PR on The Frankfurt School.

Also found this passage amusing:

Teaching PR alongside study of the media and mass communication presents further problems. This part of the academic world is still overshadowed by the Frankfurt School, established by those left-wing German social thinkers who fled Nazi German for the USA. For them Nazi propaganda might have been a terrible abuse of the opportunities presented by mass communication– but the world of advertising and PR they encountered in the USA was little better. It is not surprising that PR is at best viewed with suspicion by many academics. Their emphasis upon the way PR bolsters the interests of big business is coupled to a general hostility towards the commercial world, the most conspicuous user of public relations (although the same academics seem to accept that their own universities and the publishers of their academic books are enthusiastic users of PR!).

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Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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11 Responses to PR on The Frankfurt School.

  1. Kambing says:

    Oh, those fusty old academics, clinging to their tattered copies of Dialectic of Enlightenment! Too funny; it’s like the 1980s and 1990s never even happened.

    This kind of thing is not restricted to PR/Marketing texts, either. It’s a fairly typical way for most introductory Media or Cultural Studies texts to begin, and even a lot of more substantial scholaraly works begin with a ritualised disavowal. And of course no Cultural Studies conference can properly begin without burning the Frankfurt School in effigy, to chants of ‘problematise, subvert, (re)present and empower’. It’s like some kind of terrible performance art.

    • HR says:

      Ha. Its amazing how many theories and theorists have gotten mileage out of caricature of Dialectic of Enlightenment. For instance, although they are on opposing sides on many issues, some of the ‘critical theory’ conferences i’ve ended up at could have very well started out with Habermasian’s burning copies of the Dialectic of Enlightenment and chanting–reason, rationality, ideal speech situation.

      • HR says:

        Oh, and that, Theodor Adorno Jazz Quartet – Jazz Americans might be the stupidest thing i’ve seen on the internet.

  2. Oh god, I had to google that after you mentioned it. I had hoped it would’ve been an actual Jazz band with merely an ironic hat-tip to Adorno in their name. Instead it’s a handful of nitwits who think affecting a Dieter from Sprockets accent while plinking away on a banjo constitutes clever conceptual art. Middlebrow isn’t dead, it’s become universal.

    P.S. Maybe one of you Adorno experts can chime in: my understanding is that when Adorno says “Jazz”, he actually means something like Europeanized “sweet band” music of the 30s, and not, say Duke Ellington or Count Basie, or later bop music, all of which he probably never heard?

    • HR says:

      Why be normal when you can be an middlebrow ass clown?

      Europeanized ‘sweet band’ or third rate Benny Goodman is my understanding of what Adorno is describing in his essay on jazz.

      • Yunus says:

        I think that Adorno was criticizing jazz as whole. Some of his main arguments, which are part of his “general” theory of music, stresses on the fact that jazz didn’t break free from archaic social expressions, ie from fantasized black self-identity; on what he calls “fetishism” of arrangement and tone, ie the quasi-exclusive use of brasses; etc. His critique can thus be relevant for europeanzied “sweet bands”, as well as for the “New Thing”.

        The most intereseting thing is that some leftist experimental musicians who come from a free jazz background (Rowe or Tilbury, for example) justify in their writings their new orientation with ideas which are reminiscent of Adorno’s theses.

  3. Kambing says:

    It is a sad waste of a moderately clever name, I agree. Sorry for the disappointment, but I did warn you!

    Still, once you understand that by ‘Jazz’ Adorno actually means a bunch of pretentious grad students hitting a banjo suspended from the ceiling, the compelling logic of his critique really falls into place.

  4. Yunus,

    Tilbury doesn’t come from a Jazz background at all. He’s a purely classical player.

    Prevost and Rowe came from Jazz backgrounds (Prevost still plays Jazz outside of AMM).

    One of the “conceptual” aspects of AMM is that Prevost and Rowe never brought in other players with a background in improvised music; instead, they always sought classical music players. Tilbury, and for a while Rohan de Saram from the Arditti String Quartet (and of course Cardew in the early days).

    As for Rowe, FWIW his attempts at “theorizing” his music has a dodgy teleological aspect that kind of annoys me. Like saying music lags behind visual arts by about 40 years in terms of advancement. What a goofy standard. This leads his fawning fanboys to argue that The New York School and their contemporaries like Cardew or Stockhausen were the first to break with “representation” in music, but that’s just idiotic. Music is the abstract art form par excellence. Music is **never** representational, not even at its most organized and stodgy.

    I should add that I like Rowe’s music quite a bit, but since he and AMM experienced a revival in reputation about a decade ago, there’s this irritating “Rowe the genius” aspect to experimental music fandom. I don’t but it at all. He’s just a dude who hit on the idea of laying his guitar flat on a table and preparing it with different objects. I love the sounds, but claiming he’s a virtuoso for doing that is laughable.

    • Yunus says:

      Negative Potential,

      You are absolutely right for Tilbury, I was referring to his autocritique of his own experience with the Scratch Orchestra. However, your distinction between classical music and improvisation. Improvisers, as well as composers, are evolving today under the general denomination of “contemporary classical music”, and some modern composers devote parts of their compositions to free/led improvisation.

      To say that NY School, Cardew or Stockhausen were the first to break with representation is, of course, historically inaccurate. And I agree with you regarding the fact that music “is the abstract art form par excellence”. But that just means that music is more abstract that the other art forms, thus neglecting the fact that within the music itself there are various degrees of abstraction and representation.

      I actually do not know what you really meant by that. But it reminds me of the dispute between Adorno and Stockhausen-Goeyvaerts in Darmstadt in 1951, the latters accusing the former (who attacked the piece of being too “religious”) of “looking for a chicken in an abstract painting”. But Adorno was not wrong since the two were studying of the catholic-mystic Messiaen, and shared his views.
      Later, Louis Andriessen went even further by saying that those who pretend that behind mere abstract notes lies a social reference are “totalitarian thinkers” (he was surely referring to Adorno or to Cardew).

      I do not know if you think that music is a priori abstract, unintelligible and neutral, and that all theorizing is necessarily a posteriori. The music is loaded with social, historical and emotional references, both in its form and in its content. Abstract forms are born somewhere sometime. I quite agree that the aesthetics of the Frankfurt School (actually, the Critical theory as a whole) is largely speculative. Nevertheless, it has the advantage of being coherent, of making sense, and of bieing part of a revolutionary stand point.

      Yeah, Rowe is certainly not a “classical” guitar virtuoso, but he came out with some interesting guitar extended techniques, much like the prepared piano popularized by Cage. But anyway, “Rowe the genius” would far exceed the 300 greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone, Spin, and Guitar World Magazine!

  5. I have a dirty secret to confess: when it comes to music, I’m an American nationalist, in particular concerning the African contribution to American music. Flatted thirds, fifths, and sevenths and the pentatonic scale are the best things to happen to music, EVER. It’s behind every form I love: blues, jazz, country, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, soul, funk, even early heavy metal. Not to mention its influence on Latin American music.

    So when these Yurpeans come along and start shitting on our music,, well, you know, it just makes my red, white, and blue heart just weep inside. Sure, sometimes I need to throw on the Leipzig String Quartet playing Berg to clean my ears out sometimes, but it’s kind of like eating my vegetables, you know?

    So I prefer to see Adorno’s attitude to Jazz as his problem.

    That’s why I ultimately prefer the Johnson-Forest Tendency to the Frankfurt School. The former allow me to dig my Grant Green records and Dick Tracy comics in peace and still feel like a good Marxist. 😉

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