Edited By Wojciech Klimczyk and Agata Świerzowska
“… as if the shame before the victims would be offended” – Adorno’s Verdict on Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw
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“… as if the shame before the victims would be offended”1 – Adorno’s Verdict on Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw
In this article I shall explore the German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno’s radical interpretation of Arnold Schoenberg’s seminal composition A Survivor from Warsaw, completed in 1946. To this end, I attempt to examine Schoenberg’s intention in composing a piece directly related to the memory of the Shoah as well as to highlight the purpose of Adorno’s criticism of the work both within his thinking on the relation between art and genocide and his aesthetic theory in general. Thus, in what follows, I will first present some details of the composition in question, then shed some light on the relation between the musical material in the piece and Schoenberg’s idea of how to represent the memory of Jewish survival, and finally I will scrutinize Adorno’s approach to Schoenberg and his concepts directly related to the two questions if and how to represent the Shoah in art. In what follows, the focus of my analytical labor will be the question of whether any elements of Adorno’s interpretation of art relating to genocide − developed mainly between the 1940’s and the 1960’s − are still relevant for us contemporaries of the 21st Century.
It is essential to remember that the issue in question is part of the wider context represented by the ongoing debate concerning the limits beyond which representations of the...
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