply buried) structural skeleton common to all tonal pieces – or those that Schenker thought good – and to describe that skeleton by means that figure very rarely in sleeve notes: tonality, key-structure, species counterpoint.
I leave it to Ben Watson and others to relate such a theoretical, analytical and aesthetic endeavour to the socio-political sphere. But it is worth remembering that Adorno had studied composition with Alban Berg and was, therefore, at least on the fringes of the Schoenberg circle. Schoenberg disapproved of Schenker analysis precisely because it stripped away from music like Beethoven’s Eroica symphony the surface events that he liked best; also, of course, because it does not work for atonal and twelve-note music such as his own. Schoenberg did not realize (and for this Schenker himself was to blame, for he neither explained, nor even probably realized himself) that the aesthetic consequence of his reductive method, as opposed to its normative aspect and its function in training musicians’ ears and minds to perceive deep structures, was precisely to highlight the deviations of an individual piece’s foreground from the universal background and thus account for their affective qualities. (See Leonard B. Meyer, Emotion and Meaning in Music, University of Chicago Press, 1956, for the classical account of such implication-realization processes.) This, again, has sociological implications; but the point here is that the reasons Adorno, partly at least under Schoenberg’s aegis, rejected Schenkerian theory and analysis were the opposite of those implied by Watson’s remark, which applies rather to Adorno’s scorn for ‘music appreciation’.
As for ‘ultra-modern “noise” rather than “music”’, I trust Ben Watson is using ‘noise’ in the British Standard Glossary’s sense of ‘sound undesired by the recipient’ and not in the acoustic sense of an aperiodic (indefinitely pitched) sound. If Watson means ‘noise’ in the acoustic sense, he might rather have cited Varèse’s Déserts and Le Poème électronique as antecedents and works by such composers as Lachenmann today. As for ‘ultra-modern’, Zimmerman died in 1970; the aesthetic of his later music, involving a tapestry of quotations from other music, may have been ultra-modern at one time, but is now a commonplace of postmodernism, and the style of his music derives from the expressionism of Schoenberg and Berg.
Michael graubart reply i
t is heartening when Radical Philosophy does its job, and garners a protest from a champion of unreflecting specialism. Nevertheless, Michael Graubart’s flip comment about leaving the ‘socio-political sphere’ to ‘others’ remains disgraceful. This was a pose Adorno targeted throughout his life, and with good reason: it’s a fond illusion with atrocious consequences. I admit my words on Schenkerian analysis lay me open to criticism: viewed from the high towers of academic musicology, Schenker’s ‘deep’ analyses are indeed the opposite of popular explanation. However, sleeve notes on classical releases are frequently written by Schenkerians, and – unlike a grounding in Adorno (or Leroi Jones) – such training doesn’t allow them to escape descriptive formalism and articulate listener response. (Readers of Radical Philosophy will I hope be especially aware that, contra Graubart, ‘individual deviation’ and ‘universal background’ cannot constitute genuine alternatives – with Leonard B. Meyer on the side of the former and Heinrich Schenker on the side of the latter – but, like other well-worn couplets – figure and ground’, ‘agency and structure’ – share the same transhistorical metaphysic.) As to Graubart’s remark about my own competence to write about anything other than ‘blues, jazz, rock and pop’, I find it astonishing that anyone who professes to know about modern music can rest assured that these are known and watertight categories, both from each other and from the musics lionized by Adorno (whether these be called ‘classical’, ‘serious’, ‘European’, or – as I would contend – ‘revolutionary’). Whoever would like to talk about John Coltrane had better not remain silent about Arnold Schoenberg and the crisis of bourgeois romanticism.
In my review I described hearing Siegfried Palm playing Bernd-Alois Zimmermann on the radio, not as a claim about Zimmermann’s entire œuvre – in the manner of those whose ‘expertise’ depends upon the ignorance of others – but to report an experience which made me question everything I knew about music. This kind of contingency and subjectivism – the real factual basis for an objective musical analysis – is of course inadmissible for the species of petty expertise claimed by Graubart. The final suggestion in his letter – that noise as ‘undesired by the recipient’ should be distinguished from indefinitely pitched sound (‘nice noise’, anyone?), and that I might check out Edgard Varèse and Helmut Lachenmann – evinces precisely the combination of retarded knowledge and blithe condescension which made me flee academia for music journalism (and then Radical Philosophy). The cataclysmic music of the Romanian composers Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram will see all those who don’t know their Black Sabbath – as well as their Beethoven – in a noisy hell of their own socio-political limits!