Adorno claimed in one of his most dated Marxist rants against the West's commercialized culture. In this case Adorno was right. The appearance of a huge industry seeking new products, trying to both predict and create shifts in popular taste, gave rise to a wild acceleration of the cycle of sophistication and rebellion. By now any musical form is overwhelmed by its counterform before professional musicians have made more than a gesture at giving the form real sophistication. ... But even Adorno, the most culturally observant of the mid-century Marxists, was too much of a traditionalist to guess that the stupidity of popular music would make us not stupid but ironic.
Listening, say, to one of Byrd's sixteenth-century antiphons, do we actually feel the intensity of religious mood felt by his Renaissance audience, who shared a use for that mood? Do we actually feel as much as Beethoven's Enlightenment listeners, for whom his thunder echoed in a landscape of generally accepted ideas about God and man and nature? Certainly there is pleasure to be taken in the elegant mathematics of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." But you can sense something thinning in the twentieth century when Frank Lloyd Wright changed the title to "Joy in Work Is Man's Desiring" for his disciples.
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